Android

Pros and cons of OTA updates for Android ICS and Jelly Bean

Donovan Colbert recently received the ICS update for his Motorola Droid 4 and Jelly Bean update for his ASUS Transformer Pad TF300. Find out what problems and benefits he's experienced.

I recently received OTA updates for both my Motorola Droid 4 and ASUS Transformer Pad TF300. I was traveling when my Droid 4 downloaded Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and later that evening, my TF300 applied Jelly Bean. I was eager for both updates, because the Droid 4 felt dated on Gingerbread, and after getting used to Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7, going back to ICS on the TF300 was a bit disappointing.

The ICS update on my Droid 4 took most of the morning, hung at the end, and burned through my battery, which left me without a phone for the rest of that day. After recharging, the system stability was terrible. Over 40% of the battery was consumed in standby mode after only two hours away from the dock. My Android battery toolkit discovered that the Media app was preventing the Droid 4 from going into "deep sleep." The camera was also unable to write to memory after the update. Ultimately, the device was unusable. Google revealed that I wasn't alone, and that several users had experienced positive results with a factory reset.

The idea of an update needing a factory reset always takes me back to the days when Linux users mocked Windows because the conventional wisdom was, "Save yourself the misery of a Win Update and do a clean install." I find it ironic that a Linux-based consumer mobile OS now seems to require the same approach.

Unfortunately, with my corporate phone, I couldn't wait for the issues to be patched. After a couple of days of trying to deal with the problems, I gave in and performed the factory reset, which fixed everything. The update to ICS really improved the stability, performance, and usability of the phone. It didn't take long to get the phone back to the same place it was before the update — that's one of the strengths of the Google Play experience — and in the process, I cleaned out unused apps and out-of-date data. Like Windows, sometimes the pain of a clean install is truly beneficial.

The Jelly Bean update for the TF300 was an entirely different experience. It applied quickly and flawlessly, bringing most of the improvements that I had grown accustomed to on the Nexus 7. However, there have been several spontaneous reboots since the update. ICS was rock solid on the TF300, but there are some inconsistencies and quirks with Jelly Bean on the same device. Here are some other things I noticed:

  • The notification bar is not at the top of the screen — it remains on the bottom of the screen in the right-hand corner
  • Expanded email notifications only work when the email notification is at the bottom of the list — if it's higher, you can't drag with two fingers to reveal or hide senders and subjects in your notifications like you can on a Nexus 7
  • There are light skinning differences that ASUS performs on Android compared to the pure Android on the Nexus
  • The rotating home screen after getting used to the locked orientation on the Nexus 7 felt a little strange at first
  • The difference between "balance" and "performance" on ICS never seemed very drastic, but it is with Jelly Bean

Performance and battery management are improved so significantly on both the Droid 4 and TF300 that I've turned on features that were previously disabled for power conservation. For example, I enabled modest pull-refresh policies on the Droid 4 instead of manually pulling my Google accounts, and I switched to performance mode on the TF300.

The biggest problem I've had is that, between my new Nexus 7 and the updates to the TF300 and Droid 4, I just haven't had enough time to play with all the new Android goodness. Despite the challenges, I've already seen real benefits to the updates.

Have you experienced any OTA update issues with your Android or iOS devices? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

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