If you've just joined the series, we're taking a look at what Ice Cream Sandwich has to offer. Earlier we examined Gmail, Google Talk, and YouTube. The ICS screenshot are from the emulator, which gives a good approximation of what everything will look like, but has the occasional rendering issue.
We're all nice and upgraded to the latest system app leak: ICL23D. For those of you following this series, I can confirm there's been no meaningful changes to Gmail, Talk, or YouTube in ICL23D.
As usual we start with the about screens:
Ice Cream Sandwich keeps up its completely superfluous version numbering with Calendar 4.0(.1). Calendar is at least consistent in its meaningless version number, the old 2.3.7 also matches the Android version.
Week View And Design
Immediately we notice the general "muting" of all the calendar colors. It looks washed out next to the old calendar, but alone it looks just fine. Colors still don't match the desktop version; the brown calendar should be red, the blue one should be light blue, etc. Is it really that hard guys? Make the freaking colors match. Usability would be much better if I could mentally associate a color with a calendar across all versions.
Appointment blocks get a good polishing. Corners are nice and pointy now. Text gets just a smidge of whitespace (it wouldn't be Ice Cream Sandwich without some whitespace) and the font is bolder and easier to read. Adjacent appointment blocks no longer touch. There's a few pixels of whitespace between them. It boosts appointment readability quite a bit. Now, on Sunday, you can more easily tell I have 6 appointments at 1pm; on Gingerbread they just kind of merge into 1 big green block.
ICS makes it much easier to find the current date and time. The "you are here" line changed from red to black, and it has a shadow now, making it a little easier spot. They also grey out all the empty calendar space in the past, which is a nice touch. However, it's only really useful if you have empty calendar space. It would be nice if it effected appointments too.
The cool new (well semi-new) feature here is the ability to pinch zoom to set the "scale" of your appointments. I would love to try it, but the emulator can't do multitouch. It works great on Honeycomb though.
I am so glad Android has some detail oriented people (Matias Duarte and friends) working on it now. Because let me tell you, without them, stuff like THIS goes out the door. This is the top right edge of the Gingerbread calendar. Everything below the main header was just off by a few pixels. It's not room for a scrollbar, there is no scroll bar in calendar. The light grey section don't scroll anyway. It's just pure, concentrated fail. The ICS redesign fixes this, and everything goes edge to edge like it's supposed to.
The "crusade against the menu button" continues with ICS's new header. The month is a drop down menu that lets you switch between views. It also displays the week count, a new addition to Calendar. On the right side of the header is the today button. All in all, they've wiped out 5 menu options.
The blue + square appears when you tap an empty area. Tapping it again will bring up the new event screen set for that block of time. I was really hoping this version of Calendar would let me drag out the timeframe I wanted, like the desktop version of calendar, but sadly, you can only pick 1 hour blocks.
Horizontal mode. Again you'll have to excuse the emulator's dislike of horizontal mode. In real life, your calendar won't look like it just survived an earthquake.
I guess I really just don't understand the action bar. I thought it had a certain amount of icons, and would display an overflow button (the 3 vertical dots) when it didn't have room to display them all, like Gmail does. But now we see a new wrinkle, Calendar displays additional buttons in horizontal mode that just don't exist in the portrait action bar. I guess they expect you to get to them from the menu button, but that doesn't solve the menu's discoverability problems they've been working so hard to fix.
Now in our disappearing, reappearing buttons, we see search (yep, you can search now, more on that later), today (with an odd text label), and new event.
Not much to see here. The header changes from the week count to "Today, Wednesday" which is very handy. Gingerbread gives no indication of the current day other than the "current time" line. In this screenshot, you get a clearer look at ICS's greyed out past. The white border between the appointments looks much better. The colors are starting to depress me, though.
The completely useless month view is still completely useless. ICS will now display your "all day" events in a horizontal bar across the top of a day, and it displays appointments before and after the current month. I have to think really hard to figure out what this is actually representing. Calendars are supposed save me the deep memory searching that this screen requires.
Appointments that are happening at the same time are now represented in ICS, Gingerbread just ignores them. Compare Nov 1st in both calendars, for example. I have one long, all day appointment, then 2 short appointments during that long appointment. Gingerbread just gives up and displays one long line, but ICS displays a long line broken up by 2 slightly wider blocks. So while I still have no idea what is going on during that day, I can at least tell that I am busier than normal.
I've been wondering where the black bars are coming from; I don't have any black calendars. It turns out they use black to represent multiple appointments. So the black bar across the top of the Nov 4th means I have multiple all day events. Again, I have no idea what though.
More color strangeness: days in the current month are grey, and days outside the current month are less grey. That's backwards, isn't it? The days this month should be "lit up" more, this is month view after all. The day should be white, the month light grey and outside the month should be darker grey.
For some reason I was hoping horizontal month view would be more useful. it's not. Most appointments get squished into a single black bar. Look at Nov 1 again, it's completely given up and left me with a black blob.
It might end up looking cluttered, but part of me feels like there's room for letters here. Some text would be so helpful. Month view shows you when, but not what. Honeycomb's month view is spectacular, I think that design could work on a smaller screen.
Agenda view gets all classy on us with fantastic typography and white space. I like it.
ICS is still getting weird on us with the coloring. The grey section is Today, not yesterday. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It greys out events as soon as they start, so while "lesson" and "work" are currently ongoing, it greys them out as if they have already finished.
The "refresh" circles in Gingerbread denoted repeating events. They've been totally wiped out in ICS.
Appointment colors are now sized according to category. All-day appointments are full size rectangles, and time based appointments are a square.
We finally see Calendar's app icon/back button, and they've taken Edit and Delete out of the menu and moved them to the header.
The calendar color now fills the whole event background, which is a nice look, but I really don't like the layout changes here. Despite this screen usually having tons of empty space (this screenshot is with every possible option), they've felt the need to remove information by omitting the calendar name. The time of the appointment, which is the most crucial information a calendar can provide, is much less prominent. They hide it in the center of the event description, in a plain font. It should be almost as prominent as the title of the event. Repeating events have a worse presentation too, they lose their little icon and are now described with nested parentheses.
Attending and Reminders now let you directly manipulate their settings. Less touches is always better. Bad move removing the Gtalk status, though.
I really find it interesting that every other calendar screen up until now has lacked the ICS app icon/back button. I guess with the view switcher there has been no where to go back to, but Gmail, Talk, and YouTube have logos in every header regardless of its usefulness as a back button. It's useful as a branding/design/"you are here" item.
Actually, can I just ask, what exactly is going on with the action bar, guys? We are really starting to fail in the consistency department here. Do we have app icons in the headers or not? Are the app icons squares, or rectangles? Does the account switcher go in the action bar as a drop down(like Gmail) or is it a separate screen (Talk)? Do we use words for action bar buttons or images? This is a mess. Pick a style, and stick with it. Things will be easier to use and look better.
Wow, how's this for space efficient? ICS preserves all the settings of Gingerbread, but crams it into much less space. They've done away with as many boxes as they can, and added a nice bit of color coding to the calendar selector.
I love the idea of moving the "Done" and "Cancel" buttons to the top. For simple events, you no longer have to do any scrolling at all. They also swapped the order of "Done" and "Cancel" in ICS. Just moving the buttons to the top would have put "Done" in the top left corner, the hardest spot on the phone to reach one-handed. Good attention to detail. "Done" and "Cancel" actually float in ICS (thanks Matt) so you never have to hunt for the buttons.
If you were wondering, repeating event settings are still only limited to a few preselected choices. If you want to make a custom repeat event, you have to load up the desktop version of Calendar.
The calendar name is a drop down selector for changing the calendar. They feel much less disruptive than Gingerbread's screen-dimming popup. I like it.
They still display the ridiculous calendar share addresses, even though my calendars aren't public. Why are they displayed anywhere, at all? Do they really expect someone to type "firstname.lastname@example.org" into a form somewhere? I'm not even sure I typed it correctly just now.
They finally got rid of the Android 1.0 style buttons! The date and time are now awesome flingable dials. A quick swipe up will sent them spinning for big movement or you can tap the arrows for more precise changes. A very welcome change and a huge time saver. Gingerbread is so clunky compared to this.
That's right, you can now search your calendars from the mobile app. It's usually buried in the menu in this build, but pressing it will turn the action bar into a search field, complete with history. It will Initially search through a small window of the most recent appointments, and it gives you options to extend your search into the past or future.
Options gets the standard redesign. You get two new options, "show week number" which will add a small column to month view, and "Pop-up Notification" if you want a really intrusive notification. Other than that, it's just the usual ICS redesign.
Thankfully they got rid of Gingerbread's bizarre sync/visible combo button. The combo button was a 3 option toggle. It would switch between not synced/not visible, synced/not visible, and synced/visible. It was totally incomprehensible for a normal person. For the longest time I thought the sync and visible icons were individually toggleable if your aim was good enough, like the power widget. It's just very hard to look at this button and understand what it will do.
ICS goes a totally different route, making 2 completely separate screens for synced calendars and visible calendars. To help with navigation confusion, they give you a button at the bottom of the display options to get to the sync options (but not vice versa). Gingerbread's combo button was a bad idea, but having everything on one screen was good. Two almost-identical screens can get confusing.
Calendar gets a good polish, but the ICS action bar is starting to get out of control. A little consistency in this area would be nice. And I really don't understand why calendar doesn't have identical colors across mobile and desktop. I think it's clear that Gmail is the favorite child in Google's family, and as a result it got the most love. Calendar is a little shaky in some areas.
Compared to Gingerbread, the new Calendar is a very nice upgrade. Searching appointments is a great addition, and the new time and date dials are going to be a huge timesaver. Everyone's calendar has different densities, and pinch zoom is the perfect feature to cope with this. Options are easier to get to, and, as usual with ICS, everything is much, much better looking.
I'll be around to answer any questions you have, just ask in the comments. I'm also looking for suggestions for the next ICS app to look at. What do you guys want to see next?