Update: I had the wrong poll displayed for about an hour after posting. Sorry everyone - correct poll is live!
Let's face it: when Android first officially dropped, it was ugly as hell and not exactly designed with non-techies in mind. But as we've seen in the past 3 years (and a few months) since then, things have come a long way (albeit gradually at first) - the look, feel, and usability of vanilla Android became a major focus in the last year or so, especially with Gingerbread (2.3), Honeycomb(3.0), and Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0).

cupcake ics

Left: Cupcake (1.5). Right: Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0)

Again, while it just plain looks a lot nicer now, things are much deeper than what can be shown in a screenshot. There's a lot more hardware acceleration across the board - transitions that before were stuttery or abrupt now have (semi-fancy) transition effects that are buttery-smooth. Navigating and using the phone on a daily basis is more intuitive and just plain more fun. Consistency across the board has been improved significantly (though there's certainly more to be done on that front), and customization is easier now than it ever was before.

For most of us, Cupcake (and even later versions of Android like Éclair, Froyo, and Gingerbread) probably weren't polished enough from a user experience perspective to be something our parents would find easy and enjoyable to use (granted, there are exceptions for those with more tech-oriented parents). But what about now? With ICS, is vanilla Android finally polished enough to hit the non-techy world? (Note, we're talking about vanilla Android here - don't factor in manufacturer customization such as HTC's Sense, Samsung's TouchWiz, or Motorola's Blur variants.)

Ice Cream Sandwich Takes Android To A Whole New Level Of Usability And Polish - But Is It Good Enough For Your Parents To Use?

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Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Brian

    Since the "poll" has no poll I'll say yes.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Showing for me and 1,400 other people.

      • Bill

        I'm seeing "The Best New Non-Nexus Phone of 2011" rather than the proper poll.

        • Jacob

          Echo that, there is a poll, it's just the wrong one.

        • Kevin

          Same - and I can't vote on it either because I voted on that poll when you had it a week ago

      • squiddy20

        If you're referring to the "What Was The Best New Non-Nexus Android Phone Of 2011?" poll that shows the results upon refresh and your vote cannot be added, then sure it's showing for everyone. But the question, as it's stated in the title is basically "Is ICS good enough for your parents (non techie people) to use?". I don't see that poll anywhere on the page. Besides, you honestly expect me to believe you've gotten 1439 votes in less than 4 or 5 hours?

      • Aaron Gingrich

        Nevermind, I'm an idiot. Fixed!

  • Hooman

    My answer is Yeah too. I bought an iPad for my Mom, my dad used my Xoom and he liked it and kept it for himself. but after that whenever my mom uses the Xoom she has no problems at all, but I still have to teach her how to use some parts of her iOs.

  • Rob

    But it still is ugly as hell =/

    And my mum's already using an Android phone and i'd say no, she still wont be happy with ICS since it still doesn't have one certain feature as stock that even all old dumbphones have.

    • Gaurav Kishore

      And what might that be?

      • Rob

        Using GIFs as an animated wallpaper

        • http://www.theandroidsite.com Ben Marvin

          I hate to use the catchphrase, but there's an app for that: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.direxar.animgiflivewallpaper2&hl=en

        • Rob

          I know there's an app for it, but like i said, it's not a stock feature.

        • Eric

          Ironically, that's closer than most other smartphone OS's are to doing the same thing.

        • edd

          Wow my mind boggles at people using animated GIFs for a wallpaper...

    • Brian

      Care to expand on that completely vague statement?

  • Matt

    The caption's not quite right - 1.5 was not the first publicly available Android. That honour goes to 1.0.1 as shipped on my G1.

    As for ICS being usable? I think it definitely is now. The apps aren't as consistent as iOS apps, but the bundled apps are really, really good now and there's a great feel to the whole system.

  • Edd

    Honestly I still think ICS is quite ugly, although very usable. But I've just recommended the S2 to my non-techy sister, and I have no qualms recommending it to my dad either, even if he can barely handle Windows!

  • Rob

    Regardless of whether she ended up on ICS or iOS, my Mom would probably need a lot of tech guidance from me and then only use the phone to make calls (LOL) and maybe send a text message here and there. At the end of the day whether a Google Nexus or an iPhone, it would probably be more technology than she needs or could comfortably use effectively. Add to this the costly data plans that up until now she has refused to pay for. :D

    • ghostman

      Then just get your mom a low end phone if she's tech challenged, end if story, don't get an expensive phone.

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com Ben Marvin

    I had to explain to my dad how Firefox and Chrome can coexist on the same computer. And he has no problem using stock Gingerbread. So I would say that ICS is not only ready for parents, it's ready for grandparents.

  • hugobosslives

    like the first comment.
    this poll doesn't show for me.
    it shows the results of the best non-nexus-phone poll. (i.e SG II at 62%, rezound.....)
    using chrome on a laptop in the UK

  • Ryan

    Dads been rocking the og Droid since day 1

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/113646520192867899879/posts David

    I picked the first one, but my parents currently both have HTC inspires and neither are very tech savvy. Yes I have to answer questions from time to time but they both do ok and get a lot from the phone

  • butchyon

    I voted for option #3. Better, but still a ways to go. They did away with one of the functions that I used often in previous versions of Android. You can read about it at

  • protozeloz

    I think its a step on the right direction but it needs more. If you want to be fully seeing as a super OS you must work on other weak spots like the speed and get rid of the fake apps on the market. Yes android is smooth and fast. As iOS or wp but nearly is not enough they must be equal or better.

  • Jason

    My parents barley know how to use a touch screen, so I think you need to add the answer "People will be able to use it, but my parents will never try to."

  • aergern

    My 69 year old mother took to her TMO G2 just fine. AS it was her first smartphone coming from a paygo flip phone she had no preconceived notions of what was to be hard or easy about it. Just poked around until she figured it out and she is more adept at USING her phone then I am and I know more about each version of Android then most. It's a fallacy to say " my parents can't use this because it's ... ." If the person using whatever OS on whatever device just gets over the fear of tech then they can use whatever it is just fine. It's not polish or anything that let's people use tech ... it's getting over the fear of tech that does this.

    My Dad uses Ubuntu daily .. why? Because I installed it and showed him enough to engender a comfort factor. I bookmarked severa resources for him to look at if he got stuck and I wasn't around .. again .. comfort factor increased.

    It is what it is.

  • Roger

    Wouldn't know. Where's the 'my devices won't be receiving it to find out' option? Thanks manufacturers..... Biggest part of why I'm ditching Android soon. If I can't get some kind of connection straight to Google for updates, then I don't need it. And no, I'm not signing a contract and paying a mint each month to Verizon for the priviledge. Just going to see how Windows chooses to tackle this issue ontheir devices.

    • aergern

      heh. You say this without giving the model of your phone. If you have something like the Droid Eris or Moto Devour and aren't getting an update .. a connection to Google won't do any good as buying a lowend phone is like buying a lowend PC ... if it won't run it then you can't get it. Pretty simple.

      There are different levels of phones just like with PC's. Now Microsoft has only put out the same hardware in different shells so it's not comparing oranges to orangs and Apple has but 1 phone really ... and the previous releases do not get full feature updates so to say the 3GS got iOS5 doesn't tell the whole truth. But have fun witn WM7 ... it looks pretty neat but probably has the same famous Microsoft security built in .. won't know you've been hacked until you can do anything about it but reset to factory default. ;)

    • Micah

      Just wait until windows phone 7 has more than a few devices. And by devices I mean what hardware is actually on them. They currently only support a handful of processors, screen resolutions, ram amount, and so on.

  • Micah

    I never really got this "oh darn things are just too confusing" mentality. Android has been pretty darn easy to use since it's inception. Want to call someone? Click this icon. Want to check email? Click this one over here. And so on and so forth. Change a setting? There's the settings.

  • Roy Blumenthal

    The poll needs another field: 'I don't know. My phone doesn't HAVE ICS yet, so
    I haven't experienced it.'

    • Pawnty

      The poll also needs a "My parents are stuck in the dark ages and my new modern technology scares the shit out of them" option

  • JH

    IMHO Gingerbread had enough usability for anyone - and ICS even more so

  • Martin

    Where's the option "I wouldn't know, I'm a Galaxy S owner so won't find out any time soon"?

  • duplissi

    uh... android has for the most part been easy to use...

  • John Jones

    My mother already uses a Captivate, successfully, and she's not techie at all.

  • Letroy

    My father is a hardcore Windows Mobile fan (yes, MOBILE), but even he said it looked nice on my SGS. So yeah, I guess it's good enough :)

  • Thomas

    My parents still struggle with their classic Nokia phones, so no matter how user-friendly a smartphone becomes, either Android or iOS, the answer is no :p

  • Nick

    Lol why do iPhone users hate Android? Give it up already...it's growing faster than iOS

  • Jim Thomson

    I am a parent of 5 adults and I think it's ready for primetime.

  • Tcal

    Android needs an adaptive error identification & resolution system that can temporarily resolve application-derived crashes/errors/failures &/or take proactive measures to prevent them from re-occurring.
    So basically; when & if their Android-powered device tries, and fails, to connect to a wireless access point; Android should try to self correct the issue, (i.e., ask *nicely* if they entered their password correctly, ask to connect using WPS, etc), instead of saying: "Connection Failed"

  • D.J.

    It is mostly polished. The biggest issues I've seen aren't with the OS persay but with the phone. The LTE Galaxy Nexus has battery issues and some utility issues. I'm going through this with my brother.

    Think I'm going to root, install a 4.0.3 custom ROM (for the landscape keyboard lag fix and Facebook contact sync), custom kernel (for battery life), and set up SetCPU.

  • J-Dog

    ... you apparently haven't actually met my parents yet :)

    Mom still hasn't fully figured out her feature flip phone (not sure off hand which she actually has). If she doesn't say "view now" to the "You have a missed call" on screen prompt when she opens the phone she has no idea how to figure out who called... And don't even bother leaving a voicemail she might get to listen to it months later when she finally hands me the phone to "get rid of those things at the bottom"...

    She came into Verizon with me at the end of the summer when I had to stop in to get the password to activate my new phone on my account. While we waited for a tech to see us, I did manage to convince her to play with some of the demo phones (so mostly Froyo & GB) they had out. She seemed to do all right with them. She was able to tap out messages on the note pad app, and punch in numbers to dial... I think its probably more the stress of thinking she's gonna blow the phone up if she presses just 1 wrong button...

    When we were finally talking to the Verizon rep, mom mentioned that she didn't really see too many phones she'd be interested in on display, they were all smartphones that were too complicated for her... The rep suggested an iPhone, that they were simpler, just one button to press and all the other apps were nicely laid out on screen waiting for use. As an Android fanboy I was kind of trying to lean her more towards Android, but...

    The geek in me would like to see her with a smartphone, but I don't know if it'd be the best solution....

    But I've been trying to show her she could set up a Google Calendar with her work schedule to know when she'd be off when she's making follow up apts when she has Grandma at the doctors, or even be able to check my shared calendar to see if I'm off then to take her. She could stop complaining she never has time to check to see if she's got new emails since her phone would let her know 'instantly' when one arrives & she wouldn't have to be at home on the desktop to read it....

    But with her current phone, she frequently will either leave it at home when we go out, or if she does actually bring it, it'll get left in the car or ... So that would take away all of the advantages of being connected 24-7... And of course also, the battery life - Androids usually last ~a day, her current will last ~a week, so remembering to charge it each night (& then to take it with her in the morning & not leave it sit on the charger all day). And every time I tell her about the calendar idea (or keeping her often forgotten grocery list on the phone, etc) she'll always ask "Do you think I'm going to take the time to type it all out???

  • Ed

    I own a MAC so it would be a no brainer for me to get an iPhone if android were unavailable but, to be honest, I am sure something else would rise out of it's ashes... I think that Google have too much expertise at their disposal not to be in this game and survive.

  • Alex1x

    The problem with "moms" is that you can do alot with android. IMO, out of the box Android phone should come with user setup tutorial. An interactive tutorial so "moms" can follow step by step and by the time the tutorial is done they have personalized their android to their liking. Btw, tutorial should come in 2 stepd: 1- personalization (home screen, icons, widgets). 2-Setup (contacts, emails, calendar).
    This should create an unique android for each person. Note to Google: Call me ;)