As promised, ASUS updated the OS on the Eee Pad Transformer Prime from Android 3.0 (known colloquially as Honeycomb) to Android 4.0 (with the even-more-delicious moniker of Ice Cream Sandwich). The upgrade promised to bring faster browsing speeds, new features, and improved performance in general to the top Android tablet currently on the market. We went hands-on with with the Transformer Prime to see if ICS for tablets lives up to its promises.
Unfortunately, we found that some of the “gee-whiz” Android 4.0 features from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone didn’t make it over to the tablet version of the operating system. Even worse, the web browser actually performed worse on some benchmarks than it did before the upgrade.
Most of the features found on smartphones using Ice Cream Sandwich have been ported to the Transformer Prime. Starting with the lock screen — from which users can now access the camera directly — the changes are obvious. The systems bar, which includes buttons for Back, Home, and Recent Apps, can be found on the lower left of the screen. The addition of the Recent Apps menu is an especially welcome change, as it allows users to easily jump between applications by clicking on the thumbnail images. Notifications and recent apps can be dismissed by simply swiping them off the screen. Adjustable widgets and the People App are also present.
Sadly, a number of Android 4.0’s features are missing on the Transformer Prime. Most conspicuous is the absence of one of Ice Cream Sandwich’s cooler features, Face Unlock — Prime users will have to settle for old-fashioned slide, pattern, PIN, or password locks. Also missing is Google’s NFC-based sharing feature, Android Beam. Although it would have been neat to share YouTube videos and apps with other phones or tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich by simply tapping them together, most users probably wouldn’t use a tablet for NFC-sharing anyway.
Other missing features include the favorites tray, which allows users to see their most-used apps and folders from any home screen, and the ability to dismiss browser tabs with a swipe of the finger. Also absent, for obvious reasons, are the Quick Response options for phone calls found on Android 4.0-powered smartphones.
Nevertheless, we doubt that users will discern slower browser speeds using Android 4.0, and despite the lack of some neat features like Face Unlock that can be found on Ice Cream Sandwich-powered smartphones, the new OS looks and feels great on the Transformer Prime. Owners should strongly consider upgrading.