Hardware Acceleration in Ice Cream Sandwich – Will This Change Everything?

by: RandyNovember 21, 2011
3 7 8

When Android Éclair was bumped up to Froyo one year ago, it was a game changer. The JIT (Just In Time) compiler sped up everything from User Interfaces to App loading time. The cold & creamy Frozen-Yogurt treat froze the market share of other Mobile OS and turned old hardware into a shiny new gadget.

Next, stepped in Gingerbread – which in my opinion, wasn’t much of a game changer except for gaming. This helped developers to create better games and since then, we’ve seen loads of spectacular games on Android. Then came Honeycomb, a sweet treat for those who lust for a bigger screen. Honeycomb was revolutionary. It brought more android tablets to the table and is slowly chipping away iPad’s dominance with every new tablet release.

Now, Ice Cream Sandwich is here. It boasts many features, but there is one feature that particularly interests me – Hardware Acceleration. Hardware acceleration appeared in Honeycomb, but it didn’t seem like a big deal since Android tablets haven’t reached the momentum it needed at that time.

However, hardware acceleration in your mobile device is something totally different. With Android being the biggest global mobile OS, hardware acceleration might revolutionize everything.

If you observe Google’s direction with Android 4.0, you will notice that they are very focused on the user interface. From the Roboto font to the Tron-ish looking blue hues throughout the whole user interface, one can safely say that Google is paying twice the attention on how Ice Cream Sandwich will look, feel and operate. This is why it’s important for Android 4.0 to have hardware acceleration.

At this moment, everything we say about Android 4.0 is still pretty much in a guessing game.  Even if we had a Galaxy Nexus in hand, we can’t compare it to any other dual core device as ICS hasn’t arrived on those devices.

Despite the lack of equivalent tools to benchmark and compare, Wikipedia mention that the Samsung Galaxy S2 came with hardware acceleration. With Wikipedia’s credibility, I recommend that you take their word with a grain of salt. However, several forums also mentioned that hardware acceleration appeared on TouchWiz 4.0 and Sense 3.0.

If it’s true that TouchWiz 4.0 and Sense 3.0 contain codes for hardware acceleration, then it is a possibility that the current user interfaces for many android devices remain at their current speed – unless ICS could increase the UI smoothness beyond what it currently is.

I really want Android to be as smooth as iOS, if not even better. However, we won’t know how good ICS will run on our phones until the update finally arrives. I hope the sooner, the better.

  • Sam

    What do you have to say to this?


    I have a samsung galaxy s and i don’t want to flash that just yet, considering that version is not completely ported and it’s just the alpha version, it seems somewhat smooth,no?

    And yeah, basically many questions are open. I also read that supposedly sgs 2 has HW-Acceleration, however i did also read that you were only able to use HW-acceleration to a certain extent with previous versions. I guess only time will tell if it has any improvements at all.

    • Anonymous

      wow that is really impressive. Wish I didn’t break my SGS because this would certainly be on it.

    • It looks good. But it’s still buggy, since at this point, everything is still “Alpha”.
      And that’s the whole point of ICS.

      It’s kind of sad that the original Nexus One and Desire isn’t getting ICS love.

  • Until Android/Google takes some sort of stand on the specs for the devices that the Android OS is run on, we will never have an OS as smooth as iOS.
    Apple has over 1k engineers working on the A series processors alone. They build and tweak the processors for the OS itself to make sure that they are 2 halves of the greater whole and not just two bits that are placed together because you haven’t figured anything else to do with them.

    • Well, i don’t think it has anything to do with a minimum specs.
      It will arrive to the smoothness of ICS – it’s just a matter of time. Different technology is involved anyway.

      I have tested the Alpha port for SGS2 – it’s very smooth. I’ll post later about it.

  • loyukfai

    When ICS was first announced, I thought that the hardware acceleration requirement would kill Android in low-end devices.

    But it seems that it isn’t mandatory after all, as lots of half-baked ROM are running out there without a hardware acceleration-enabled kernel, yet.

    Indeed ICS seems to be very much on the UI and whole experience thing, probably heavily influenced by Matias Duarte’s arrival. Previous Android revisions focus more on the bits and nuts.