Android hackers are working overtime to bring Ice Cream Sandwich into the real world, and early fruits of their labor are starting to emerge--if you have the right phone.
The CyanogenMod project to build unofficial versions of Android is working on CM9, the version based on the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich source code from Google. Early CM9 buildsare available in alpha for the Samsung Nexus S and beta for the Samsung Galaxy S.
"CyanogenMod 9 Alpha 11 for Nexus S is definitely worth checking out," programmer Koushik "Koush" Dutta said on Google+ yesterday. And it's pretty mature, he added: "Usable as a daily driver."
Ice Cream Sandwich adds a number of new features to Android, chiefly a merge between the Android 2.x version for smartphones and the Android 3.x "Honeycomb" version for tablets that Google rushed to market.
Google releases Android source code for public consumption after it's finished with a version. In the case of ICS, Google released the code two weeks ago, just before the first Android 4.0 phone, Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, began shipping. It's still not available in most parts of the world, including the United States.
Even though Android is developed behind closed doors, its eventual open-source nature lets enthusiasts tinker with it--for example, to see how well Android 4.0 works on the first Android phone.
There's plenty of other work afoot to bring ICS to other phones. That's no surprise given the number of Android phones on the market, the fact that building Android gives programmers a chance to stand out in the hot mobile market, and the sad reality that many Android phone owners don't know if they'll get the new Android any other way.
Specifically, unofficial versions of ICS also are arriving on the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation, and are promised for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10. Early versions also are available for the HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S II.
Those who are not quite so adventurous can wait for better tested versions of CyanogenMod; the stable version of CM9 is expected in about two months.
Unofficial builds of Android give smartphone customers a way to get the newer builds of Android before their handset makers and mobile phone wireless operators provide official versions--which often they never do. For example, Sony Ericsson pledged to bring Ice Cream Sandwich to all its 2011 phones, which means X10 customers will have to rely on an unofficial build.
LG Electronics said on its Italian Facebook page today that Android 4.0 will come to the Optimus 2X, Optimus Black, and Optimus 3D. The company said it would announce timing details and other models due for the upgrade in December.
The unofficial Android builds also let people do things not available with ordinary Android such as overclock the processor for faster performance. Or, for those who want to venture farther afield, the builds can let people run Android on a Windows Phone model such as HTC's HD2.