Upgrading a highly customized phone to ICS+, part 2: Things are looking up

old new screens - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Several days ago I wrote about how I’ve acquired a second Samsung Galaxy S II, in an effort to actually move the extremely heavily customized setup I have on my Gingerbread-based S II to a later version of Android without having to risk it all in one go. We’re not talking about realigning wallpaper here, but rewriting apps, and it’s not done in one go.

Since then, I’ve actually switched ROMs. Paranoid Android just ended up being too slow, showing no signs of Project Butter, and actually being slower than stock Gingerbread. I followed the advice of commenter Geni from the last post, and loaded up the S II with the Chameleon ROM. That choice cost me the per-app DPI settings I had looked forward to in Paranoid Android, but it didn’t take long until it became apparent that Chameleon is just so much more stable and fast. I actually notice the Project Butter improvements now, and even though I still can’t say they’re revolutionary, they certainly don’t hurt.

Other than that, the last few days has been used to gradually implement my old setup. It’s still very far from finished, but I’m starting to recognize the phone as something similar to what I had. Installing, upgrading, and restoring apps takes a while when it has to be done a bit more intelligently than bat running the entire thing, and quite a few apps actually work differently on ICS.

I also installed the new beta version of Tasker, with the new ICS+ UI that is soon coming out to replace the aging old Android 1.5-looking Tasker UI. The new UI is based on the Holo theme of ICS+ devices, and for reasons I don’t understand (since other apps have holo UIs on Gingerbread), that means it won’t work on anything lower than Android 4. Therein lies the reason why I haven’t written much about Tasker in the last few months, a change of pace that you can trace back to the very day that the dev announced the decision to leave Gingerbread behind.

As for the new Tasker UI, I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed. I’m hesitant to call it an improvement, as even though there are areas that are cleaner and easier to understand, there are others that make less sense now than before. The confirm/cancel buttons are gone, with the reason being that it was never quite intuitive what the green checkmark and red X meant from one place in the UI to the next. It’s been replaced by simply going back out of the menu you’re in, which makes total sense in the main Tasker UI. However, if you for instance try to add a shortcut to a task to the home screen, having to actually click “back” in order to confirm that you want to add the shortcut makes very little sense. Whereas there were years worth of posts, screenshots, tutorials, videos, and whatnot about the old UI, there’s nothing for the new one, which I think is going to cause quite a few problems when the new UI is released.

I have to say I feel sorry for Pent, the developer of Tasker. In many ways he’s in the same predicament as me, finally taking on the task of upgrading something despite the knowledge that shit is going to hit the fan in the process. It’s not fun. It’s been almost four months since the last Tasker update now, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to diving back into actually useful features, leaving the dreadful task of poking PNG files all day behind.

Getting my own Tasker creations to work has been mostly painless so far, but then again I’ve only dug into a tiny corner of the pile of profiles and tasks I have. The biggest problem has been with my Gmail notification image profile, and I’ve still not managed to get it working exactly like on Gingerbread, but at least I’m 98% there.

Another thing I discovered is that the Bluetooth issue with the stock Gingerbread ROM I use, which causes connection issues with smart watches like the Sony Ericsson LiveView I have, seems to be gone in the Chameleon ROM. I tried to leave my LiveView connected to the phone for an entire day, and while I didn’t move around with it to see if that triggered any connection losses, at the very least the watch always stayed connected to the phone. I might actually end up looking into something like the MetaWatch if this turns out to be the case, as I’m sure I could do wonders with a proper smart watch and Tasker.

That being said, I’m still not completely sure I want to make the move. For every new feature I find and like on ICS+, there’s something that needs fixing before I can start using the new phone. That being said, most of the issues should be fixable, in which case I’ll end up with a better phone than before. I’m just glad I waited until the opportunity to do this with a second phone arose, as I’d seriously hate trying to do this update in a single go with my existing phone.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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