I bought my Sony Xperia U few months back and it came with the stock Gingerbread version of Android. I wouldn’t have bought this device if I knew that it would not be upgraded beyond Android 2.3 and probably you would have done the same if you had to buy an Android phone while ICS was being rolled out to quite a lot of Android devices. In case you don’t know about the specs of Xperia U – it has a Dual-Core 1 GHz CPU with 512 MB RAM that powers the Gingerbread OS.
The first thing I did after buying my phone – rooted it! Up next, I grabbed a custom kernel from XDA forums and flashed the .elf file using fastboot commands to get CWM. This wasn’t required to upgrade to ICS but I decided to enjoy the Gingerbread experience for a while after I removed all of the bloatware Sony had stuffed into the device.
The next day, I fired up FlashTool and updated the device to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich since SEUS didn’t work for some reasons. I had Ice Cream Sandwich running on my device and it was fast, snappy. Obviously it would be because the cache was empty and it was a fresh install!
Upgrading to ICS – A Bad Decision
The device performed well after I installed a customized Stock ICS ROM which had all the bloatware removed and APKs zip-aligned. This saves a lot of time and is better than doing the aforementioned tasks manually! Once the cache of various applications built up, the device started lagging. The most irritating part of Sony’s stock ICS firmware is that the dialer took a hell lot of time to load. When I received a call, the phone used to ring but the call screen didn’t show up. I could not answer the calls because Xperia U had no hardware buttons to answer calls. By the time the call screen showed up, the call would have ended. I felt desperate and cursed Sony for designing their stock ICS firmware this way.
Why Was It Bad?
After a little research, I figured out that Sony users must be grateful to the company for providing the update to their phone. A device clocked at 1 GHz frequency and 512 MB RAM will have tough time running ICS on the device because ICS uses more RAM than Gingerbread. Let us have a look at the aspects which affect the performance of ICS on a device like Xperia U:
- The web browser in ICS uses more RAM than Gingerbread and the difference is around 20-30 MB.
- With the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich, SQL handling has been moved from the native to Java layer. Due to this, read/write operations to the SQL Database takes longer time. Since many apps perform these read/write operations, they might take too long to respond and hence you may say that the phone lags way too much!
- Sony’s ICS firmware uses thousands of icons which is pretty high in number when compared to Gingerbread.
- The Settings app in Sony takes around 2 MB more space than it would on Gingerbread. The application of a new theme on ICS changes the background of the Settings menu too but that is not the case with Gingerbread.
- Quite a lot of apps use HW acceleration in ICS but not in Gingerbread. For example, when you play a video on ICS, the hardware acceleration requires every video frame to run through the GPU resulting in more consumption of power. Some apps are not compatible with Gingerbread but run pretty well on ICS – the reason being absence of HW acceleration on Gingerbread.
That said, it is pretty clear why ICS uses more RAM and power than Gingerbread. If I would play a game on my stock Sony ICS firmware, the activity manager would be force to kill the background processes to let the game run smoothly. This happens when the game responds slowly and then suddenly responds well. Since the background processes are killed, once you exit the game the Home screen application would take too long to respond and you might complain that the phone lags too much. Apps like Dialer, Home screen, Facebook, Whatsapp and many more are required to run in the background because either they give you Push notifications or because they are required to respond to your inputs as soon as possible.
It’s been a week and I am still on Gingerbread because I am enjoying the Sony UI that really performs much better than ICS. The screenshots below shows something that I can never achieve with ICS.
I don’t need hardware acceleration, I don’t play games much. All I need is a beautiful Sony UI that responds to my inputs as soon as possible. This is of course much better than my inability to answer calls on ICS – that’s what phones are basically meant for. This is also better than the CyanogenMod 9 ROM which looks the same on all phones and drains battery double the rate Stock Gingerbread does.
So now you see why you shouldn’t blame the company for a phone that lags too much. You need to spend some bucks on buying a phone that has high specs if you wish to enjoy ICS or Jelly Bean on your device.