Android 4.0 and the Transformer Prime: This is how upgrades should be done

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Android 4.0 Asus Transformer Prime

If you're among the lucky few who've been able to get their hands on Asus's Transformer Prime, congratulations: You're now among the first tablet owners to experience Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich.

Asus had previously planned to upgrade its Transformer Prime to Ice Cream Sandwich this Thursday, January 12, but provided a pleasant surprise by announcing an early delivery during a press event at the Consumer Electronics Show Monday night. Asus started rolling out Android 4.0 to Prime users that very evening and is continuing to distribute the software today.

The Asus Transformer Prime's Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade is being done over-the-air, which means you'll get a notification on your tablet when the download is available to you. You can also manually check for the software by going into the "Firmware Update" section of your tablet's "About Tablet" settings menu.

The Transformer Prime's upgrade to Android 4.0 is particularly significant, as it makes Asus the first manufacturer to get ICS delivered to an existing Android tablet. This is especially surprising given the existence of the Motorola Xoom, a developer-targeted "Google experience" device whose software updates have previously been handled by Google, resulting in fast and early OS upgrades.

Asus not only beat out the Xoom -- it did it on a tablet that isn't a vanilla Android experience, meaning the company had to make its own set of custom changes to the software before it could ship to users. While I've long been a vocal opponent of baked-in Android skins, Asus is really showing how to do it right. Its OS-level modifications are relatively light and unobtrusive, and its most prominent software changes -- things like a custom system keyboard and expanded status panel -- can easily be disabled if a user so chooses.

Perhaps most important, though, Asus's changes aren't preventing it from shipping OS updates in a timely fashion, as tends to be the case with most Android manufacturers. We've seen the story play out far too many times with manufacturer-modified phones and tablets (I'm looking at you, Samsung). So watch and learn, hardware-makers: This is how the Android upgrade game should be played.

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For more on Ice Cream Sandwich and how it'll change your tablet, click over to my complete Android Ice Cream Sandwich FAQ. And to get the latest upgrade status for any Android phone or tablet, check out my Android 4.0 upgrade list; it's always kept up-to-date with the most current info available for all devices.   

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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