months and months waiting in vane for Orange to update my Sony Xperia Neo V to Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), I decided to look for information to flash the latest ICS version on my Neo V. And after some small issues, I did it yesterday. The methods are explained in full detail at different places, but the best explanations I found are here (in English), and here (in Spanish). There you will find links to download flastools and also a large range of ROMs to flash, including the most recent ones.
Thus far all seems to be working fine, after updating to Android version 4.0.4 (ROM 4.1.B.0587). Contrary to some reports I have read, I have no wifi problems, and the front camera works just fine. I will go there later.
Certainly ICS does bring little additional functionality compared to Giberbread. In my case, the only clear advantage has been the installation of Chrome, which allowed me to sync the bookmarks I use at my main computer. The browsing quality is clearly improved with respect to "Navigator", the stock browser used in Gingerbread.
Overall, I agree with multiple previous reviews on ICS being a much more polished OS than Gingerbread. What I found surprising is to see that the Xperia Neo V runs really smoothly, which is something I did not expect, taken into account the somehow limited hardware of the Neo V (particularly in the case of RAM memory, 512 Kb). I had no issues thus far, the transitions between apps work fine, and the experience is that of a finer phone, with an OS which is truly an alternative for iOS. By contrast, when it was running Gingerbread, the difference in favour of iOS was overwhelming, and mind you: my comparisons come from an iPod Touch second generation, using iOS 4.2.3; in other words, one generation behind the current version of iOS (or two, if we consider that iOS 6 will be introduced today, together with the new iPhone).
Going to two of the most widely reported issues after updating Xperia phones to ICS:
- Wifi works fine, and I tried both a private network at home, and an eduroam network at my workplace. Thus far I have seen not unexpected stops in its functioning.
- Front camera is widely reported to stop working after the update. Yet I discovered that, contrary to reports, it does work fine. The only problem is that a previous button to skip from back to front camera (shown in Gingerbread) does not exist in ICS. You need to go to the options of camera, click on "SCN", and there select the front camera. No problem at all.
- Another supposed problem: If you want to take a screenshot, hold the down volume button and the power button EXACTLY at the same time, for about 1 second. And it's done. In fact, I used this function to take the picture shown above.
- Finally, some people complain about bad quality video playback in HD. I have not tested this possible problem, but I will do it soon.
Regarding the flashing experience, I found it surprisingly simple, after getting the right information (see my comments above). The flashing was done quickly, and restarting the phone gave place to the new OS without a single problem, from scratch. If you are going to do it, pay attention to install the right drivers to connect the phone to the computer, and you can do that by using a little app which is bound to flashtools.
What I found annoying is the lack of any flash software for Mac. I tried hard to find an alternative to flashtools for Mac, but no way: it seems nobody has taken the work to make such an app, despite existing an version for Linux which should not be too difficult to port. Yet I could find an app, working on Mac, which allows to root many phones running Android. It's called Breakdroid, and you can download it here. Although truth be told, I did not root my phone, since I only wanted to update the OS, which does not require rooting.
All in all, I should have done this update before summer, instead of wasting my time waiting for the miserable team of Orange to do their job. Orange has been a most disappointing company thus far, starting with some lies when I signed with them, and continuing with a lack of support that is truly shameless. But as I have written in their forums, I will stay as Orange user strictly for the signed period, and I will never again spend a cent with them.
Update on February 21, 2013: Today I posted a fairly detailed comparison between the use of an Xperia Neo V running Android Icecream Sandwich vs iPod Touch 2nd generation running iOS 4.2.3. If you are interested by this post, maybe you would like reading it as well.