It has been a long time coming. Android Version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has been out for a few weeks now for the Samsung Galaxy Note. Not in India though. For some reason or the other, the release had been pushed for the devices… until now. It isn’t exactly an easy upgrade but it isn’t too complicated either.
You will need the Kies desktop software (in case you don’t have it). It can be downloaded from the Samsung site. If you try the Software update link through the phone via Wi-Fi, it will let you download a firmware upgrade. But this is NOT the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade. Right now, ICS is only through Kies. Once you download the desktop software, run Kies and connect your Galaxy Note to the machine. If Kies doesn’t automatically look for any OS or firmware updates, just click on Tools -> Firmware Upgrade and Initialisation. This will start a series of activities beginning with the download of the OS upgrade file followed by installation. The entire process took us about 20 minutes from start to finish. Bear in mind it does reset the homescreen(s), widgets and shortcuts you may have customized on the phone. You will have to add them back once the upgrade has been completed.
Right off the bat, some of the new features included are:
  1. Built-in power saving capability
  2. Displays battery life percentage remaining
  3. Automatic alphabetical rearrangement of all application shortcuts (FINALLY!!!!)
  4. Revised Settings layout and menu options (there is an explicit option for One-handed operation we thought is great, you can also monitor the data usage without the need of a 3rd party app)
  5. Updated S Pen apps and widgets
  6. Smoother Swype interface and a change in letter trace color
  7. Updated Running Programs list (when you hold the Home button)
This update took a while to hit the Indian shores but we are glad it finally did. Overall, it seems to have made the operation of the phone even smoother than it was while adding several features that needed 3rd party apps for in the past. We haven’t used it long enough (yet) to see if the battery life has been extended as promised, but we will definitely post an update once we do.

Update (6/1/2012): We have been using ICS for the past week and noticed a few things:

  1. The sensitivity of the touchscreen has increased significantly with this update. No longer do we have to push down the stylus on the screen to highlight, it seems to begin the highlighting if you hold the stylus really close to the screen.
  2. The browser has also been updated and feels a lot smoother and has a decreased load time.
  3. Updated GMail app. The app is very well laid out and you feel you can accomplish much without having to go through multiple steps. The look and feel seems very polished this time.
  4. Slide down the quick settings menu from the home screen and you have an additional option to activate Power saving.
  5. We are still on the fence with the built-in Power saving feature. Having turned it on we have not noticed a favorable difference. In fact it seems to us that our battery life went down after activating it (our usage of the Note has remained the same). There is also an option for Custom Power saving and we will try playing with those settings to see if it makes a difference. Another update will follow.
Update (6/12/2012): After using the updated software with the power saving feature turned on and starting completely afresh (meaning we let the battery completely die, recharged the phone and started once it hit 100% again), we noticed the battery life went up from about 6.5 hours to a little under 8. Tasks performed included browsing, checking email, watching videos, using Google Maps and playing games. We had the Wi-Fi option enabled the entire time while GPS was enabled for about 2 hours. The power saving feature was on the entire time. Other additional features encountered:
  1. Facial recognition to unlock the screen under Security -> Screen Lock
  2. Ability to Encrypt the device (not just the SD card)
  3. Direct link into Developer options for ICS

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