How to Test Drive Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Hey Android fans! As you all know, Ice Cream Sandwich was officially unveiled yesterday evening. In case you missed it, Google also announced that the 4.0 SDK (Source Developer Kit) is available as of right now. To most, the SDK is strictly for development purposes, but did you know, you can use it to give yourself a tour of new Android releases? The SDK has a built in Android Emulator that can be used use to simply boot up 4.0 and start poking around. So, perhaps you’re eager to know how it’s done.

Hit the break for full instructions. The following assumes you’ve never touched the SDK before.

  • First of all, you’ll need the Java JDK (Java Developer Kit) on your computer. Download and install that from here if you don’t have it already. Non-developers typically only have the JRE (Java Runtime Enviroment). That won’t suffice.
  • Ok, after you have that, jump on over to the SDK tab on the android developers site.
  • At the top of that page you’ll find downloads for your respective OS.
  • Windows users can grab an easy to use .exe while Mac and Linux owners will have to download a zip. It’s essentially the same thing. You just need to take the extra step of manually unzipping the file to a safe location on your machine.
  • Now it’s time to download Ice Cream Sandwich. If you used the Windows .exe, navigate to My Computer -> C drive -> Program File (possibly Program Files (x86)) -> Android -> android-sdk -> and choose SDK Manager. Mac and Linux owners keep browsing deeper into your unzipped folder to reach the same SDK Manager. Keep this folder open for later.
  • When the SDK Manager appears check off the box for Android 4.0 (API 14) and click Install Packages.

  • On the next dialog box select Accept All and Install.
  • After those finish downloading you need to create an AVD (Android Virtual Device). To do this, navigate back to the aforementioned folder containing SDK Manager. AVD Manager should be right above it. Open that.
  • Choose to create a New AVD. Name it whatever you like. I called mine GalaxyNexus.
  • Set the target for Android 4.0 – API Level 14
  • You can disregard SD Card and Snapshot
  • For the skin you have a multitude of options. To match the Galaxy Nexus, choose the Resolution and set the values for 720 x 1280. You could also choose Built in and leave the default of WVGA800. *More on that in a moment.
  • You can choose to add different hardware elements but they aren’t necessary.
  • In either case, finish up with Create AVD.
  • Time to explore! You’ll be back at the original AVD menu. Click your AVD once and then hit Start.
  • The black screen with the shining Android text should appear. Now get yourself some popcorn. The Android emulator is notoriously slow to boot.
  • When it finally does finish booting, however, you’ll finally be in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The entire experience is sluggish, but it’s all there for you to browse. Have fun!

*About the skin options; if you go the first route, you should boot up Ice Cream Sandwich with onscreen software keys, just like the new Galaxy Nexus. If instead you opt for the default WVGA800, you’ll load up the emulator with hardware components enabled. Essentially your running ICS as it would appear on phones which have the current standard menu, home, back and search. Running in this configuration, the on screen buttons are missing, and home, menu, back, and search function in the same way as they do now. It is, as of yet, unclear to me how to see running apps on pre-Ice Cream phones. That should hopefully give you some ideas if you were wondering how phones like the Nexus S could handle 4.0.

This definitely requires some patience to use, but it’s really nice for getting a second glimpse at what was shown at the event this past evening.

By the way, if the steps above have you feeling a bit faint of heart, a new Nexus page has appeared that covers the big highlights of the new phone and OS

Be sure to let us know if you got it working.

About the Author: Jim Farmer

Originally from Mathews Virginia, Jim is now residing in Newport News where he attends Christopher Newport University, majoring in Computer Science. He interns with NASA Langley by day, and scours the internet for Android News by night. In his free time, he enjoys stand-up paddle-boarding, pwning on XBOX Live, coding, or hanging out with his favorite gal in the world, Morgan. His hero is Dean Kamen, you know, aside from Andy Rubin, and as for politics he’s for Open Source, Net Neutrality, and Unlimited Data.

  • Kheb

    To see the running apps just long press the home key. As it has always been. Frankly I see no reason a t all why ICS should not run on any recent android phone. As soon as the sources are released we’ll see.

  • Mike

    how do you get the onscreen keys show? tried these steps can’t see it. Also try testing the Language and input section you will have this annoying “Unfortunately {chinese characters}” message and will show up every time

  • boomerxyz

    Has anyone been able to get the market working on the emulator?

  • Jim

    To get ICS to show in tablet mode, go to your SDK directory/platforms/android-13/skins

    and copy the WXGA directory to your SDK directory/platforms/android-14/skins folder

    restart AVD (if running)

    edit/create your ICS AVD, and select WXGA for your skin – your ICS will now show in Tablet form . . . .

  • mounty

    I can’t select a target??!!

  • Fady

    Hello all,
    Since I’m new to testing and have no back ground experience on building Android apps. can I make this test for my phone “HTC-HD2” ?
    Can I copy the image to SD card?

  • Jim Farmer


    Unfortunately you cannot load the Android 4.0 image onto your HD2 for testing.It can only be run on the emulator provided with the sdk.

    However, you can use your HD2 to test apps you write instead of the emulator, but the OS will be whatever is currently on your phone.

  • Joaquin Vacas

    Hey, try enabling GPU Emulation on properties before creating an AVD.
    It’s faster!!

  • Wafiuddin Bin Mahamud

    I cant start the emulator. it said

    “PANIC: Could not open:”

    Does anyone can help me out?