Phil Nickinson

Hell of a week, eh? We saw the rise of Chrome for Android, and Google Wallet hit a couple of potholes -- but nothing we're really worried about -- but some of the coolest news out of Mountain View actually has nothing to do with Android. 

But before we get into the best news of the past week, here's a spoiler of our Motorola Droid 4 review, coming up this week: If you're looking for a keyboard slider, you can not do better than this one. Period. Flips table, walks out, end of story. More to come on that this week.

And so without further ado, here's the way I see things:

Google Chrome for Android

Yes, Yes, YES! Chrome's always been some sort of magical, mythical thing when it comes to Android. But, why? For me, as an end-user, it's another Webkit browser. In this case, a very well-tweaked and optimized Webkit browser for Android. At the end of the day, it still loads web pages. But it does so better than the stock ICS browser.

I'm not overly worried about the open-source implications here. Google will work that out in due time. At least, it should.

Be sure to check out our Chrome for Android walkthrough, and quick comparison against Safari on the iPhone 4S. Google's done good with Chrome on Android, and it's going to get better.

Solve For X

Google leads a conference to solve the world's big problems. (And they don't mean locked bootloaders.) The website dubs it "A forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and teamwork."

I love this. To quote Sam Seaborn, "I think ambition is good. I think overreaching is good." This is the stuff that Google can -- and must -- do that will change lives even more than it already has. If you're looking for a direct tie-in to Android, you're missing the point. Think bigger. I get goose bumps at this stuff. More at

Speaking of overreaching ...

Speaking of overreaching. ... Did anyone really think the Galaxy S III (everyone's still assuming that's what it's going to be called) was going to be announced at some random thing in France? I mean, with all due respect to the French, of course. (And I totally was ready to hop on a plane -- and still am -- just in case.) But c'mon. We've seen this before. Remember when a random invite from HTC in some European country turned out to be an office opening up? Overreaching.

Whatever Samsung has planned (it's not doing a press conference at MWC), it'll be here when Samsung's good and ready. Do you want it now? Or do you want it right?

Speaking of ridiculous made-up stories ...

Tony Hawk does not have a super secret "T-Mobile Galaxy Nexus." He was roaming, internationally. And paying T-Mobile to do so. Or perhaps not paying, but that's not really the point.

There appears to be some sort of fundamental misunderstanding by some people about how the GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus works, and thus this B.S. story spread. The current GSM model is what's known as "pentaband," basically meaning it can handle five GSM frequencies, including AT&T and T-Mobile 3G. Thus, you can buy a GSM Galaxy Nexus right this second and use it on either network. Or on GSM networks overseas. It's what many of us here are doing.

If there is a "T-Mobile Galaxy Nexus," all that means is it'll be subsidized (like Verizon's), and possibly have AT&T's 3G band removed, though that's less unlikely these days because of new roaming agreements that came about when AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile failed.

How and why was this a story? There was a line somewhere last week that went "this is what Android blogs do." It shouldn't be.

Google Wallet - why I'm not worried

A couple of Google Wallet vulnerabilities came to light last week. One requires that your phone be rooted, and then the Google Wallet PIN is brute-force cracked. The other isn't actually new -- you can clear app data and get around the PIN that way.

The sky is not falling. Google has other fail-safes than the app PIN, and both of these "issues" require you to have lost your phone in the first place. Just like if you were to lose your physical credit card, there's a phone number to call to shut down the whole thing quickly. Google explains it thusly in its Google Wallet FAQ:

The same rules that apply to unauthorized use of your plastic credit card, apply to unauthorized use of a credit card stored in Google Wallet. Many banks apply a $0 liability policy for unauthorized use. For more information, please consult the terms and conditions of your account supplied by your card issuer.

You have plenty of options. Lock your phone. (Which you should do anyway.) Don't root your phone. Use a remote-wipe utility. And if you lose your phone, call Google toll-free at 855-492-5538. You know, just like you'd do if you lost your physical wallet or credit card.

Samsung Infuse 4G

Finally gets its Gingerbread update, which is promptly pulled. How many Samsung phones has that happened to now? A shame, too. It was a good phone for a time when the U.S. was waiting on the Galaxy S II. But are we really going to have to go through this with borked updates all over again in 2012?

By the way ... Part of our mandate around here is that, in addition to being your No. 1 Source for the Best Android News, Review and Opinions™, we're also your No. 1 source for accessories. And you're going to start seeing more accessory reviews. (Actually, you already have.) Some we'll sell at Some we don't sell. And that's cool, too. Point is, we're going to remain your best source for all things Android -- hardware, software and accessories. If you see something you want us to review, let me know. We'll get it. And be sure to follow @shopandroid on Twitter -- they've giving away a bunch of free stuff.

Droid 4 root held hostage for a good cause?

Here's an interesting one. Dan Rosenberg (@djrbliss) came up with a root method for the Motorola Droid 4, and on Friday it was teased on Twitter and elsewhere. The catch? It wouldn't be released until a $500 "bounty" was raised, with $200 going to Rosenberg to actually purchase a Droid 4, and $300 going to the American Red Cross. That didn't go over so well with a lot of people. There's nothing inherently evil with the idea, I suppose, though it certainly diverges from what you typically see in the Android hacking community. On Saturday, after a bit of a nerd outcry, Rosenberg reversed course.

Yesterday, I tried a little experiment in releasing a root exploit for the Motorola Droid 4. I set up a bounty, where the first $200 would go towards me buying myself a Droid 4 in exchange for the work I’ve done developing the exploit, and the remaining bounty money would go directly to the American Red Cross. I thought this would be a good arrangement for everyone: users get a shiny root exploit for a few bucks, I get a new phone in payment, and money gets donated to charity. Everybody wins.

Let's be clear: I'm all for rewarding developers and tinkerers for their work, be they amateur (with donations) or professional (with payment). And I absolutely encourage giving whatever you can to charity. But one should not be dependent on the other. And releasing a root exploit into the Android community at large should not be dependent on either.

Ignoring the fact that Rosenberg ran straight for the "raging masses of Android fanboys" slight when people expressed their displeasure for the manner in he was intending to release the exploit, he did the right thing by releasing it for free on Saturday. It also was the smart thing to do -- who's to say someone else couldn't have worked up the method in the interim? (Get the Droid 4 root exploit here). Since the release, Rosenberg also has shifted 100 percent of the donations to charity.

In the end, this was a good thing done badly. But the Droid 4 is now rooted, the American Red Cross should be getting some money, and hopefully the "raging masses of Android fanboys" will get over being insulted by the same tinkerer who was asking for their money in the first place.


Reader comments

From the editor's desk: Chrome for Android, solving for x, and silly stories


Sorry Phil, but I totally disagree on the question of how Dan Rosenberg handled the release of the D4 root. He put in the work, why shouldn't he set the expectation of how he's going to release it?

For all the folks that bitched and moaned about his bounty approach, there's a simple solution - don't participate and go hack out the rooting yourself. I'd bet my D4 that the vast majority of those people are the ones that never ~ever~ put up a dime toward the hard work of a developer when it's optional.

What exactly is wrong with a dev charging for their work? I don't see the complaints, and I think you're off base on this one.

A perfectly valid opinion. I'm not crazy about the idea of having to pay for root access, but a donation is more than fair. And so I'd probably just wait for someone else to do it. That's just me, though.

My bigger thing is that the minute you combine personal and charitable donations in the same breath, you've started down a slippery slope that's absolutely going to rub people the wrong way. You should donate to the developer because you value the work, not because the developer promises to, in turn, donate to charity.

My problem with this is that the payments are being referred to as donations. By definition, a donation is a one-way transaction; the donor should get (and expect) nothing in return.

Hey Phil. You were talking about some anti-virus app with a wipe function if the phone gets stolen. Which app was that again? (If anybody else knows it, tell me, plz. Could be that I overheard it in the podcast.)

"...and both of these "issues" require you to have lost your phone in the first place."

I see so much written about apps to help locate/recover/wipe a lost phone, and what to do when your phone is lost, I really have to wonder how many people have actually lost a phone. Is it THAT common? How do people lose phones anyway? IMO, if you're not actively using your phone, it belongs "on your person" (in your pocket, backpack, holster, etc.), not on the table where you're seated, or on the chair next to you.

I had several friends who really lost their phone because they were drunk. Even more than the occasional "Oops, my phone fell out of my pocket" accident.

You'd be surprised how many people lose them. Work in any bar/restaurant/retail store, and you'll find at least 3-4 a week that were left behind, dropped, forgotten.

Google Chrome for Android may be all that and a bag of chips...if you ever get an ICS device. But what about those who have devices that do not have, nor will ever get, ICS? The list of ICS devices is still very small. And look how long it took (is taking) for some devices to even get Gingerbread. I know things are continually moving forward in this Android world of ours. But DAMN! Sometimes it seems the mantra is, "Let's see how many devices we can make obsolete."

Chrome is still in beta. By the time it's finalized, you'll have Jellybean on your Android devices of choice, so why worry?

If i had verizon and any interest in a D4, i would ABSOLUTELY have paid for this. I see NOTHING wrong with a dev doing this.

Its a lot of work and time that goes into this and why shouldn't he have a device that he just rooted. So he rooted it without a phone.... gee what else can he do when he actually gets one. Not a problem at all, and the fact that he was going to donate more than half the bounty to charity makes it even more ok.

I love the fact that Android is open and that we have all these amazing devs that work on our stuff and i have gotten more enjoyment and fun out of a lot of their work than things i have paid a lot of money for, why should we not pay when we can for things like this?

Chrome for android is awesome. Probably one of the best 1st release Beta's i have seen from Google. All you people bitching about not having a phone that has ICS or whatever... seriously.. sometime shit just has to be upgraded. Sucks, i know, and i am pissed as well (have an Evo 4g)but not at the situation. If you expect seriously all the phones that are out there to be upgraded to the latest and greatest, we would end up with a windows-esque monstrosity for an OS because of all the back-compatibility that would need to happen. Its a necessary evil that comes with massive innovation.

"Its a necessary evil that comes with massive innovation."

To me, the most shameful thing about it is, as one poster mentioned, it seems, at times, like manufacturers/developers strive to make their products obsolete. Because, let's face it, they aren't making the big money upgrading, they're making it by enticing people to buy the newest, best, latest, greatest, etc. That's okay, to an extent. Many times the equipment being made obsolete isn't that old. In other words, it hasn't been around long enough to see any significant price drop, so in that sense, they miss out on an opportunity to fully capitalize on some models. At some point it becomes cannibalistic in nature.

Another poster mentioned that many people are just getting access to Gingerbread, but ICS is already here and spreading like...well, not quite like wildfire...yet. Technology can and does progress too rapidly at times. The desktop/laptop market was, and to an extent still is, like that. Soon as one upgrades to the newest, baddest ass Pentium processor, a newer, faster one debuts in a month or a premium, of course. And the price I just paid for that "new" last generation processor immediately drops $200. So as a consumer, how do I feel about that? Suckered? Gypped? Absolutely.

So the way I deal with all the hype and BS about the newest technology is to NOT buy into it - kind of like a "window shopper" mentality. You know, it all sounds good, but I find it hard to miss what I've never had. And I feel kind of sorry for those who do buy into it, because when they go out and plop down $700 for the new "best" phone, inevitably, it won't be for long. Let's face it, in 60-90 days something newer, better will come along, and there's a good chance that within a year it will be on the path to "obsoletion" (I know it isn't a word, so please, no grammar policing).

Honestly, Phil, I think giving the French any significant amount of respect is overreaching in and of itself.

I'm just sayin'.