Galaxy Nexus

That headline's been written for a week now, but it's certainly taken on new meaning in the past few days. With the announcement of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and a preview release coming out of Google I/O, I've found myself back on the Galaxy Nexus full-time. That comes after couple months on the HTC One X (mostly loved it) and the Galaxy S III (again, mostly loved it). 

For those of you new to Android, the Galaxy Nexus is the third iteration of the "Pure Google" phone. It's an annual project from Google that gives developers a stable hardware platform on which to work, though it probably won't quite be on the cutting edge of the available technology. (That's true from the time of the original Nexus One, as well as the Nexus S.) It also is the one true "stock" experience, meaning there are no carrier or manufacturer customizations. (Here comes another caveat, though: The Galaxy Nexus on Sprint and Verizon has had a couple apps added.) It's also completely customizable from a modding standpoint, which makes it the Holy Grail for those who like to tinker. The bootloader's unlockable with a single terminal command, and gaining root access is trivial.

Returning to the Nexus has been easy enough; I always enjoyed the stock ICS experience in the first place. Jelly Bean really has made it that much better. Here are a few thoughts on coming back:

  • The "Project Butter" improvements have made the phone much faster (or at least the on-screen elements look and act faster).
  • So many apps still have multiple sizes of widgets, instead of taking advantage of the resizing feature. Too bad. (I imagine that's for backward compatibility?)
  • If I wasn't a fan of on-screen buttons before, I am now. It's not that I hated the capacitive buttons on the One X (or even the Galaxy S III, though I'm still not sold on the physical home button), it's just that the on-screen buttons on the GNex are placed toward the center of the phone, making it easier to use in either hand, especially considering that I have freakishly small thumbs, thanks to an accident with some radioactive goo and a spider. Or maybe that was something else. Regardless, I'm back on the on-screen button train.
  • And proper on-screen buttons means proper menu items, as Google intends. You want to talk about Android "fragmentation"? This is it, plan and simple. Different manufacturers doing different things to make up for the fact that they're going against Android design principles. They're well within their right to do so, but it's muddying the waters.
  • Yeah, the display isn't as good as what's on the HTC One X, and it's not quite as good (though close enough for me) to the Galaxy S III. And I've been surprisingly OK with that. I thought it would bug me more than it does. 

All in all, the Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean (which, if you must know, I haven't bothered rooting) stands poised to serve me well for the next few months, until the newest latest and greatest phone.

And that brings us to the alternate meaning of today's headline. You can once again trade $349 and in return get a shiny new Samsung Galaxy Nexus from Google. That comes after it was briefly "banned" because of an Apple lawsuit over patent infringement, which at the time pretty much seemed like the end of the world, even if it wasn't

It's a damn shame that Google's going to have to change anything, though it's worth it if it means the phone's able to ship again. And as of this writing, it'll ship in 1 to 2 weeks, according to the product page on Google Play. (It wouldn't surprise me to see that shift even earlier in the coming days.)

The Galaxy Nexus is back, but this much is sure: This shall not be the final lawsuit, and quite possibly it shan't be the final "banning." Something needs to be done. If you've yet to listen, we discussed this one at length in our most recent podcast.

Consider this ...

The stars appear to be aligning for a 7-inch iPad later this year. Pretty soon, by the end of 2013, probably, your device path probably will depend more on which ecosystem you've found yourself invested in, rather than which company makes the product. It's be iTunes (OK, iOS, really) versus Google Play versus (probably) the Windows Phone Marketplace. Sorry, RIM.

What would a low-cost, 7-inch Apple tablet bring to the tablet that a low-cost, 7-inch Android tablet doesn't already bring, in the hardware department? Content and ecosystem are where it's at. Google still has a way to go on the former, but the latter's being built out quite nicely. This should make for an interesting battle.

At least until the lawyers start brandishing their weapons again.

Safety in numbers ...

Every now and then a story will hit the blogs, and I start getting e-mail asking why we're not running it. This is one of those times. A couple weeks ago pictures surfaced of a Galaxy S III that had not so ceremoniously died in a fire. That is, it looked like the bottom part of it had burst into flame. Those always make for great pics. 

But those kinds of stories have always seemed a bit, well, inflammatory. You see them and wonder if your pants are next. But the fact of the matter is that these are very rare occurrences. And in this case, as we kinda suspected from the pictures, the phone had a little help from its owner leading up to the meltdown.

I don't meant to be too hard on anyone who ran that story -- it's an editorial decision. But we frequently talk about "bugs" and "manufacturing defects," and this is just another example of why one phone's problem -- or even a dozen phones -- isn't necessarily indicative of a manufacturing or design flaw.

Or, occasionally, someone sticks their phone in a microwave and posts pictures of it.