Samsung Fascinate with Google

So you want the Samsung Fascinate, but don't want to give up your precious Google services, eh? Can't stand that Verizon traded Google Search for Bing? Gotta have Google Maps? No worries. We've got your covered. With three free apps and one bookmark, you can transform the Fascinate into a nearly stock Google experience. And it's all done without rooting the phone.

How'd we do it? Let's discuss, after the break.

That's it. It's that easy. Three free apps, one bookmark and we're back to a nearly normal phone. Let's break it down:

A new launcher

OK, so this isn't really necessary. But so long as we're changing things, let's put a more stock Android launcher on the Fascinate. In this case, we used Launcher Pro. With it we get a number of customizations, including the extra icons at the bottom of the screen. But any other launcher will work fine, too.

Google Maps

As part of its deal with Microsoft, Verizon didn't include Google Maps on the Fascinate, instead going with Bing Maps. But all you have to do is download Google Maps from the Market, and you're good to go. (Pro tip: Don't try to launch Google Maps from within the Android Market.)

Google.com boomark

Press the search button on the Fascinate, and all of your searches are routed through Bing. Same goes for the stock Google Search widget. It's invisible when you're running the stock Touchwiz launcher. But toss on a third-party launcher, and it's available again, but everything still goes through Bing.

It's not perfect, but for an easy shortcut to Google search, all we did was bookmark Google.com in the browser and place a shortcut on the home screen.

Voice search

And, yes, voice search, by default, goes through Bing. Voice search through Vlingo -- which is now free in the wake of Google upping its voice search game -- goes through Google. (What a twisted web we weave.) And besides that, it's pretty darn good.

So that's it. Took about five minutes to do, cost nothing, and we didn't have to root our phone. Sure, custom ROMs will clean things up even more, and you might want to try different apps from what we've used here. After all -- it's that kind of choice that makes Android as powerful as it is, and all the more disappointing that carriers muck up the works.

 
There are 52 comments

dcbelcher says:

Does the Google Search app in the Market help this as well? I'm curious how installing that impacts a device with Bing.

P.S. Steps 3 and 4 are the same on your graphic.

MowDownJoe says:

The Google Search app in the market is 2.2 only. Fascinate is still on 2.1. So, we'll have to wait and see.

kentusmc says:

Phil fix it quick, #3 and #4 have the same text

D'oh! Versioning fail! Fixed.

kentusmc says:

Lol thanks for the tip good man

chefkeyser says:

I don't own a Fascinate, but it seems to me this is a lot of work to make it a more "Googlefyed" phone. Plus, you run into the issue of having two apps on the phone that serve the same purpose (Bing Maps, Google Maps), which is an issue I had with my phone when I first got it and started going download crazy. I had 3 ways to access Facebook, 2 ways to access Google Talk, two Navigation programs, and so on. Also, bookmarking the shortcut only kind of acts as a workaround, as the Google Search and Quick Search functions on other Android devices search Google AND apps on the phone.
It just seems weird that Google apps would seem third party on an Android phone.
I suspect many Android fans will vote with their wallets on this one.

Agreed.

cj100570 says:

The easiest fix is to not buy this POS, bastard phone and instead go with an Incredible, Droid X or Droid 2 if you're a Verizon customer and want to stay that way.

Davest says:

Except that the new Droids (X and 2) are totally locked down. If you want to really own your phone, you can get a Fascinate, wait a few weeks, and install an alternate ROM that will fix all of this and more.

durthquake says:

How are the droid x and droid 2 locked down? They have root and custom roms and even for the droid x have a froyo leaked upgrade! Now if we were talming att, then that's a whole different story! Het you facts straight before you post!

ohboyscott says:

you should get your facts straight. you can't load new kernels on a droid x which is a huuuge reason for people that root. especially for me. custom rom without new kernels is basically just a ui change. sorry dude

Menno says:

All custom roms available for the droid2 and droidx at the moment are basically just variations of the Rom that shipped with the phone with bloatware removed and a few things optimized.

Compare that to phones like the incredible, OG droid, evo, etc. where you can install completely DIFFERENT roms on the phone, such as Vanilla Android, sense on the moto droid, themed roms (everything black and white for example).

The Droidx and Droid2 are completely locked down to development. YES, the community is getting past those locks, but it's taking time. And once you root a phone, you can remove the sideloading block for ATT android phones, so they're actually LESS locked down than current gen moto android devices are for Verizon.

cyrylthewolf says:

"How are the droid x and droid 2 locked down? They have root and custom roms and even for the droid x have a froyo leaked upgrade! Now if we were talming att, then that's a whole different story! Het you facts straight before you post!"

I don't know where you get your information but you need to get your facts straight before you go throwing them at people.

In short, you're wrong. The Droid-X is protected by the eFuse. It's an on-chip security solution to protect the boot loader from being altered. If the boot loader's CRC check doesn't pass, the eFuse 'bricks' the phone. In this context, it actually just puts the phone in recovery mode and you have to have the carrier or Motorola put the original software back on. (I'm sure this will eventually be overcome... but it's very difficult.) This is a Motorola thing.

I don't know if the same goes for Droid 2 or not. Frankly I haven't been interested enough in it. I've changed my preferences from wanting a Droid-X to the Fascinate now. Mostly because the Droid-X is an awkward wield to begin with... Not to mention the Fascinate has a graphics processor that is about 6.4 times the power of the one in the Droid-X - on top of having basically the same processor and same amount (512MB) of the LPDDR2 memory.

This is a major selling point. Maps didn't look so smooth to me on the Droid-X. Why? Because it's rendering them at a mere 14 million triangles per second.

Now... The Fascinate...renders graphics at 90 million triangles per second. ALL ON THAT AWESOME AMOLED SCREEN.

This is also before Froyo (Android 2.2) is even on the phone yet. the videos are showing crisp operation and the phone is clearly a great pleasure to use - save some bad decisions on Verizon's part.

Screen size? Smaller than Droid-X's you say? GOOD. Now we can preserve a little battery life AND not look like a jackass on our phone. Especially considering the AMOLED design uses less energy than TFT screens (Droid-X) do. The width of the screen is exactly the same. It's the length of the screen on the Fascinate that's 54 pixels smaller. THIS IS NEGLIGIBLE but still leaves a smaller footprint that makes the overall dimensions (barely albeit) acceptable.

'Sides... The wife was threatening to make fun of me if she has to watch me put that monstrosity up to the side of my head. :P

Still... I put functionality before all. (Certainly before siding with any one company.) Like it or not, folks... Bing does the job just fine. Most people decrying this are only ticked off because it's not Google Search/Maps. I personally use BOTH depending on what I'm doing...and have honestly found that navigation with Bing is actually ...better. More concise and operational WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING. *gasp* Oh no! I said something is better than a Google product!

"Git a rope, Jed." LOL

I like the one guy up there who called the phone a "POS". Clearly you don't know what you're talking about my friend. This phone is one crisp, clean piece of work with hardware that makes the Droid-X look like the small, over-compensating piece of hardware it's turning out to be. (And to think I wanted one...)

Couple that with the fact that Droid-X is basically a total pain in the ass to root and put custom ROMS on...and that the Fascinate is bound to have custom ROMS on it any time now...

Fascinate wins. Hands down. Like it or not. The advantages make themselves quite clear and they are far more than the Droid-X no matter how you slice it.

Can't wait to get mine next month when I can afford it. :)

Evo2DroidX says:

Its true. I own the X and doubt it will ever see a custom rom :( at least sammy saw that vzn was evil and provided an easily hacked device. My X is rooted and bloatware removed id still love to run cyanomod on it. I think im going to either get the G2 or wait for the next htc released and hold out with the X until the dev community fully breaks into it

cyrylthewolf says:

*pats you on your back*

There, there... The first step to healing is to admit that someone else created the problem. LOL

But you're RIGHT. :)

At least you have a solid game plan. It's hard to figure what HTC is going to do from here on. They're very difficult to predict. Especially in the face of 4G coming out and AT&T/Sprint making a mess of it. If I was a hardware company making devices for these companies who don't have a very clear picture of how they're going to plan out the very platforms on which these devices operate... I'd do one of two things.
1.) Exploit the chaos and make/sell new 3G like hotcakes until they get their heads out of their asses...OR
2.) Take my company's sales forecast into consideration and possibly hold out as much as long as I can for the next generation of phones to be in demand.

HTC's Evo... AWESOME phone. But...you can't take advantage of 4G in most places in the US. It's caused quite the backlash for Sprint and HTC's name. (Mostly due to the carrier's lack of ability to distribute the information that 4G is LIMITED so far.)

Oh well. Whatever you decide to do, go for whatever makes you happier as an owner. Sounds like you know what to look for and how to analyze the situation at hand.

cyrylthewolf says:

There is nothing wierd about this. While Android may be a Google creation, it is still an Open Source creation - which means that anyone can dink with it and configure it as they please.

As a developer, they know that they are able to think outside the box and do what they want and configure it to their own whims. This time, they just made the incredible and faulty mistake of siding with a certain company that isn't exactly favored.

There should be nothing surprising about an Open Source product being configured any which way.

Fahrenheit says:

Do people really use the Google search widget? That's usually the first widget I delete on hard reset.

icebike says:

Yes, people use it, because its right there, and you can start typing in it immediately. Anything else is a button press away. Furthermore, its configurable to only search what you are looking for.

The interesting thing is the google search widget is technically NOT part of Android. So just how did Verizon hack this without violating a google copyright?

The fact that the

    market version

of google search still goes thru bing when installed on this phone says to me they are playing fast and loose with the DNS resolution on the phone, or something else external to the actual application.

Maybe they put in something as simple as a hosts file entry to reroute requests.

Menno says:

Android is open source.

Apples like Google Search, Gmail, Google Calander, Google maps, etc are NOT. This is why they're not included in Cyanogenmod (you have to select to install them)

This is not a "Google Experience" device, so verizon's violating nothing but good taste by hacking bing onto the device.

There is no real market version of Google Search that works with the Facinate as is. For that you need to be running 2.2. Once the phone gets 2.2, google searches through the search app work through google.

webmatt01 says:

Also Phil: That "slow" popping up when you created the Shortcut is Launcher Pro.. Its a little slow in that area.

Also Vlingo is no longer Ten bucks.. Its free in the market. They made it free when google launched their Voice Actions a few weeks back.

Re Vlingo: Yep, as noted in the annotation in the video and the words above. :p

webmatt01 says:

DOH.. I missed the note in the video!

@farenheight. I don't know many that use the actualy widget as usually the magnifying glass quick button will use it. However if your button is going to bing you may have issues with it syncing to everything goog has to offer...ie contacts, calendar, music agreements with vendors etc. If your mag glass goes through bing then yes there would be need for a replacement. Unless your happy with Bing. I for one only prefer their image search.

hotkoko says:

What about GOOGLE NAVIGATION????

Watch the video, maybe?

hotkoko says:

i saw it. Jumped the gun. BING still sux

Davest says:

The problem that I have is that this (and most Android sites) leave much of the real information out of the article and put it in a video. I work during the day, and I can't watch videos, so I miss out on a lot. It would be great if the articles themselves were more thorough!

That being said, yours is my favorite of the Android sites...keep up the good work!

icebike says:

Quote: I work during the day, and I can't watch videos, so I miss out on a lot.

Pick up your android phone.
Got to Android Central.
Tap the box to watch the video with your head set on.

Problem solved.

If you have time to read thru a detailed article at work you have time to watch the video on your phone, even if you can't do it on the Boss's computers.

bxojr says:

I'm confused. When I open the "Voice Search" app on my Fascinate, I get a popup that clearly says "Google search." And the search results page sure looks like Google to me. (It's definitely different from what I get if I do a voice search from the Bing widget.)

Am I missing something?

SoCal65 says:

How to Get Google on Your Phone in One Easy Step:

Buy a friggin phone with stock Android on it, and avoid those that frak with the Google Experience.

I mean really -- if having google services is important to you (and it should) then choose a phone that meets you needs and don't by these vendor borked phones - they just might get the message. You shouldn't have to jump through hoops for something you buy -- shop around and get what you want in the first place.

JeffDenver says:

Here is why you are wrong:

1) The Fascinate has the best hardware of any Verizon phone right now. So that may be a reason not to go with a different phone despite the fact that the Fascinate is polluted with bing.

2) These phones are very rootable, and it is only a matter of time before we will get the stock Android experience anyway. Unlike Motorola and it's obnoxious quest to piss off every single one of their customers by booby-trapping their phones, Samsung phones are easily rootable. At least relative to their competitors.

So yeah, I say go with the Fascinate anyway despite these defects. The phone still kicks ass.

itguy09 says:

#1. Really? Aside from the GPU, what does the Fascinate do better than say, the Droid X? I've not gamed on my iPhone, probably won't on the DX and it's not a factor in phone purchases. AMOLED is nice but has drawbacks as well.

The Fascinate is just another phone with the worst Search Engine (Bing) from the worst tech company in existence (Microsoft).

CR6 says:

funny how you say "Microsoft is the worst tech company in existence" when over 75% of personal computers on the planet are running their software and it's founder is the richest man in the world. Alrightythen! Good one...I needed a good laugh today. Thanks!

drathos says:

And how exactly are we supposed to buy a phone with stock Android on it when there aren't any available anymore?

All Android phones being released nowadays have so-called "enhancements" from the vendors (Blur, Sense, TouchWiz). Moto Droid is all but dead (have to jump through hoops to even get refurb ones for warranty replacement) and the Nexus One is now only open to developers - when they have any in stock, that is.

wzguy1976 says:

I work for a Verizon authorized retailer. I sold a Fascinate yesterday to a customer and I tried downloading the Google Maps App from the Market. It runs but there is no option for navigation. Doesn't seem to work the same. Odd.

icebike says:

Did you watch the video?

Ryu78 says:

A google phone that wants to be win7 phone? WTF Verizon?

Leave Bing with windows phones and google with androids...

Oh yeah, i dont have this issue in my Sprint EVO 4G! big fail for big red!

For voice search, surely the Google Voice Search app in the market does not get routed through Bing??

hanano17 says:

bxojr has it right, you don't need to do this method. I downloaded Google Maps, and there was a (Google) Voice Search app that goes through Google. If it doesn't pop up right away, change app view to list view and back...or try to reboot, but it's definitely there.

Why not at least make the launcher dock look like stock Froyo? =)

Darkseider says:

With Launcher Pro Plus you have the option to install the Google Search widget through the Launcher Pro Widget selection. You can then nuke the bing widget and all is well in the world again.

JeffDenver says:

And for the record, yes, I despise Bing totally. Just sayin that the Fascinate is still pretty sweet despite Bing.

Mtnraider says:

Mtnraider says:

this phone can get all the hate you want to throw at at it, the droid X was much worse at launch. Rooted, did the lag fix that is mentioned in the rooting thread

http://forum.androidcentral.com/showthread.php?p=336771#post336771

Makes this phone F-A-S-T as heck, and while Re-Google-ing it may take some work, this hardware is still ahead of the curve making the Fascinate one of the best handsets available today.

PS. Phil way to keep them honest.

tsdamole says:

Are you aware that when you install Launcher Pro you get the Google Search that is built in. from what i can tell it is not routing thru bing.

After you install Launcher Pro, go to the home screen add a widget and their is a Google Search widget that works

i own a Fascinate it is fast and awesome

icebike says:

The story directly contradicts your assertion that it is not routing thru bing. So perhaps you have some evidence others have overlooked?

Key this into Google (with quotes)
"from what i can tell it is not routing thru bing."
You will get one hit.

Key same thing into Bing: NOTHING.

Try that on your phone.

easy1jay says:

So even after these changed, the bottom right search key still uses Bing for Voice and Search?

To others out there, I wouldn't call this phone a POS, if you plan on rooting, this just is a great as the others once theres a working ROM with Google integration. If you like Microsoft but also the Android OS, this phone is for you. Either way, I'm sticking with my Incredible.

jtwebfusion says:

This article made my head spin. I'm waiting for the htc merge...

jimmyt says:

just a little ot - but is that pure calendar on the fascinate in the video?

I downloaded LauncherPro and Google Search from the Market and added the Search widget to my home screen and everything appears to be working as expected. However when I search for something through the widget and get results, if I hit back all the way back to home the widget moves to the top of my home screen and is disabled. Locking and unlocking the phone typically takes care of this but I was wondering if anyone was able to recreate this issue?

washleyill says:

so do I have to be using launcherpro at all times to have this google experience? I launched the google download with launcherpro but it seems to only work if I have my phone running in launcher pro...

I have the fascinate.

There is an easier way to googlefy the fascinate with out vlingo, launcher pro, creating short cuts and the like...lol. Simply, trash the bing search widget..lol.. download google search from da market..lol. Touch and press down on the home screen you want your google search widget on...select the google search widget and bam... the google search widget appears(no need for vlingo) Then open your browser, go to settings and change your default home screen browser to www.google.com! then every time you open the browser, you will go to goolge.com and not that bing vzw home page garbage..rofl.. Then it's a rap...you are googlefied on the fascinate..lol. Thats the whole kit and kaboodle...lol!!

Samsung facsinate user