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 wesolveforx.com.
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 ...
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 ShopAndroid.com. 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.