BetaNews certainly loves the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Joe Wilcox uses one, Tim Conneally uses one, now I use one. I wanted a smartphone that could easily deal with day-to-day tasks, had decent enough battery life that could get me through the day, had good build quality, and most importantly, received timely software updates.
As some of you may have already read, my Galaxy Nexus came with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but I managed to update it to Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. I wanted to experience it without the placebo effect induced by claims of a faster interface. So how does it stand up to my four criteria?
What you're looking at is the Nexus D, a concept design created by patent-holding mechanical engineer and BetaNews reader Dorian Lust.
Lust is a Galaxy Nexus user and fan, and instead of idly talking about the features he'd want in the next version of the Galaxy Nexus, he designed it for himself...while watching the Olympics on television.
That's the question I repeatedly asked while attending San Diego Comic-Con, which wrapped up about two weeks ago. Ian Lewis' "Let’s not blindly give every latest tech marketing prophet his profit", posted here Sunday afternoon, has me thinking about phone as camera again, in context of what's good enough.
A year ago, I took to Comic-Con the Fuji X100 to shoot photos and Sony HDR-TG1 camcorder for videos. I processed and uploaded content on a Mac laptop. But July 2012, I was a month into an Apple boycott over patent bullying. I still have the devices but now use the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook. It's plenty good enough for processing photos using cloud services to edit, but I wasn't too sure about videos and decided not even to bother. During Google I/O I shot video on Galaxy Nexus, uploading directly to YouTube. That worked out just fine.
It's bad enough that Apple uses patents to bully competitors. Now the company threatens retail partners, demanding they remove two Samsung devices from store shelves. Apparently, court orders aren't good enough for Apple, which also ignores one of them.
Apple, through its army of lawyers, has sent a letter to an unknown number of retailers and carriers selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and Galaxy Nexus smartphone. Last month a US court issued temporary injunctions against both devices, but temporarily lifted the one against Galaxy Nexus.
Early this evening, EDT, Google started dispatching Jelly Bean to Galaxy Nexus HSPA+. Phone sales also resumed at Google Play, for $349 -- or $50 less than what I paid about two months ago. At Google+, Brian Medeiros asks the right question: "Who else is hitting the 'Check Now' on their Galaxy Nexus non-stop to get the Jelly Bean?" I did on my phone and my wife's. No enchilada.
Google's Nexus Google+ account posted at 7:07 pm: "The rollout of Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, begins today, starting with Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ devices...If you’ve got a Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ device, you will receive a prompt alerting you to the update over the next several days". Please folks, don't become hamsters in the wheel constantly pressing "Check Now".
A week has passed since I started up my Google I/O-issue Galaxy Nexus and updated to Android 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean). Since then, my daughter and I faced off Google's Voice Assistant against Siri (on her iPhone 4S). The results aren't surprising. Google's depth as a search provider proves its wherewithal against Apple, which calls Siri a personal assistant. But Jelly Bean's feature, used alongside Google Now, is every bit more and every bit what a digital assistant should be. Siri sucks even more, by comparison.
I will be absolutely clear: Together, Voice Assistant and Google Now represent a watershed development, living up to what Apple promises with Siri. Google has successfully presented its depth of search in a truly meaningful manner -- one that can change how people interact with mobile devices. If execution improves over time, particularly as Google Now learns personal habits, these innovations could be as important to the search giant as the development of its algorithm.
Since December 1998, when on impulse I bought the original iMac from CompUSA, I've used Apple gear. No longer. Late yesterday, I replaced the last fruit-logo with another, fulfilling my pledge nearly a month ago to boycott Apple. I wanted to declare independence sooner, but with so much news to write about in June and Google I/O last week, researching and replacing the AirPort base station was too much trouble. But it's offline now -- and, along with Apple TV, going on Craigslist today.
Circumstances since choosing to boycott make me all the more adamant. Last week, US District Judge Lucy Koh issued two preliminary injunctions against Samsung devices -- Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Nexus. Yesterday she denied Samsung's request to stay the ban pending appeal. Anticipating Nexus' similar fate, Google swiftly responded by pulling the phone from its online store and dispatching an update to existing phones. I chose to boycott being so angry by Apple's aggressive patent bullying that thwarts competition and takes away consumer choice. Today, I celebrate America's independence anniversary by gaining freedom from Apple.
Let me see if I understand this. Google, the company that perfected web search and through it changed the lives of billions of people, must disable the local functonality from its flagship smartphone -- all because of Apple? Now do you see why about a month ago I boycotted Apple and last week called the preliminary injunction against Galaxy Nexus shameful?
Watch out. This is one Android update you don't want to accept. I asked my wife this morning: "Do you use local search on your phone?" She has Galaxy Nexus. My lovely looked up with a startled WTF looked and answered: "Yeah". Of course she uses local search on her phone. Who doesn't? You. If you own Galaxy Nexus and accept the update. It's the wrong one for Google to send out. The search giant should dispatch Android 4.1, which if, I understand correctly, changes search so that Apple's bully patent doesn't apply. C`mon, Google, you can do better.
Yesterday, during the annual D conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company is "doubling down" on Siri. Improvements are coming -- promised without admission of problems, although complaints about them are many. Then there's the lawsuit claiming Siri fails to meet advertised capabilities. You could interpret Cook's promise as concession Siri sucks or that Apple is preparing to take on Google in search. I see it both ways.
Five years ago, Apple supercharged the smartphone category with a more natural user interface. Suddenly, there was a new way to interact with a mobile phone that was seemingly magical. Humanness made the original iPhone stand apart from all competitors, and Apple used a variety of sensors to imbue the quality. Touch, and its intimacy, and the way the handset responded to your proximity gave it the human quality. But Apple has done little since, other than Siri, which does add a little more humanness to iPhone 4S. She adds personality and extends the mobile user interface to another more important than touch: Voice. Problem: There's something inhuman about Siri's often frustrating responses to questions.
During the last six months, I've had the privilege to use three exceptional smartphones: iPhone 4S and two Galaxy Nexus variants -- one LTE and the other HSPA+. You can't go wrong buying either Android or iOS handset, although Galaxy Nexus supports more carrier networks here in the United States. Differences that matter are more than hardware (such as size, appearance or battery life) or software (apps and operating systems). Taking Galaxy Nexus or iPhone 4S is much more. Either is a digital lifestyle choice that many buyers won't grok before paying their hard-earned cash.
I can't emphasize this aspect strongly enough. In the days before Android and iPhone, early smartphone buyers also made digital lifestyle choices, such as BlackBerry users and persistent email or Windows Mobile buyers wanting mobile Office. But today, with differentiated, connected cloud services, digital lifestyle matters more than ever, and both handsets offer similar yet drastically different experiences. You're not just buying a phone but a way of life.
Two days ago, May 4, I received the Samsung Galaxy Nexus -- the 16GB HSPA+ model Google started selling direct last week. I'm not alone. Many of you ordered this phone, too. This first-impressions post extends my December review of the 32GB Verizon LTE model.
I will say straight up that out-of-box experience on AT&T is nowhere as good as Verizon. Network is huge factor. Audio quality is crisp and clear on Verizon compared to occasional hissy-fits on AT&T. Data speed isn't comparable, so far -- that's round and about San Diego and communities East and South, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, respectively. I expected at least 10Mbps HSPA+ data speed, based on my wife's Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (before AT&T turned on LTE service here). I've yet to top 3.5Mbps on AT&T HSPA+ compared to an average 20Mbps over Verizon LTE. If data throughput is a priority, Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ -- over AT&T anyway -- is not for you. However, if you want a GSM network phone that is unlocked and contract-free and offers the best of Android, Google Galaxy Nexus is an exceptionally good choice. But expect to make a few compromises.
While we wait for Samsung to unveil its new smartphone in a few hours, for your waiting pleasure I've got answers to the question posed last week: "Would you pay Google $399 for unlocked, HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus?" The search and information giant ended April with a May flower: Direct sales of its flagship, Android 4.0 smartphone, presumably because AT&T and T-Mobile aren't doing so.
Google's got a good thing going here for Android enthusiasts, but I've got a problem with the direct sales thing. What Apple offers that its rival can't: Service. People buying iPhone can get defective replacement at local Apple stores. They also can purchase, granted for an extra 99 bucks, AppleCare+, which extends the basic warranty and provides discounted replacements. If you drop and break iPhone 4S, Apple will replace it for $49, up to two times. What's Google going to do for you, if Galaxy Nexus goes bust or you bust it up?
There was great news on the Android front this week. Samsung reported blow-out earnings, with smartphones -- the majority running Android -- accounting for nearly three-quarters of profits. Meanwhile comScore data spotlights the growing US Android tablet market. Additionally, Google started selling Galaxy Nexus direct, with no carrier contract, for $399. But all three share something in common -- what they foreshadow. Google has lost control of Android, and must swiftly act to regain it.
Forrester Research predicts that proprietary Android will surpass the Google Android ecosystem by 2015. Stated differently, Google's open-source mobile platform risks fracturing into multiple fatally fragmented Android ecosystems. Not one but many. There is little time for Google to demonstrate decisive leadership that can keep the ecosystem largely intact.
Google has surreptitiously answered whether AT&T or T-Mobile would carry Galaxy Nexus, which is available from Sprint and Verizon here in the United States: No. Otherwise, why would Google sell the smartphone direct, which it started doing yesterday. It's a helluva price, too -- $399, unlocked, with no contractual commitment.
This is the HSPA+ model released internationally in November 2011. That means no LTE and only 16GB storage, rather than 32GB -- and it's not expandable. The phone sold for $729 or more from Amazon and handset resellers just a few months ago. Amazon lists the 16GB model for $438 today. But, hey, $399 is better. But is it low enough for you? You can get 64GB iPhone 4S from AT&T for same price -- granted locked, with 2-year contractual commitment. Both handsets are HSPA+, though, and AppleCare+, which offers cheap replacement for broken phones, is an extra $99. So I ask: Would you -- or will you -- buy Galaxy Nexus direct from Google?