Although Google had to call off its formal Android event due to a historic hurricane slamming into the Eastern Seaboard, all of the major announcements it had been planning were nonetheless made online. In case you haven't been paying attention, that means the LG Nexus 4, Samsung Nexus 10, updated Nexus 7 and -- last but not least -- Android 4.2 were all released as predicted.
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Probably the biggest news from that set of announcements, though, is the release of a brand-new Nexus phone -- from LG, no less, a company not noted for its Android updating prowess. The Nexus 4 is a hugely impressive phone, and would have quickly become a new standard for top-end Android devices, but for one major flaw -- it doesn't support 4G/LTE, and you can't use it on Sprint or Verizon. Given the amount of flak Android fans aimed at Apple for not introducing 4G until this fall's iPhone 5, this retrograde step is a serious embarrassment.
Yes, it's incredibly difficult to negotiate the carrier minefield. Yes, Google's had huge issues getting Verizon to update its phones as quickly as it should. But to simply step back and say "screw it, we're not even going to try" seems like an admission that the Nexus program isn't a serious attempt to showcase the virtues of Android as a platform.
Of course, the argument could be made that Google doesn't really need to sell anybody on pure Android anymore, given its enormous market share in the smartphone sector. And with the increasing omnipresence of Wi-Fi, it's debatable how much is actually lost by not including 4G. Even so, this doesn't feel like a great step forward for Android.
The Nexus 10 doesn't have 4G either -- or any mobile data, for that matter -- but it seems like a much more positive development for Android, for two simple reasons: It has a bigger, higher-resolution screen than even the latest iPad, and it's cheaper. My take on tablets has always been that the display accounts for about two-thirds of what makes them good or bad, given that they're primarily entertainment devices at this point, and Samsung has really pushed the envelope with the Nexus 10. To put it another way, it would need to have something else very wrong with it to make it a less attractive option than the iPad, given the low price and slick display.
Then again, Android phones maintained a small but meaningful technological lead over the iPhone for months before the iPhone 5 came out, but that didn't stop Apple from selling its products by the million. It'll be important for Android developers to close the gap on iOS in terms of tablet-ready applications.
As expected, Google also refreshed the Nexus 7 lineup, adding a 32GB model and optional HSPA+ connectivity. The prices also changed -- a 16GB Nexus 7 is now $199, the 32GB Wi-Fi-only model is $249, and the 32GB with cellular data retails for $299. By comparison, a 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad Mini is $329. Ouch.
Android 4.2, or "not Key Lime Pie," is an incremental update that nonetheless provides some cool new options. The introduction of built-in gesture typing -- which should be very familiar to anyone who uses Swype -- is a major plus, as are the improvements to Google Now and performance tweaks. Photo Sphere is undeniably impressive, even though I don't see it getting a lot of day-to-day use, and actionable notifications are very slick, as well.
Samsung just does not stop launching new phones -- this week's entry is the Galaxy Premier, which is basically a Galaxy S III with slightly watered-down internals and Jelly Bean out of the box. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers who might be interested in a cut-price Galaxy S III, the Premier is currently only available in Eastern Europe, and no plans for a North American release have been detailed.
Samsung may also be preparing to release a 7.7-inch Galaxy Note tablet, according to documents cited by The Droid Guy. Little is known about the device or its potential capabilities, however, and The Droid Guy notes that it may not even be slated for release in the U.S.
I'm hoping Intel's new foray into the Android world -- in the form of the Motorola RAZR i -- will continue, if only because I'd really like to have a phone with this 48-core monstrosity of a processor powering it. As the folks quoted in the article point out, however, making sure there's software out there that can take advantage of such a processor is easier said than done, and the whole thing is pretty much still on the drawing board anyway.
Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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