Android 4.0 Schedule Update

It’s been quite a while since the first wave of promises of Android 4.0 updates by various manufacturers and carriers. Things are finally starting to pick up this month, with plenty of updates that have already taken place and announced future dates that look to be solid. If you’ve got a Gingerbread phone or Honeycomb tablet sitting around looking sad, take a look at the following list and see if your device will be getting a facelift sometime soon:

  • Sony -
    • Tablet P – updated to Android 4.0.3 on June 16 [source]
    • Xperia S – updated to Android 4.0 on June 21 OTA [source]
  • Samsung -
    • Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, Tab 7.7, Tab 8.9, Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi/3G – Android 4.0 (likely with TouchWiz skin) updates slated for July/August [source]
    • T-Mobile Galaxy S II – updated to Android 4.0.3 on June 11 via Samsung Kies software/not OTA [source]
    • AT&T Galaxy S II – updated to Android 4.0.3 on June 21 via Samsung Kies software/not OTA [source]
  • Motorola -
    • Droid Bionic – still not announced, but leaked 4.0.4 update available without needing root capability [source]
    • Droid RAZR + RAZR Maxx – updated to 4.0.4 with global GSM roaming capability on June 22 OTA [source]
  • Toshiba Thrive 7″ and 10″ tablets – scheduled “early this fall” [source]

In addition to Ice Cream Sandwich updates, the Google Play store has just leaked that the Galaxy Nexus will be the first device to receive the next big update to Android – codenamed “Jelly Bean” and numbered 4.1. The information appears when adding a GSM Galaxy Nexus to your cart on the Play Device store, so the source appears to be quite credible. Hopefully more devices will see an update to Android 4.0 before then, as Google’s fragmentation problem just seems to be getting worse as time goes on.

Source: The Verge, GigaOm (cited throughout article)

Instapaper for Android released

In a fairly surprising move, Instapaper has been released for Android at a familiar price of $2.99. The previously iOS-only app was a stalwart of the platform and remained one of the few fundamental exclusive apps (much like the  recently released Flipboard and Instagram) that bolstered iOS’s catalog above Android’s. The app was not developed by creator Marco Arment but rather handed over to Mobelux, the same team that worked on Tumblr’s mobile apps. Since this version of Instapaper is a 1.0 release, many features that iOS users have grown to love are absent like sepia-toned text/background, full-screen mode, and social features. The one thing that’s certainly better in the Android version of this popular app is the ability to share seamlessly between apps like Browser and Mail using the basic sharing framework of the OS.

Check out The Verge’s exclusive interview with Marco Arment covering why he flipped on his previously negative opinion on Google’s OS and their hands-on video that better explains the app’s features.

Source: The Verge, Google Play

Google rumored to expand Nexus program to more OEMs

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is planning on partnering with as many as five OEMs to produce Nexus devices for future iterations of Android. The report falls in lockstep with a recent move by Google to directly sell the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to consumers via its online storefront, which signaled a strategy to secure a more firm grip on the OS from carriers.

By offering early access to a new version of Android, Google is surely hoping to encourage more differentiation of Android devices based on hardware rather than software. While the report doesn’t explicitly state that next-generation Nexus devices would be running stock ROMs, former devices in the program like the Nexus One and Nexus S ran almost entirely unaltered versions of the operating system. By showing off the core functionality of Android without software alterations like manufacturer skinning and carrier preloaded applications, Google could send a much more clear message of what they have to offer.

Source: Wall Street Journal | Via: The Verge (image)

Google directly sells HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus via Play Store

In early 2010, Google began selling the HTC Nexus One to willing customers in the United States, Canada, and UK. Uniquely, the device was sold unsubsidized by Google through a web store and could be activated on whichever carrier the buyer chose at checkout. This was clearly a move to shift some of the power away from carriers and to empower their developer userbase, though the program ultimately ended up scrapped in the summer due to minimal sales.

Since then, Google must feel that the climate has changed as they’ve started offering the Galaxy Nexus on the Google Play Web Store for a slick $399. Available to U.S. customers, the phone is not too different than the international HSPA+ version or even the Verizon/Sprint models. The unlocked phone supports both AT&T and T-Mobile’s GSM/HSPA+ bands, while both carriers don’t offer the phone directly.

This Galaxy Nexus only has 16GB of storage in contrast to the Verizon/Sprint 32GB, but on the bright side it supports Google’s payment service Wallet with a $10 bonus credit. If you’re interested in a relatively cheap, unlocked, contract-free version of one of the best Android 4.0 phones currently on the market, check out the source link below and get it delivered to your front door in two short days.

Source: Google Play

Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion

Facebook acquires Instagram

Almost a week after Instagram launched on Android the company has been acquired, by Facebook– for $1 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that the most popular social network has acquired the most popular social photo sharing app. The $1 billion acquisition comes in the form of cash and shares in Facebook. The full Instagram team (13 employees) will join Facebook, and as is often the mantra under these circumstances, will retain its independence.

Here’s what Zuckerberg had to say about the momentous acquisition:

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

Source: Facebook BlogInstagram Blog | Further Reading: GigaOm

Google Play replaces Android Market, unifies content offerings

Yesterday Google announced a big shift in marketing strategy for all of their content offerings – the Android Market is to be rebranded “Google Play”. Considering the Market has grown in scope over the past couple years to encompass more than just apps, Google feels that a more broad branding scheme can better funnel people into their music, video, app, and book offerings.

Along with the rebranding comes a new opportunity for communicating the strengths of Google’s services, namely that much of the content one can buy is stored in the cloud and thus can be accessed on an Android tablet, Android phone, or computer. After renting a movie, one can start watching it on their PC and finish watching on the train via their smartphone. When a user purchases music from Google, it’s delivered to the cloud to be made available on all devices immediately. In the above video, Google also touts the ability to sync progress in a book from device to device.

The "Play" branding will extend to all Android entertainment apps

While Google doesn’t seem to be offering anything particularly new, this latest move suggests that they are adopting a greater strategy of multiplatform support. Distancing their services from the “Android” branding may do a lot to signal this change, especially with growing footprint of Google TV in the coming months. Check out Google Play’s YouTube channel to get a better idea of what Google’s trying to communicate with this new messaging.

Source: Google | Further Reading/Image: Marketing Land