In a move surely the result of Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the company has posted a new page on its web site instructing users how to unlock their device bootloaders for unfettered access to the operating system and every other aspect of the devices’ software.
There are several steps involved and, of course, warnings galore about the dire consequences of unlocking (voided warranties, possible carrier blocking, and – seriously – “bodily injury”). You’ll also need the Android SDK and appropriate drivers to begin.
There are only three U.S. devices supported at present: the Photon Q 4G LTE Android smartphone (Sprint), and the XOOM and XOOM Wi-Fi tablets. Hopefully this list will grow over time.
Google is now selling an unlocked GSM version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android phone for $399. This model of the Galaxy Nexus will work on both AT&T and T-Mobile wireless networks and is unlocked and contract free. It’ll even work with high speed HSDA+ networks, where available.
This isn’t the first time Google has played the smartphone sales game, but we’re not entirely sure why the company has decided to get back on the horse when it was thrown off so sharply the last go around. Still, at $399 it’s cheaper than unlocked versions of the phone sold by Amazon and other online retailers. And for about double what Verizon and Sprint charge for an on-contract version of the phone, it’s a pretty fair price.
Of course, if you want a Galaxy Nexus and don’t mind Verizon or two-year contracts, you can nab the phone for less than $50 here and here.
Aside from Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Android tablets have enjoyed very limited success compared to Apple’s iPad, a situation Google cannot be very happy with. Even top-shelf devices like the Motorola Xyboard are destined for disappointing sales because of their high price. As a result, the company may be poised to release a tablet of its own, bypassing partner tinkering and price bloat, and focusing on the best possible Android experience on a tablet device at the best possible price.
Like the Nexus line of smartphones, a Nexus tablet would be free of UI overlays and manufacturer add-ons, offering a pure Android user experience. Google chairman Eric Schmidt has confirmed that a “tablet of the highest quality” is in the works, so the questions now are 1) will it be a Google-branded tablet, 2) when will it be released, 3) how much will it cost, and 4) what sort of tablet will it be?
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The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google’s flagship Android phone, will soon be available in the U.S. from another CDMA carrier: Sprint.
Sprint’s version of the Galaxy Nexus will include a faster processor, a dual-core 1.5GHz SoC rather than the Verizon’s 1.2Ghz. It will also support Sprint’s LTE “4G” network, such as it is. Additionally, the Sprint Galaxy Nexus will come with Google Wallet onboard, which Verizon blocked as to push its own NFC payment system, a move well within Verizon’s SOP.
No word yet on a release date, but pricing will likely be the same as Verizon’s – around $300 with a two-year contract.
A little bit Gingerbread, a lot Honeycomb, the next version of the Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, was officially announced today at Google I/O 2011.
Ice Cream Sandwich will replace both the current smartphone and tablet iterations of Android for a more unified “One OS Everywhere” user experience across all devices. The UI is said to be a mixture of Honeycomb, the version of Android found on late-gen tablets like the Motorola XOOM, and Gingerbread, the latest version of the OS running on smartphones (though not on as many as we’d like). Specifics were nowhere to be found.
And there were no release details, either. But you can bank on the fact that the OS will be rolled out slowly (or very, very, very slowly) sometime in the coming months.