Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jelly Bean for Verizon (UPDATE!)

While the official Jelly Bean update for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is still MIA, there is a leaked version (JRO03O) that has been making the rounds on the internet. 

(UPDATED 9/21) The official Verizon update has arrived! Users are reporting the update is now available via Wi-Fi ONLY for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus. Get on Wi-Fi and hit that 'Check For Update' button now! 

I installed the leak on my rooted GN on September 5th and have been running it since. I thought I'd share my impressions here for those who may have grown impatient.

Jelly Bean definitely shows marked improvement in the responsiveness of the phone in terms of swiping, scrolling, and opening apps. Google Now offers some really intriguing features, but at this point for me they offered little value. The updates on sports scores were nice (at least once Google got NFL scores going for week 2!). I imagine people who do a lot of travelling would love the flight updates and travel features, but as I rarely move about the country (and even less about the world), they were of little use to me. Same goes for traffic updates - I work from home so traffic notifications offer me no help. I tried to  activate "places" to get updates on nearby events or businesses but I never had a card show up. Its possible I just hadn't given Now a chance to learn about me before disabling it.  The real issue for me, though, was the seemingly large increase in battery usage attributed to map/location-related programs. Under Better Battery Stats, there were no fewer than 5 different processes responsible for 'waking up' the processor on my phone, some with significant usage. Location services have always seemed to use an excessive amount of background processor time which always bugged me, but the increase I saw with Google Now active was just too much.

(Update: I'm giving Google Now another shot but with limited location features to see if it works any better)

The most obvious other change I saw in Jelly Bean was the device settings page. Instead of the previous "accounts & sync" line, Android 4.1 brings all your accounts to the main list for easier access and modification. I really don't find this to be a valuable addition as I rarely ever find myself adjusting things like app syncing. I usually keep all but the minimum necessities OFF. I feel that this change didn't add anything and just cluttered up the main settings screen and forced me to scroll more to get down to things like 'developer options' and 'about phone'.

The most useful change in Jelly Bean is the notification bar. Aside from the font style and color change, the notifications are far more useful. Instead of a very limited listing of your notifications, Jelly Bean provides you with a very detailed list of what's waiting for you including the content of SMS messages and an extended amount of info from received gmails, not to mention the ability to call contacts directly from missed call notifications.  It really makes the notification bar so much more useful.

As far as functionality goes, the radios did not appear to offer me any improvements over the prior versions, but then again, I never had major problems despite being in a borderline 3G/4G area.

[Note: If you were rooted on ICS and flashed the Jellybean update, you probably lost root and don't even know it. To regain root, copy this updated SU zip file to your sdcard and then install the zip through cockwork recovery.]


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple plays catch up...

Or.... "The all-new iPhone 5"
Or.... "The new iPhone XLT"
Or.... "The innovative new device everyone else was already making...."

OK, so maybe I kid, a little.

But honestly, let's look at what's "new" here.

4" screen - Done 2 years ago, and a new 4"+ phone is released almost every day it seems.
Also, didn't Steve Jobs once say “3.5 inch handset size is the “sweet spot” for mobile phone design; big enough to produce detailed, legible graphics, but small enough to fit comfortably in the hand and pocket.”  I guess things change.  Maybe people evolved bigger hands in the last 2 years. To be fair, different screen sizes work for different people, which is what makes Android and all of its choices so great in my opinion. To each his own, size.

16:9(ish) - Again, Steve Jobs didn't like 16:9. Thought it was only good for movies. Times change I guess. I am a little surprised that their solution to resolution change on older apps is to letterbox. I guess they'll be pushing devs to update to the 16:9 ratio so they don't want to make it too complicated in the meantime.

UPDATE: Something else that's been bugging me about the iPhone is the display. While Apple unquestionably produces a phone with a great display, it still surprises me that they stick with a 640 horizontal line display. With almost all of today's manufacturers producing a 720 line display I find in interesting that they are sticking with 640. Obviously the benefit is transitioning apps to the new longer display more easily, but it just seems like having 720 lines gives you 'more' when it comes to video. Most HD video is 1080p or 720p, so scaling down to 640p implies a loss of some lines of resolution.

Headphone port on the bottom - Not sure that the Galaxy Nexus was the first, but it sure had that last year when it came out. It makes sense too. I'm pretty sure everyone puts their phone in their pocket upside down right?  Only fitting to put the port on the bottom so you can be plugged in while its in your pocket without switching things around.

Panorama photograph mode - Had that on my Galaxy Nexus last year. Check

LTE - Done early 2011.  In Apple's defense, there was no rush to be early to the party... as other than Verizon almost no one has a substantial LTE network in place anyway. No penalty for the late arrival.

Sharing tabs between mobile and desktop - Chrome Browser / Android Browser. Check.

SMS response when declining calls - Android. Check.

I'll give Apple some points for making it lighter, that's for sure. In terms of making it thinner, well its 18% thinner but its 18% longer, so no points there.

Also, while I completely understand them going with a new connector, the adapter they are showing just looks absolutely redonkulous.

UPDATE: The adapter is $30!  Ouch. That's a lot of extra cash coming Apple's way for everyone with an existing dock....

All in all, Apple is finally updating the iPhone to what consumers have been demanding for more than a year now. A 4" (or more) 16:9 screen and, for some, LTE. A lot of the 'new' features won't seem all that new to Android users, but with Apple's focus on litigating, it must leave little time for innovating!  Obviously, no one has touched one of the new iPhone 5's yet, so no one can comment on the performance of the processor, camera, or any of the other software features. They might turn out to be incredible, even if many of the other features are today's standards.