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31 May 12 Android 4.0.4 update reportedly rolling out to some Verizon Galaxy Nexus …

It was just yesterday that we reported that Verizon could be rolling out the highly-anticipated Android 4.0.4 update to the Galaxy Nexus soon, although in all honesty we didn’t think it’d be this soon! It seems that there have been reports of several Galaxy Nexus owners who have started to receive the update. Now it appears that the update is being rolled out in small batches, so if you have yet to receive the notification reminding you to update, fret not as we’re sure that it will eventually get around to you. For those who own a Verizon Galaxy Nexus handset, just pop on over to your phone’s settings and check if you are able to manually pull the update for yourself. So, any of our readers out there started to receive their Android 4.0.4 on their Galaxy Nexus just yet? Let us know in the comments below!

Related articles:
Verizon rumored to be testing Android 4.0.5 for the Galaxy Nexus
16 GB White Galaxy Nexus headed to Verizon?
Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0.4 update unofficially released

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31 May 12 Android 4.0.4 update for Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus is imminent

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Press shotsVerizon’s Android 4.0.4 update for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus could be considered to be long overdue by some, and last we checked it was available as a direct download from Google which had to be flashed onto the device, making the update highly unsuitable for the less tech savvy. Well it looks like after all the waiting, rumors and speculation, Verizon has finally updated its website with information on the IMM76K Android 4.0.4 update. The update has since been approved so we can expect Verizon to begin rolling out the update over the course of the next few days. According to the support page, this is a relatively small update and is just under 40MB in size. It will bring about several bug fixes and shouldn’t take too long to update and install, so be sure to check your Galaxy Nexus for the notification on the update! In the mean time details about the update along with instructions can be found at Verizon’s website.

Related articles:
Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0.4 update now available as a direct download from Google
Verizon rumored to be testing Android 4.0.5 for the Galaxy Nexus
16 GB White Galaxy Nexus headed to Verizon?

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31 May 12 Dear Android App Developers, Can We Quit With the Menu Button Already and …

You see that massive, ugly black bar across the bottom of my HTC One X? Yeah, that would be the menu button that Android app developers refuse to move away from even though the Android team announced back in January that the death of the menu button was happening.

What they were hoping to accomplish with this move was a more consistent experience on Ice Cream Sandwich devices because going forward, Android was moving away from dedicated hardware menu buttons. Instead of coding your app to use a dedicated hardware menu button, they recommended that you take advantage of the action overflow capabilities in Android 4.0, which is essentially a menu button that is added to the app rather than one that is tied to a navigation button. If you do not code your app to use action overflow and instead tie it to a navigation button, you get the experience I have captured above if no menu button exists. 

Here are a few examples of apps still using the menu button, one being a Google app. And these aren’t all of them either, Foursquare, Hootsuite, ESPN Scorecenter, Sonos, Amazon MP3, Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and so on all continue to use a dedicated menu button with their apps. The list is enormous, and as you can tell, we aren’t talking about some tiny one-man operation here. These are the big boys that are failing to follow Android guidelines.


How should it work and why this move? Well, Google got half way there in their Reader app. As you can see from the screenie below and above left, the top right corner includes a 3-dotted button that is the action overflow area. When pressed, you get additional options that you would normally find when pressing a menu button. It makes sense to use this approach since ICS was built for multiple screens, some of which do not have hardware navigation buttons at all. If you code your app to use action overflow and it is tablet and phone compatible, you get the same experience on both. If you code it to use a menu button, depending on the phone and tablet that a person has, you may have two totally different experiences, which could be confusing to your users.

The reason I bring this up today is because we are seeing more and more phones launch without dedicated hardware menu buttons. The entire HTC One series along with the Incredible 4G LTE and EVO 4G LTE all do not have dedicated menu buttons and will have to experience the evil black bar. It’s time that developers recognize this. Unfortunately, these companies all likely test their apps on a Galaxy Nexus which has the ability to add a menu button to the on-screen navigation area, so they probably think that nothing is wrong.

The end of this issue is no where near completion, but you may want to start asking your favorite app devs to code their apps correctly. As devices continue to launch without dedicated menu buttons, you will soon understand the pain that some of us are experiencing on a daily basis.


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26 May 12 Looking At Android’s Vulnerabilities

Looking At Androids Vulnerabilities

No matter what kind of wild-eyed iOS fan you may be, there’s no denying that Android’s spike goes deep into the tech industry’s soil. But can it ever be removed by the competition? Steve Jobs declared thermonuclear war on Android during his tenure as Apple’s CEO, but did not manage to keep Google’s little green robot from flowing through the veins of most of the mobile industry. The proliferation of handsets makes battle Android feel like a fist-fight against a swarm of gnats, and the rock-bottom prices for Android phones makes them hard to ignore no matter what non-Android devices have to offer. What, then, could be done to break Android’s chokehold on the tech world and open up more space for competitors?

ReadWriteWeb has some opinions about the ways in which Android can be taken out of the equation. Predictably, they cite Android’s fragmentation (the proliferation of handsets is as much a curse as it is a blessing), and how carriers are reluctant and sometimes unwilling to make operating system updates available to users. As an iOS user, it’s nearly inconceivable to picture a world in which you wouldn’t have access to your updates, but adoption of the latest version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) has still barely crested 4 percent of Android users (whereas more than 60 percent of iOS users are updated to the latest version).

Only a handful of desirable Ice Cream Sandwich devices are available right now. The newly released HTC One series is probably the best, but that may not last long with a new Samsung flagship (Galaxy S III) in the pipeline. ATT did not have an Ice Cream Sandwich device on its shelves in any form until the Samsung Galaxy Note was released. Verizon was not much better, with the Android flagship Galaxy Nexus as the only decent Ice Cream Sandwich phone on the market (from any carrier) for a good portion of 2012. Simply put, for most of the year, there have not been a lot of exciting high-end Android phones. It’s hard to see how the latest version of Android can achieve mass adoption while it’s so hard to obtain.

Pointing out fragmentation and issues with OS adoption is no new revelation for critics, but those two issues remain very serious vulnerabilities and bear repeating. One need only look at the rise of Windows in the 90s: Cheaper than the Mac and included on almost all cheap PCs when you buy them off the shelf. Again, a lot of fragmentation in that the company that made the operating system (Microsoft) was not the company that made the hardware. Instead, hundreds of PCs in thousands of configurations were in the wild, each needing their own unique code subset to have the components talk to the OS. Over time, people ended up moving away from Windows due to vulnerability to malware, insecurity, and crashing. While Android certainly is riding a very profitable wave in the mobile market, its similarities to Windows are not something Google should ignore.

Source: ReadWriteWeb

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20 May 12 Samsung’s S Voice available for Android 4.0 devices through leaked Galaxy S …

The firmware for Samsung’s Galaxy S III has leaked just over a week ahead of the device’s release. While you can’t flash the ROM to another phone just yet, developers are able to poke around inside and could be bringing elements of the TouchWiz Nature UX experience to a wider audience at some point. The first major finding to come out of the leak, however, is an APK for S Voice, Samsung’s Siri-style voice control application. It seems to work on any device running Android 4.0 — we tested the app on a Galaxy Nexus and a Sharp Aquos Phone, and got it up and running largely without issue barring a couple of crashes.

It’s clear that S Voice has been modeled very much in Siri’s image

Obviously, we don’t want to pass anything resembling a final judgement on leaked software that was designed for different hardware. It’s clear, though, that S Voice has been modeled very much in Siri’s image, right down to the near-identical microphone icon at the bottom. The software hooks into Android and lets you set calendar events, send messages to contacts, get Wolfram Alpha-powered answers to questions, find out weather forecasts, and so on. Voice recognition was mostly solid, but we had a few problems getting it to parse various names, and “The Verge” remains a common stumbling block for this kind of software. S Voice’s voice itself is a coldly mechanical female affair, some way away from Siri’s personable and slightly coquettish mannerisms (or indeed the dulcet male tones found in the British version).


It also seems that S Voice isn’t quite as attuned towards natural speech as Siri. For example, whereas Apple’s service will helpfully respond to vague statements like “I’m in the mood for Italian food,” S Voice won’t offer any advice beyond suggesting a web search. Even a more direct question like “Where’s a good Italian restaurant?” sends you to Google, and the tutorial advises using much less fluent syntax such as “Text Katie message are you free tonight for dinner.” S Voice doesn’t make much effort to indulge more esoteric queries, either, though it does at least tell you that the meaning of life is 42.

Overall, S Voice is the closest approximation of Siri we’ve seen (in English, at least), but it’s not quite as fluid — at least in its current form. We’re looking forward to giving it, and the rest of Samsung’s Nature UX, a fuller workout when we review the Galaxy S III itself.

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20 May 12 Full Galaxy S III Android 4.0.4 ROM Leaked, S-Voice And All The Other Goodies …

Hey kids! Looking for an early taste of the new Touchwiz? Well you’re in luck! A leaked Galaxy S III rom is out in all it’s bandwidth crushing glory! A whopping 800MB download awaits those eager to get their hands on Samsung’s latest.

The Galaxy S III and its new version of Touchwiz will make about a million additions to Android. Somewhere in this download are things like S-Voice (A Siri-style virtual assistant), Pop-up Play (a floating video window), and Smart Stay (which uses the front facing camera to refresh the screen timeout), just to name a few. Developers (and eager bloggers) should start ripping into it immediately.

The full rom, if you’ve got about 40 minutes of download time to spend, is available right here.

S-Voice is available as a separate download here, but Samsung’s cloud compute server is very picky about who it responds to. The general theory going around is that is only listens to Samsung devices, but you’re welcome to try.

I just so happen to have S-Voice up and running on my Galaxy Nexus, I’ll have a full hands-on article posted shortly. Stay tuned!

Source: XDA via SamMobile | Android.hdblog

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19 May 12 Android this week: Hot home screens; more Nexus partners; Galaxy S III pre-orders

Even with manufacturer “skins”, Android tablet home screens haven’t been much more useful than those on Android smartphones, even though the slates have larger displays. One third-party software developer wants to change that and it’s using Kickstarter to fund the effort. A $5 pledge will get you a copy of Chameleon; an intelligent, customizable home screen app for Android tablets.

What makes Chameleon unique — aside from what’s essentially a “pre-sale” to guarantee money for the developer up front — is the superb customization it offers for Android tablet home screens. Think of Android widgets, which are of course, great by themselves; but on steroids. The entire screen can be used to show information from social networks, weather apps, your music player of choice and more. You customize what you want to see.

Even better: Chameleon can change the home screen contents based on where you are or what time of day it is. So you could create a morning profile for home, for example, with your personal preferences. When the tablet senses you’re in the office later in the day then, it could show home screen data that’s relevant to your job. The idea is smartly based on the observation that tablet users typically open up the same groups of apps at certain places and times. I love the concept and backed the project with my own $5 pledge, just in case Chameleon later appears in Google Play at a higher price. Here’s a demo video to illustrate what the app will do.

I was so impressed by the app demo that I tweeted “Google should buy this company, immediately!” Maybe that’s too much enthusiasm though and besides; Google seems to be busy at the moment: This week a report surfaced that Google will alter its Nexus device program with more hardware partners.

This is a major change from the prior three years as Google has chosen one hardware maker per Nexus device to showcase Android. HTC built the Nexus One while Samsung delivered both the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. With Android 5.0, also known as “Jelly Bean”, Google could offer a range of Nexus devices from HTC, Samsung, LG, Acer, Asus and others. Part of this strategy is to offset any partner concerns with Google’s proposed purchase of Motorola. But I suspect this also about doing exactly what I asked Google to do earlier this month: Take more control over Android. And like the $399 Galaxy Nexus available through Google Play, Google is expected to sell these new devices directly to customers.

Although Samsung is one of those Android partners that could help Google sell its own devices,  the company continues to dominate the Android scene with solid smartphones of its own.

The highly anticipated Galaxy S III already has 9 million pre-orders from network operators around the world and Samsung can only produce 5 million per month. With 290 carriers in 140 countries vying for Samsung’s latest, it’s possible that some regions will be waiting for months to get the device. I wouldn’t expect Apple-like lines around stores to get a Galaxy S III, but I do anticipate a long, slow global rollout similar to the prior model.

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15 May 12 Frak, yeah, I'd use iPad if there was Google Chrome

What timing. I posted my iPad for sale on Craigslist over the weekend — and two people are jockeying to get ahead of the other to buy it today. But I’m suddenly unsure about selling, after seeing a Macquarie Capital report claiming that Chrome will come to iOS as early as this quarter. Hot damn!

I rarely make decisions based on rumors, nor should you. Besides, the “timing is unclear, but it could be as soon as Q2 and is very likely to be a 2012 event”, according to Macquarie Capital. “Could” be this quarter and “likely” this year stink of pure speculation — or big back door should there be no Chrome for iOS this year. In the end, I’ll likely sell the iPad, but must convey this: Chrome would be a very good reason to buy an iOS device but be akin to Google cutting off one limb to save another.

Shine That Tablet’s Chrome

Yesterday, Ian Betteridge and I bantered back and forth about Chrome and iOS on Google Plus. He called Google services on Apple devices a “pretty good experience”, to which I responded: “I would agree about the Google ecosystem with iPhone (and iPad) if Chrome was option. That’s the deal breaker for me, sadly. I’m seriously thinking about selling my iPad, for that reason — and another: Galaxy Nexus is tablet enough for me, so far”.

As expressed last week, “You can have iPhone 4S, I’ll take Galaxy Nexus“. But there’s more. I find the Google and Samsung branded smartphone good enough replacement for my iPad, too. Chrome for Android is one reason, Galaxy Nexus’ super sharp, 4.65-inch, 1280 x 800 resolution screen is the other. Repeating a sentiment from my Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ review: I’d by the phone just for Chrome, which currently is only available for Android 4 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, in beta.

Presumably, Chrome would be available for the newest iOS version, which means broader distribution than Android, since Apple doesn’t have the same fragmentation problem. Based on number of devices accessing Google Play during the previous 14 days, Ice Cream Sandwich accounted for just 4.9 percent of the Android install base on May 1. Chrome has limited reach at best on Android, while distribution could be enormous on iOS, assuming people using the browser on the desktop go mobile, too. There, Chrome is third-most used browser and closes on Firefox, according to Net Applications.

Chrome is a huge improvement over the stock Android browser. It’s fast and flows, but sync capabilities, which include active tabs on the desktop, really stand out. Last week’s huge Google+ for iPhone update shows that the search and information giant can deliver exceptional user experiences on iOS. Why shouldn’t Chrome be same?

A TACtical Decision

The problem: Chrome for iOS, particularly iPad, removes an important reason to choose Android tablets over Apple’s. Google gains in one area, while giving up somewhere else. If Google offered Chrome for iOS right now, I’d keep my iPad. How many other people considering Apple’s tablet would choose it over an Android because of Chrome? You can help answer that question by taking our poll.

In April, with considerably smaller install base, iPad took decisive mobile browser usage share lead from iPhone, according to NetApps. More broadly, in the mobile device category, Safari has 63.84 percent usage share, compared to 18.87 percent for Chrome. Google’s browser could make usage share leaps competing alongside Safari on iOS devices. The cloud-connected device era is all about mobile. Google should want Chrome on market-leading devices like iPad.

If Google made Chrome available for iPad and iPhone, how likely would you be to use it over Safari?

Then there are traffic acquisitions costs, which eat into Google search margins. Macquarie Capital: “If GOOG gains market share, it could reduce our estimate for TAC meaningfully”. Google pays Apple to compete with Android — and Chrome, for that matter — via Safari’s search bar. Google’s TAC goes down when people use Chrome.

Something else: Google services have a cloudy future on Apple devices. There already are rumors Apple will ditch Google Maps for a home-grown option in iOS 6. I expect to see a Siri search service someday replace Google. Chrome for iOS would be an important anchor for Google services as Apple offers more of its own from the cloud.

Even then, Chrome faces hurdles placed by Apple. Based on the browsers currently available for iOS, Safari is default for mail and other services. So Chrome would be at disadvantage, as long as Apple only allows Safari to be default. However, surely Chrome could be default for Google services — gulp, right?

From that viewpoint, Chrome will always be better on Android. That said, Chrome on iOS ought to be pretty good, and if Google is going to feed the hand that bites it, better to extend existing services rather than pay TAC to Apple.

My question for you: Would you use Chrome over Safari on iPad or iPhone? Please answer the question below and take our poll above.

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08 May 12 Droid Incredible

$199 Samsung Galaxy Nexus may hit Verizon on April 5th

Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus on Verizon costs a steep $299 even after commitment to a two-year contract. If you’re willing to live with half the internal memory, a 16GB model could be heading to Big Red on April 5th for $100 less.

According to Android blog Droid Life, this lower-priced GNex will feature many of the same tasty features of its more expensive sibling including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, an AMOLED screen, and dual-core processing, along with Verizon LTE 4G data.

It all sounds great but when you consider the Galaxy Nexus lacks a microSD slot and relies entirely on internal storage, this might not be such a sweet deal. This is especially true if you plan to fill the phone up with tons of audio tracks or high-quality video.

Another device is rumored to arrive a few weeks later, on April 26th, is the HTC Droid Incredible 4G. The handset is likely based on the previously reported HTC Fireball, another 4G LTE phone.

Originally posted at Mobile

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04 May 12 Samsung Galaxy S III: Everything You Need to Know

Samsung Galaxy S IIISamsung Galaxy S IIIAfter all of the rumors and speculation, the Samsung Galaxy S III is finally here but you probably have a few questions about this new Android phone.

Samsung is the master of flash and flare at its press conferences, but we’re here to help you get to the nitty gritty of why you should care about this phone. The Galaxy S III will go on sale in Europe on May 23. No official word yet on a U.S. launch, but it could come this summer.

[Related: Spec Smackdown: Samsung Galaxy S III vs. iPhone 4S vs. HTC One X]

Can the S III Really Follow Your Every Move?

The Samsung S III really wants to be your new best friend–your new psychic best friend. According to Samsung’s somewhat creepy commercial (shown below), the S III “follows your every move.” Scared yet?

In reality, the Samsung S III can do things like predict when you want the screen awake by using the front-facing camera to monitor your eyes. If you’re watching a movie on your phone and happen to fall asleep, the phone’s display will turn off.

The S III also has a feature called S Voice, which is a customized voice-recognition system. Hmm, sound familiar? Like Apple’s Siri, S Voice can recognize a variety of commands. For example, you can say “snooze” when your alarm goes off and buy yourself a little more sleeping time. You can also say “direct call” and ring somebody while you’re in the middle of a text. You can also control the volume of your music, organize your calendar, and launch the camera via voice commands.

However, there’s no word, so far, on whether S Voice works with third-party applications. S Voice works with eight different languages, including British English and American English. A few of my friends from across the pond have complained about Siri’s difficulty in understanding them so I guess this is good news there.

Is It Quad-Core Powered?

Samsung confirmed before today’s announcement that the Galaxy S III phones will be powered by the company’s own quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad processor. Oddly, however, the processor specs were not in the press materials we received today. I have a suspicion that the Samsung quad-core processor is not compatible with U.S. LTE networks. If true, we might see a different processor on the S III phones in the United States. Samsung would not comment on what sort of processor the U.S. versions will have when I asked.

NVdia Tegra 3HTC pulled a similar trick with the One X. The global version runs on an NVidia Tegra 3 processor, while the U.S. phone uses a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. NVidia’s quad-core processor was not yet compatible with ATT’s LTE network at the time of the One X’s manufacture. In our benchmarks, however, the U.S. version of the One X did quite well despite having fewer cores.

When Will the S III Come to the United States?

According to our sources at Samsung, the 4G (HSPA+/LTE) versions of the S III will come to North America this summer. Samsung said it will optimize the phones for the LTE and HSPA+ networks. Timing, pricing, or carrier partners have not yet been announced.

What is the Deal with the New Sharing Apps?

Samsung made a big deal about the ease of sharing from the S III, but from what I can tell, it looks like you can only share from your S III to another. Samsung has enhanced Android Beam, which allows large files to be transferred between phones quickly. Now called S Beam, you can share music, photos, and up to 1GB of video from your S III to your buddy’s S III.

To help you understand, here’s how Android Beam works on the Galaxy Nexus.

Samsung also enhanced its DLNA service for sharing content from your phone to your TV. AllShare Cast lets you wirelessly connect your Galaxy S III to your TV, tablet, or PC and share files over WiFi. However, you’ll have to buy the separate All Cast Hub accessory in order to use this feature (see the Accessories question below)

What is an HD Super AMOLED display?

The 3.4-inch-thick S III has a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280-pixel by 720-pixel resolution. This is the same display technology we saw on the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy S II had Super AMOLED Plus, which is actually based on a PenTile pixel structure in which pixels share subpixels.

The Galaxy S II phones, on the other hand, have full RGB displays in which the pixels have their own subpixels. This means that HD Super AMOLED displays have lower overall subpixel density, which could translate to reduced sharpness and degraded color accuracy.

When we compared the Galaxy Nexus to the Galaxy S II, however, we didn’t notice a huge difference in display quality. The only quality different we detected was color accuracy, especially with whites (they appeared to have a yellowish tint). I have yet to see the Galaxy SIII up close and personal, so I’m not sure if it suffers from this same issue

One cool thing is that despite the Galaxy S III having a larger display than its predecessor (4.8 inches versus 4.3/4.5 inches), it isn’t much bigger. There’s very little bezel around the phone as the display takes full advantage of the hardware real estate.

Will Battery Life Really Improve?

Battery life is the bane of every tech user. Samsung claims that it won’t be an issue with the S III as it has a larger 2100mAh battery. For comparison, the Galaxy S II has a 1560mAh battery, while the Galaxy Nexus has a 1750mAh battery. The granddaddy of phones with long battery life, the Droid Razr Maxx, has a 3300mAH battery.

I fear that Samsung’s all-seeing front-facing camera might put a strain on the battery life, however. Also, phone manufacturers still haven’t worked out all the kinks with battery conservation on LTE networks. Battery life will depend on what sort of processor Samsung is packing into its S III phones for the United States and, as we’ve learned, this is still very much up in the air.

Is the Camera Any Good?

The Samsung Galaxy phones have always performed quite well in our PCWorld Test Center camera subjective tests. While I haven’t personally gotten my hands on the Galaxy S III’s 8-megapixel camera, I can tell you a little bit about its new features.

According to Samsung, the Galaxy S III will have zero shutter lag. The company also claims that the camera will start in “less than one second.” The S III will also have a burst-shot mode, a feature we saw on HTC’s One phones.

The S III camera also will have a feature called “Best Photo,” which will automatically select your best photos out of a series of eight photos taken in succession. But do you really want your phone to be your photo assistant?

What About Accessories?

Samsung Galaxy Note S PenSamsung Galaxy Note S PenSamsung announced a slew of accessories, including a C Pen stylus (which seems pretty similar to the S Pen on the Galaxy Note), an AllShare Cast Hub for wireless streaming, a docking station for your desk, a wireless charger, a car kit, and an HDMI adapter.

Samsung also announced the S Pebble “music companion” MP3 player. Why does this accessory look so familiar? Oh yes, in 2009, I reviewed the Samsung Pebble MP3 player which looks strikingly similar to the S Pebble.

Is the Galaxy Nexus Outdated Now?

Samsung Galaxy NexusSamsung Galaxy NexusNo, relax. It might not have as many cores as the S III, and the display might be a little smaller, but don’t feel bad if you just walked out of the store with a brand new Galaxy Nexus. Your Galaxy Nexus is still an excellent, current phone and offers something the Galaxy S III does not: A pure, untouched Android experience.

Have more questions? Sound off in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

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