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.
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.
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