Android 4.1 Jellybean has reaffirmed my commitment to Nexus devices
Earlier this week, I stopped by the T-Mobile store down the street to manhandle the Samsung Galaxy S III in person. It's a beautiful device, fast, smooth and a screen that has been markedly improved over my GSM Galaxy Nexus. There was a Samsung rep there, and I found myself speaking with him at length about the new features bundled with TouchWiz on the GSIII, and I was enamored (with the device, of course. But Joe was a good guy haha). Even the plastic build quality felt amazingly comfortable and solid as I held it.
A few weeks before that, I stopped by AT&T to look at the HTC One X and was blown away by the gorgeous "floating" screen and was very happy with the design. But for me, it was all about that gorgeous screen. "The One X was worth getting just for the screen alone!", or so I thought. Sense 4.0 was a good step from Sense 3.x, but still not enough to make me forget about how much I grew to dislike the general UI layer.
Now travel with me to Wednesday, June 27. As I sat through the Google I/O Day 1 Keynote, my desire for these other devices waned. Sure, they were technologically superior in just about every way to my Galaxy Nexus, but my Nexus will have something that these other two powerhouses (GSIII, One X) won't have; Android 4.1 Jellybean. Mere WEEKS after it was announced. I was giddy with excitement as I ate lunch at my desk and watch the keynote in its entirety. Finally, Google was paying more attention to UI responsiveness and fluidity; Google Now seems to be an incredibly powerful tool that will only get stronger as more features get thrown in; but most importantly, notifications received a MAJOR update (IMO, of course) that will likely be my favorite feature once 4.1 is rolled out. It's what I've been waiting for with notifications, and I can't wait to get it. And it was really the notifications update that made me think, "the GSIII won't have this feature...not for a long time, at least."
And that's when I remembered all over again why I bought the Nexus One, the Nexus S, and the Galaxy Nexus. Those updates that push Google's vision of a smartphone directly to ME, and not to an OEM that decides whether or not it should keep the new features or "build" upon it, often masking functionality in a vain attempt to be unique. I had always strayed away from the Nexus line, but have always returned, missing that stock Google goodness. The Nexus line is Google's answer to the iPhone and iOS; the Nexae/Nexii/Nexuses are the pinnacle of Google's smartphone vision. Yes, you can argue that the hardware on the GSIII and the One X are superior, and that's absolutely true. However, they're not vastly superior. Hardware internals are getting to the point where they're more than powerful enough for the vast majority of users and tasks. I've never been one to care about the Quad-core vs. Dual-core wars, as was highly visible with the international, quad-core versions of the One X and GSIII and their dual-core US counterparts. To me, it was turning out to be one of those things that I used to do when I was in high school where we would "magazine-race"** our favorite cars. These hardware specs matter less and less with every product cycle. The focus used to be on hardware, but now it's more and more on the software. And that is why you buy a Nexus device if you're in the Android Army. As I patiently wait for Jellybean to roll out to my phone, I eagerly await Google's next Nexus announcement.
**For the uninitiated, magazine-racing is when you take the published 0-60 and quarter mile times of your favorite cars and argue that one is better than the other because it's 0.1 seconds faster to 60 to traps 3mph higher through the quarter mile. In all reality, it's a senseless argument since none of us could eke out those times ourselves, and they were so close in performance that a winner could never be declared universally.