We’d been teased about it for months with leaked renders and specs. We thought it was coming at Google I/O in May. We’d been waiting impatiently for ages. And then, on July 24, Google finally announced the New Nexus 7, and it did not disappoint. A big improvement over last year’s model, the Nexus 7 (2013) put a smile on the faces of everyone here at Ausdroid and had a few of us searching for ways to get our hands on one before they were officially released here in Australia. Along with the Nexus 7, Google also announced Android 4.3, the next iteration of Jelly Bean. While it wasn’t a quantum leap from 4.2, 4.3 offered a couple of new features, such as multi-user support with restricted profiles and Bluetooth Low Energy support.
Another piece of hardware was announced by Google that day too, one that took us a bit by surprise. The Chromecast, a sort of reimagining of the ill-fated Nexus Q, supports 1080p streaming and plugs into a HDMI port of your television, essentially turning it into a ‘smart TV’. Unfortunately the Chromecast is still not available in Australia but, like the Nexus 7, there are sites that will import them for you.
While the Nexus 7 announcement had all our attention in July, other things were happening too. Samsung announced that they had sold 20 million Galaxy S 4s, which is a pretty good effort for a phone that had only been out for a couple of months. Google Play Music’s ‘All Access’ streaming service finally became available in Australia (even though people had been using workarounds to get access to the US service for a couple of months!). HTC decided to finally announce the device we’d first heard about in April, the HTC One Mini.
Foxtel made a few people unhappy back in April when they announced that the LONG overdue Android version of their Foxtel Go streaming app would initially be exclusive to Samsung devices. Well, this feeling didn’t improve in July when the app was finally released to the public – only for us to discover that it only supports 3 Samsung devices. If you owned a Galaxy S 3, Note II or Note 10.1 (as well as a Foxtel subscription) then congratulations, Foxtel Go was available for you! For everyone else though, including Samsung’s current flagship phone, the Galaxy s 4, you were out of luck. As of now, the Foxtel Go app is still incompatible with any other device, however there is a workaround available.
The LG Optimus G was quite an important device to many android fans. Not only was it a great phone, it was also the basis for the Nexus 4. So when LG announced the LG G2 (no ‘Optimus’ branding this time) at the start of August, there was a lot of buzz around it. Part of the buzz was because of its weird buttons on the back, and part of it was because this was likely our first glimpse at the next Nexus phone. Despite all these high expectations, LG certainly didn’t disappoint; the G2 is a fantastic phone.
In Samsung news, things started to heat up ahead of the rumoured Note 3 launch in September. As well as giving one of their best selling phones a big lift in the specs department, rumours suggested Samsung would also be launching a smart watch at the same time. This rumour strengthened a few days later when they filed for a trademark of the term “Galaxy Gear”.
We started hearing news in early August that ispONE, the company who resells the Telstra service wholesale to multiple Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in Australia, was involved in a legal dispute with Telstra. This dispute blew up and turned ugly a few weeks later when ispONE went into administration and cancelled all contracts it had with Telstra. While Aldi Mobile managed to make their own deal with Telstra, Kogan customers weren’t so lucky. The whole experience has left some of us wondering why we should bother with MVNOs in the future.
In happier Australian news, we started to hear rumours that Google Play Gift cards would finally be available in Australia. This was confirmed a short time later by Woolworths, who would be the exclusive supermarket retailer of the gift cards. After a LONG wait, it was great to finally be able to get our hands on them.
Early in September we received one of the most unexpected pieces of news for the year; Google announced that the next iteration of Android would be version 4.4, and would be known as Kit Kat. Having been widely known as Key Lime Pie for quite a while, Google decided they liked Kit Kats better, and signed a deal with Nestle that saw them able to use the name in exchange for a bit of cross-promotion. As well as that bombshell, Google also announced that Android had recently passed 1 billion activations, a pretty significant milestone.
It was around this time that the IFA consumer electronics trade fair was being held in Berlin. Last year’s IFA was where Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 2, so it was no great surprise that this year’s event saw the launch of the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear. Other manufacturers decided to get in on the act too, with Sony announcing their second flagship phone for the year, the Xperia Z1. The Z1 packed a 20 MP rear-facing camera, and was an improvement over the Xperia Z in almost every way.
Aside from all that, September was a fairly quiet month for Android news. However, rumours started to come thick and fast about a certain upcoming piece of hardware from Google. There were leaked pictures, new boot animations, benchmarks and even a possible announcement date. Would any of it turn out to be true? We would have to wait to find out…
Keep an eye out for the final part of our Year in Review series over the next couple of days!
What sort of year do you think Google has had? Have you been happy with what was on offer, both in hardware and software? Let us know in the comments