This Week in Android: Jul 22nd – 28th

It’s been a busy week in the world of Android, with Google’s Android and Chrome event hosting a bunch of pretty major announcements, including an update to one of our favourite 7-inch tablets. Let’s dive in and take a look!

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Verizon and Motorola Introduce New Droids Mini, Maxx and Ultra

To kick things off, Motorola announced three new Droid handsets with Verizon, to be available in the coming weeks.

The Droid Mini sports a 4.3-inch display and runs on Motorola’s own-brand SoC, the “Motorla X8 Mobile Computing System”, which features a dual-core primary processor with quad-core graphics. The Droid Mini will launch August 29th for $99 with a contract signup.

The new 2013 Verizon Droid lineup.

The new 2013 Verizon Droid lineup.

Beyond the entry-level, Motorola also introduced the Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra, spiritual successors to the Droid HD Maxx and Droid RAZR HD. The phones are very similar – both also run on Motorla’s X8 SoC – but the Droid Ultra is thinner at 7.2mm while the Droid Maxx focuses on battery life, claiming a span of up to 48 hours. The Ultra will sell for $199 and the Maxx for $299, and will be in consumer’s hands on August 20th.

Of course, the Moto X is still yet to be announced, although it is expected to not hold the same carrier exclusivity as Verizon’s Droid line.

Google Announces Android 4.3

Google finally announced Android 4.3 this week, in an update which has already begun rolling out to Nexus-branded devices.

Android 4.3, which retains the Jelly Bean name, boasts new multi-user features such as restricted profiles for limiting application access, support for Bluetooth Low Energy and Open GL ES 3.0.

The rollout of Android 4.3 begins with Google's own Nexus family.

The rollout of Android 4.3 begins with Google’s own Nexus family.

Android 4.3 has already started rolling out to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (2012), Nexus 10 and the Galaxy Nexus, while the Google Editions of HTC’s HTC One and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 will recieve the update “very soon”.

Google Launches New 2013 Nexus 7

In a widely anticipated move, Google has launched a new, revamped version of the incredibly popular Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet running stock Android. The new tablet has a slightly modified form factor, shedding 2mm of thickness and 50g of weight, while also removing some of the outer bezel around the display which was a large point of criticism in the design of the first model.

Perhaps more notably, however, is the addition of a high-resolution 1920 x 1200px display, which pushes the pixel density of the tablet far beyond the original generation’s screen and those of rival tablets, such as Apple’s iPad mini. Inside, the tablet has also been upgraded with a new 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM. Audio and video have been improved too, with the addition of dual stereo speakers for playback and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.

Google's new 2013 Nexus 7.

Google’s new 2013 Nexus 7.

The device will run recently-announced Android 4.3 and come in WiFi and LTE variants, the latter of which will support AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon’s networks at launch. The 16GB WiFi model will retail at $229, the 32GB WiFi model will go for $269 and customers of the 32GB LTE model will be shelling out $349.

The new Nexus 7 will be available from Google Play and a number of US-based online and retail locations officially on July 30th. The device will launch in a number of other countries (such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, Australia and South Korea), although UK listings suggest this could be as late as mid-September, when the device is expected to retail from £199.

Google Reveals Chromecast Hardware

Google also revealed Chromecast, a hardware accessory that allows for media streaming to a TV. Unlike Google TV and the ill-fated Nexus Q, the Chromecast hardware comes in the form of a $35 HDMI dongle which plugs directly into your TV. Then, where compatibility is available in apps, you can stream content from your Android device or Chrome browser on Windows or OS X.

Naturally, the Chromecast system directly competes with Apple’s $99 Apple TV. While Apple’s offering comes at a premium and only has official AirPlay support for iOS and OS X devices, it does feature on-TV navigation and streaming without the need for a second device, unlike the Chromecast.

Chromecast is already available in the United States, and international availability is expected soon.

Other Updates

  • According to reports, Samsung is building an updated version of the Nexus 10. No further details are known, but a release is said to not be far off.
  • Google Play Store support for textbooks is incoming, and Google says support for a rental model will be available.
  • Google also announced this week that Android users have downloaded more than 50 billion apps from the Google Play store, going beyond the 48 billion figure announced at Google I/O earlier this year. Apple’s App Store hit the same milestone in May.

Check in next week for a roundup of this upcoming week in Android!