Android 4.3: How to Skip the Line and Get the Update Now on Nexus Devices

Android 4.3: How to Skip the Line and Get the Update Now on Nexus Devices

Jul 29, 2013

So, Android 4.3 is out now, and it’s rolling out to Nexus users slowly but surely. I have it on my Nexus 4, and here’s what’s new about it: virtually nothing that I use on a daily basis! The camera interface is different, some people might use the autocomplete and emoji features, sure, but if this is had been Android 4.2.3 instead of 4.3, it would have made sense. Even things like the much-ballyhooed battery life improvements may be hit or miss for some users. Over a 12-hour period, an unused Nexus 4 went from 98% to 85% on background processes alone, though background streaming with Falcon Pro may have been the culprit there. Though, it did feel like the drain was at least slower, but still, it isn’t a dramatic improvement.

For those Nexus users who don’t want to wait for the update to roll out despite the relative inconsequentiality of it, or to call me bad names for my opinion, then here’s a guide to installing it without losing data, if you are on a stock and unrooted device. If you’ve unlocked a bootloader or rooted or installed a custom ROM, turn away. There be monsters here. This is for the unadventurous who suddenly have some bravery (or impatience) and aren’t afraid of a little exploration in the command line.

Step 1: Get the Android SDK

You need the programs adb and possibly fastboot to do this if something goes wrong. The best guaranteed way to get them is to install the Android SDK. This is available on multiple platforms and contains the files we’ll need. If you have Windows, this file from the XDA-Developers forum contains all you need.

Step 2: Get the zip file that you need

There are special zip files for the OTA updates available form Google’s servers. The XDA-Developers forum has compiled the links. Go there to get them, check to make sure you’re getting the right OTA update file, download it, and come back here.

Nexus 4
Nexus 7
Nexus 10
Galaxy Nexus (be very careful about which one you get here)

Step 3: Copy the update zip to the folder with adb and rename it to

Go into the SDK and find where the adb executable is, most likely in the /tools subdirectory. Copy the update zip you had into this folder. Rename it to something simple like – that long file name might be hard to type out!

Step 4: Charge your device to at least 80% and plug it in to your computer

We don’t want it dying on you while flashing an update, do we? For best results, plug your device directly to your computer’s USB port, not through a USB hub, if possible.

Step 5: Navigate to the folder with adb and the in a command line terminal

That would be running cmd on Windows, or in Terminal on Mac. Linux users – y’all ought to know, you use Linux. If you don’t know about command line, turn away and wait for the update.


Now, type in adb devices and hit enter. You should see your device. If not, you may need to install drivers. If you’re ready, type and enter adb reboot recovery. This will reboot your device to the bootloader. You should see Andru, the Android mascot, laying down. Hold down power and hit volume up. Use the volume keys to navigate, and select apply update from adb. First, on your computer, do adb devices again to make sure it’s connected. Then type and enter adb sideload and the update will transfer to your Nexus. Let the process continue untouched until your device reboots, and congrats, you have Android 4.3!

If you do manage to mess up your device, Google your device’s name and how to unbrick it. Android Police has a good guide for the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7. Recovery mode is there for a reason! If the thought of this scares you, don’t worry – you’ll get the update soon!

Thanks to the XDA-Developers forums, Android Police, and Droid-Life for their guides: I wanted to make it available in a clear and concise form for readers.

The Hills Are Greener: Why Maybe the Latest Android Version Isn’t Necessary, But Then Again…

The Hills Are Greener: Why Maybe the Latest Android Version Isn’t Necessary, But Then Again…

Apr 30, 2013

Google Glass running Android should surprise no one – after all, if you’re building a piece of hardware that you want developers to test on, and if you’re spending a lot of money to build an OS, why not make it run Android? The reasons are just too obvious.

What should be surprising is that Google isn’t running the latest version of Android on it – it’s running a build of Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean. Google is usually the company that pushes out the latest and greatest Android versions to their devices, so for them to be 2 versions behind (if you count Jelly Bean 4.1 and 4.2) is a bit shocking.

But is it really necessary? Is there some Jelly Bean feature that Google Glass would be tremendously improved by? For limited-purpose devices such as this, does it really just need a functional version of Android in order to work properly, as opposed to the latest and greatest? Your Android-powered oven doesn’t really need Project Butter, does it? For phones and tablets, user-facing devices, yes, having the latest version should be a goal. But for limited-use devices, is it such a big deal?

Jelly Bean LogoThere is just one problem: Android updates include fixes for security holes. For devices like phones and tablets that have users installing third-party software that can potentially contain malware that exploits these holes, this is why they need updated system software. Right now, holes go unpatched for long periods of time while manufacturers wait to get updates ready, or if they never get them ready at all. Thus, bugs can be fixed quickly, but never actually reach the users who need the protection.

For devices like Google Glass and ovens where their purposes might be more limited, there’s still a potential issue because of the fact that they are still connecting to networks, and with Android’s open source nature, it seems like breaking in would be within the realm of possibility, if not likely.

Now, Google Glass is still a product only for a limited market of developers and early adopters, and as such, probably doesn’t need the kind of security that consumer models will need. But still, to see that even Google doesn’t necessarily care about always getting the latest version of Android out there is a bit distressing.

KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

Apr 3, 2013

Introducing children to computers is a very delicate process, and one that I do not look forward to when I am finally thrust into parenthood. On the one hand, any parent wants their children to be proficient with technology as well as use all the available resources to expand their imagination and knowledge of the world. But along with that comes the unbridled mature, or immature, corners of the internet where no parent wants their young child entering. Parental controls on modern machines are clumsy and fairly easy to circumvent for especially apt kids, and they generally get in the way of everyday functions when the children are not on the computer. Seeing as the PC market is dominated by Apple and Microsoft with no viable third option catering to parents it was only time before the borderless possibilities of Android came in and lent a hand.

This week’s KickStarter Spotlight focuses on an ambitious, and impressively polished product that is squarely aimed at parents who are concerned about their child’s computer usage called MiiPC. It is not so much the content as the amount of time wasted that most parents worry about, and it is a fact that technology can be a major distraction for young people with homework. I can attest that even in the course of writing this post, I have looked away to a USA Today update and watched a few YouTube videos that were sent to me by a few Facebook friends. What MiiPC aims to deliver is a computer that, in all honesty, is not much more than a converted, overpowered tablet in a box. The main feature is the complete control parents have over the device. From setting time restrictions on apps or websites, to monitoring exactly what activity a user is doing at any time; MiiPC allows a parent to have total peace of mind while still ensuring their children get an appropriate introduction to the vast wonder of the internet.

The machine runs on Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and essentially functions as a Mac Mini, coming with no keyboard, mouse, or screen of any kind. There is not access to the entire app market, just a few that are more suited to mouse and keyboard interaction, but a basic suite of apps, for web browsing, word processing, and media management are all included. One of the biggest feature is an included mobile app that acts as a command center for the device, allowing for the user to monitor and allow or restrict their child’s actions on the MiiPC. Custom settings can be changed for each user’s profile, and there is practically nothing that escapes a parent’s control. This is why I have no reason to believe that MiiPC will not find a niche somewhere in the market immediately, and maybe a few years from now their unique strategy of marketing to young families will make MiiPC a household name.

CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

Jan 10, 2013

When perusing the happenings at CES through various reports, it seems that everyone and their mother is showing off a tablet. There’s a lot of Windows 8 tablets out there, but there’s still plenty of Android tablets. Now, while there’s obviously going to be vendor-specific modifications because that’s just the way things work around here, it definitely appears that most tablets are running Jelly Bean 4.1, and not 4.2, based almost entirely on the status bars that are out there: the combined design where the back/home/multitasking buttons are on the lower left, and the notification bar in the lower right. 4.2 uses a standardized interface across all devices where the buttons are on the bottom (with lots of black space) and the notification bar with clock is on top.

Now, Jelly Bean 4.2 is a minor update to 4.1, but this still means that these devices are going to be a version behind when the next big release comes out. But there’s two reasons why this comes off as particularly ludicrous: one, this is a show for upcoming hardware. Features can and will change. Jelly Bean 4.2 has been out for 3 months. There’s no reason why a device, especially a tablet where carrier considerations don’t have to be taken into account, couldn’t have it by this point.

Second, both Nvidia and Synaptic showed off test devices that are running 4.2. Synaptic’s showing off a technology on a Sensa test tablet that will help detect user touch on thin-bezel devices, doing things like rearranging text. And Nvidia developed a reference tablet to show off the Tegra 4. Both are running Jelly Bean 4.2, from all appearances.

Let’s reiterate: Nvidia has Jelly Bean 4.2 running on a device using a brand new processor. Hardware manufacturers using existing hardware can’t be bothered to get Jelly Bean 4.1 working on it. And Synaptics has a tablet using brand new technlogy and hardware running the latest version of Jelly Bean. While it’s possible that Nvidia got early access to Jelly Bean 4.2 source code as they are a power player with Google connections (the Tegra 3 powers the Nexus 7), there’s no indication that Synaptics got early access, so why are they ahead of the game? Perhaps manufacturers feel more secure in releasing established versions of Android software on their tablets? Still, it just seems like the manufacturers are selfishly prolonging the fragmentation problem on Android, and for what purpose, exactly? It’s baffling.

The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

Nov 26, 2012

So, a while ago, I complained that Android 4.2, a new version of Jelly Bean, was really not needed at this point. And in a proud moment for punditry, I’m right. This is a version of Android that seems designed solely to hype up the Nexus 4 and 10 with new features, and for current devices, it really isn’t ready.

There’s new issues with the OS. There was the much-publicized December bug in the People app (still not fixed). There’s some curious design choices: the new clock font with different bolding for the hours and minutes display seems like a questionable decision after the original Jelly Bean clock worked as such an understated design, the new one sticks out like a sore thumb. That, and the new lockscreen widgets, while handy, are just not visually appealing. The new split dropdown notification bar is problematic: it’s just not a good thing on the Nexus 7, where now I have to drag down from the left side of the top of the screen to get my actual notifications, and the right side for settings. That status bar in portrait is too thin to actually do anything. Android Police has a great rundown of all the other issues that have been popping up.

Of course, a lot of this stands out because usually, Android updates have been a good thing, often making the device they’re installed on quite better, thanks to new optimizations along with the new features. But this update feels like it wasn’t quite ready for prime time, that Google wanted to release an udpate along with the Nexus 4 so that they could tout new features on the phone, and it just wound up not really being ready for the Nexus 7 in particular.

Compare this to iOS: a major OS upgrade has at times spelled doom for older devices (the iPhone 3G was not meant to have iOS 4 despite it actually being released for the platform) but lately, updates have had minor effects on devices, beyond the usual quibbles about battery life that usually come along with it. But the new feature usually outweigh any of the complaints that come along.

But the funny thing is that Google actually benefits a bit from getting to see how it’s performing in the real world: considering how long it takes for updates to circulate out amongst the manufacturers’ phones. So, in a way, this gives Google a chance to actually fix these problems before they hit mainstream consumers. After all, Jelly Bean 4.1 only just hit the Galaxy S III when 4.2 came out.

As well, this was a minor update, not a major one. But still, 4.0 to 4.1 was not the kind of overhaul that ICS was and it was still an improvement. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road, a reminder that while Android is generally getting smoother and better to use, there will be bumps in the road.

But these bumps need to be smoothed out, as the Nexus 7 was one of the more impressive Android devices out there because it was so smooth, and 4.2 has hurt that. Google needs to sort this out soon, especially as these are their flagship devices, the ones that guide Android as a whole.

Google Cancels Christmas!

Google Cancels Christmas!

Nov 19, 2012

Google’s power has gotten out of control: they’ve canceled Christmas! Heck, they’ve canceled Hanukah and Kwanzaa too! They’ve canceled the entire month of December! Well, kind of. The People app on Android 4.2, which ships on the Nexus 4 and 10, and is now available on the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus, doesn’t support picking dates that are in December. It skips right to January, as initially reported by Android Police. The good news is that the bug has been reported to Google and they have acknowledged it. A small over-the-air fix seems likely, if not potentially the app becoming a Google Play app that could be easily updated, much like Calendar.

The funny thing is that this is a situation where Google actually benefits from not having widespread OS distribution. There’s a minority of users on 4.2 (Galaxy S III owners are just now getting Jelly Bean 4.1!) and it’s likely that this will be fixed before it reaches new phones. And for the affected phones, Google has the ability to push out software updates themselves. So in a short wihle, this should be a non-issue.

Still, someone’s getting fired over this.

Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 Go On Sale, Then Sell Out, While Jelly Bean 4.2 Starts Its Rollout

Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 Go On Sale, Then Sell Out, While Jelly Bean 4.2 Starts Its Rollout

Nov 13, 2012

Happy Nexus 4, HSPA+ Nexus 7, and Nexus 10 day! By which we mean unless you were awake at that random hour in your home country when Google put their devices on sale on Google Play, you’re probably feeling miserable right now over having to wait for Google to get more stock in. Considering how the Samsung Chromebook is still backordered, prepare to be patient. This was the case around the world, as widespread reports of not only the Nexus 4 being sold out but also the Nexus 10 were reported as the devices rolled out worldwide.

As of publication in the US, all of the Nexus 7 models are in stock, including the new HSPA+ Nexus 7. The 16 GB Nexus 10 is still in stock, but the 32 GB is out of stock. Both Nexus 4 models are out of stock.The new Acer C7 Chromebook, which boasts less-impressive specs compared to the $249 Samsung Chromebook, is still in stock after going on sale today for $199.

We’ve also learned that the HSPA+ Nexus 7 comes with an AT&T SIM. It will still work with T-Mobile networks, but users will need to provide their own SIM cards. They cost about $10 in-store, but the mobile broadband SIM runs for $6.99 from T-Mobile’s website, and phone SIMs are free.

Until Google gets adequate stock (or releases more stock after getting all this press for being sold out), for those still on the pedestrian Galaxy Nexus or wi-fi-only Nexus 7, there’s still a way to be part of the future. Jelly Bean 4.2 has started rolling out to these devices, but in the slower over-the-air rollout that came with 4.1.2 earlier this year, meaning that it may be a few days before the newest version of Android is on that Nexus device.

However, for those that are impatient and not afraid of tinkering around in recovery, Google has made the 4.2 updates available for the GSM-unlocked Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus 7. They require booting into recovery mode and transferring the files via ADB, but they can be done without rooting. Otherwise, while there aren’t any reports of the update being distributed over the air yet, it should just be a matter of time.

Anyone make the jump with the 4.2 update, or have success buying a new device?

Android 4.2’s Miracast Wireless Screen Mirroring: Why It Could Be The Future – Or Also Not

Android 4.2’s Miracast Wireless Screen Mirroring: Why It Could Be The Future – Or Also Not

Oct 31, 2012

While Jelly Bean 4.2 doesn’t really bring a lot to the table, it does bring one particularly interesting feature to Android devices: wireless display mirroring through the Miracast protocol. This is designed to be an open standard that hardware manufacturers can implement to support secure wireless display transmission. Haven’t heard of it? Well, the protocol is just starting out, but hypothetically, it could be something widespread if Smart TVs take off in a substantial way. Imagine being able to play back a video from the Nexus 4 on a TV directly without worrying about having an HDMI output cable, or in the case of Apple and the AirPlay standard, having to have a separate box.

Granted, while AirPlay has the advantage of Apple’s massive distribution entities, for consumers it has the disadvantage of being Apple-only. Want to use AirPlay Mirroring? Hopefully you’re an Apple user! Miracast has few devices certified for use right now, though Netgear has a promising device in the pre-certification stages. The benefit to the open approach is that users won’t be locked in to one hardware provider, but considering that Apple benefits from the closed approach in ways that are best expressed with dollar signs, the open approach is a tough hill to climb, and Miracast could easily go the way of many other attempted standards.

However, considering that there are millions of Nexus 7s out there (and more being sold every month, even in the face of growing competition), and new devices that will get this protocol right away, along with a year or so from now when everyone else catches up, the sheer amount of hardware that will support it may be enough to propel it along, especially as Smart TVs start to spread. That may actually be the clearest path to success for Miracast: if it just becomes a quiet ubiquity, something users expect to have because it’s just everywhere.

But even Android manufacturers could be their own worst enemy here if they decide to try their own proprietary standards. Samsung’s doing it with AllShare supporting wireless display mirroring, and as mentioned earlier: proprietary standards if done right can have long-term benefits of selling more hardware now and in the future. But in the Android space, no one has had much success doing that. Even Apple still regards the Apple TV as a side project.

So Miracast may be a long way from being the kind of universal screen mirroring and media sharing protocol it has the potential to be, but maybe it being a part of 4.2 is just the flickering ember it needs to light up.

The Hills Are Greener: Do We Really Need Another New Android Version?

The Hills Are Greener: Do We Really Need Another New Android Version?

Oct 22, 2012

Google’s got an event that’s happening on October 29th to reveal…something. The timing would indicate that it’s some kind of new Nexus device, and two are rumored in particular: an LG Nexus 4, and a 10" Nexus tablet from Samsung. New hardware is new hardware and we’ll have a report on it after the event. But there may also be a new version of Android released, version 4.2. Now, it appears as if this will be a minor update from Jelly Bean, but I find this immediate release somewhat problematic if true.

Part of me believes that Google needs to focus quite squarely on not fragmenting the Android userbase. Keeping major features in maybe a yearly milestone release like how iOS releases new versions would help keep things under relative control, as opposed to the chaos that seems to generally accompany new version releases, where the Nexus devies get it right away, and then everyone in the Android manufacturing sphere takes their sweet time releasing their update – if they ever make it in the first place. It’s a mess, and another software version won’t help it.

But then, here’s the other thought: what if their strategy toward preventing fragmentation is actually to release more Nexus devices? Instead of getting to a situation where phones are getting updates to OS versions a year late, months after the next version was announced, and right before another new version comes out, why not instead create an ecosystem where more devices are getting timely updates? By making more Nexus devices, they can make sure more devices are running the newer versions of Android when they are released – or at least relatively around that time – and reduce the number of devices that are out there cluttering up the landscape.

Of course, the real solution would be to work with manufacturers and carriers to push new updates out the door in a timely manner, possibly by getting them the next version ahead of time. iOS may be all controlled by Apple, but their strategy of announcing features and releasing betas to developers several months before its official launch helps to create an envrionment of preparedness for the next version. That just does not exist yet on Android, where it seems like versions are dropped upon the market with no warning.

Or maybe critics, pundits, and users need to accept that Android is a platform where the latest and greatest software version may never come to our current devices, and the most reliable way to upgrade? Buy a new device. Or buy a Nexus. Given the bottleneck that updates go through, it may be the best way to do things, unfortunately.

Google Launches Calendar App on Google Play; Makes It Available to All 4.x Android Devices

Google Launches Calendar App on Google Play; Makes It Available to All 4.x Android Devices

Oct 18, 2012

Google has done a curious move: they’ve released their Calendar app as a standalone app on Google Play, instead of a built-in app. There seem to be two immediately apparent reasons as to why this was done. One: Google wants to be able to easily update the Calendar app, similar to how Play Music and YouTube are available on Google Play. This gives them flexibility to add new functionality down the line.

But the second reason is more important: this allows for Google to get their calendar app on devices where the manufacturer has skinned or replaced the default software. For example, Samsung’s calendar app looks quite different from the default Google app; for people migrating from a Nexus device, this may be quite jarring. This allows for Google to push that standardized Android look, and possibly pressure the manufacturers into using Holo themes and fonts, instead of their own choices. It also gives users an option as to which calendar app they want to use. The app is available now from Google Play.

98.8% of Android Devices Are Running Outdated Software When Over 25% of iOS Users Have the Latest Already

98.8% of Android Devices Are Running Outdated Software When Over 25% of iOS Users Have the Latest Already

Sep 24, 2012

Google really has something of a mess on their hands with OS upgrades. iOS 6 recently released, and after 24 hours, it reached 15% penetration rate among iOS users, and 25% after 48 hours. Jelly Bean, released in July, has a 1.2% penetration rate, many of whom are likely Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 owners. Ice Cream Sandwich is at 20.9% for all versions, and it was initially announced and released in October 2011. Gingerbread, released in December 2010, is on 57.5% of all devices.

Now, the Android situation is different from iOS, as Apple usually announces their major OS update and its new features several months before its final release, and Apple has fewer devices to support: including the iPhone 5 and iPod touch 5th generation, 8 devices in total will run iOS 6, compared to the thousands running Android. Granted, the onus for updates does fall on the hardware manufacturers to provide them, and carrier testing proves to be a roadblock, but it still means that users are overwhelmingly using outdated software. Heck, even Honeycomb, only available for tablets, is out-pacing Jelly Bean at this point, 2.1% to 1.2%.

That users are still buying phones with outdated software versions, as even the latest and greatest phones are a version behind, if not 2 versions at this point, thanks to the software customizations that manufacturers feel compelled to add, it’s a mess with no solution for Google other than to dominate with Nexus and AOSP devices, or to find a way to get manufacturers to release software updates sooner rather than later. Until then, with Gingerbread phones still being sold, Android remains a fragmented mess, and that’s bad for everyone who uses the platform.

The Hills Are Greener: Apples, Oranges, and Software Updates

The Hills Are Greener: Apples, Oranges, and Software Updates

Aug 13, 2012

There’s a common complaint about Android that often comes from the mouths of iOS fans: Android phones are so out of date! Well, they are right. The fact that most Android phones are still running Gingerbread, rather than Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean, is like shooting fish in a barrel for Android critics.

What needs to be considered with Android OS updates is this: it would be a technical disaster for Google to ensure that devices won’t just explode when a new update comes along. If Google was purely responsible for all devices getting Android updates in a timely manner, they couldn’t win:they would likely have to make updates release less often, or each increment would be less advanced than it is currently. The laissez-faire attitude of “we’re pushing it out, the manufacturers and carriers will release it whenever” is almost superior.

The other thing is that Android is not structured like iOS is. It is meant to be run on millions of different hardware permutations. It’s impressive that with major updates that happen every 9–12 months that so many devices can get them. Google has to find ways to make the core functionality of Android compatible with many different pieces of hardware, not just a few Iike Apple does. And really, consider that Google is in fact pushing out software updates for their Nexus devices at rapid speed, as pretty much any Nexus device sans the Nexus One has gotten an official Jelly Bean release already.

As well, Apple is intentionally holding back iOS 6 from the iPod touch 3rd generation and the original iPad, which are each on par with the iPhone 3GS and 4th generation iPod touch respectively. The latter devices are still on sale, the former are not. Apple fans in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Also, is this necessarily Google’s fault? Google offers the OS for free. They make the effort to release Android versions in a timely manner. Small teams of custom ROM creators can make updates for phones. Why aren’t we blaming those who actually should be taking the blame – the manufacturers and the carriers who hold up updates.

What Google should be criticized to with Android OS releases is the seeming lack of lead time. Google releases the source around when they release their OS on to various devices, so there’s always going to be a delay for vendors to get it ready, at least on a theoretical basis. Also consider the delays that the carriers bring in. Apple announces their new iOS a few months ahead of time to allow for developers to get apps ready. I’m not criticizing either stance. Google tries to get their OS ready when they want to release it, and Apple has theirs.

Trying to compare the ability of a vertically-integrated hardware and software vendor to get their updates out on time versus one that makes software first and hardware second is like comparing apples to oranges. They are two different companies with two different strucured operating systems, and the OS update criticism needs to be framed in different respects.