How to get Jelly Bean: Samsung Galaxy S III vs. Galaxy Nexus

So while S III users will have hardware bragging rights, Nexus owners will have software bragging rights. Which matters most to you?

Samsung Galaxy S III: I pre-ordered Pebble Blue from Verizon. But now I"m second guessing the upgrade decision from OG Droid. Nexus is, as always, the quickest way to get Google's latest OS. Jelly Bean beckons.
Samsung Galaxy S III: I pre-ordered Pebble Blue from Verizon. But now I”m second guessing the upgrade decision from OG Droid. Nexus is, as always, the quickest way to get Google’s latest OS. Jelly Bean beckons.

Here’s the dilemma. You want Google’s slick new Jelly Bean OS. But how to get it on your smartphone?

If you’re like me, and the reportedly millions of others, you’ve pre-ordered the well-reviewed Samsung Galaxy S III uber Android smartphone. I finally made the upgrade decision after spending two and a half years (a mobile lifetime) with trusty OG Droid from 2009 on Verizon. Though I was tempted late last year by Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus which came loaded with Ice Cream Sandwich (the first Android to do so), its battery life didn’t win me over. Instead, I did the previously unthinkable and — say it ain’t so — waited, even though I was out of contract and free to do as I pleased. The quad-core army I predicted that would arrive earlier this year at CES failed to materialize, and the stream of Android devices hitting the market slowed, just as HTC, Samsung, and others promised; in an effort to take down Apple, it made sense for the partners to put critical marketing mass behind individual phone releases instead of spamming the masses with one indistinguishable black mobile after another.

But now that the world has gotten a glimpse of Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, the early adopter in me is second guessing the decision to go with the S III. JB — Bean. Jelly Bean. — though an incremental upgrade, looks to be Google’s best yet. The features we saw at the Google I/O demo were solid, and could tempt even more iPhone converts. Project butter and the incredible performance improvements. Automatically re-sizing widgets. An even better notification system (Android absolutely trounces the iPhone with this feature). Voice typing, and commands. There’s a healthy dose of must-haves here.

We know that Nexus has been established as the pure Google experience. In that regard, the company has done a tremendous job in building a brand rightfully perceived as leading edge. Who know a dystopian film like Blade Runner would inspire product naming conventions decades later? Do Androids dream of electric sheep? No, they dream about rooting, playing Angry Birds, checking in on Foursquare, and streaming (ugh) Transformer “films.”

So while S III users will have hardware bragging rights, Nexus owners will have software bragging rights.

In just a few weeks, the Galaxy S III will ship on Verizon. But it will ship with that poor little bastard step child known as Ice Cream Sandwich. The upstart version of Android shipped around the holiday season last year to much fanfare. Oddly its market penetration, at less than 10%,  is woeful.  Carriers and manufacturers  had to put their various devices through agonizing testing cycles which delayed OTA upgrades for consumers who were drooling at the bit for the latest kit. If I’m HTC, I say get a One X if you want ICS. If I’m Motorola I say get a RAZR. And if I’m Samsung, of course I say pre-order the S III. Yes, not too surprising that they’d prefer that you buy a new device.

Getting Jelly Bean is actually quite simple.

READ: Samsung Galaxy S III: Verizon unlimited data plans grandfathered for existing customers

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: 6 months old, but guaranteed to get Jelly Bean upgrade in July. What matters most? If it’s hardware then the S III is hard to beat, but if you value software then the Nexus is where it’s at.

Google announced it’s coming to the Nexus, Nexus S, and Motorola Xoom tablet (interesting choice that one).

If history is any indication, new S III owners won’t likely see an upgrade for at least six months – and that assumes it even comes at all. Chances are it will. With the iPhone 5 on the horizon, Samsung would do well to make a splash with a JB upgrade some time this fall to woo potential Apple buyers.

Six months is way too long!

If I want to be first with an Android smartphone with JB then there’s only one real upgrade choice: Galaxy Nexus. According to Google, it’ll receive the update mid-July.

So us upgraders are in a bit of a sticky situation — at least those that care about running the latest version of Android.

The S III is the latest and greatest. It features a nice, large 4.8-inch display, a decent (though far from spectacular) battery life, fast performance, and agreeable aesthetics. TouchWiz, that overwrought kindergarden skin that Samsung insists on shoe-horning into our lives is its Achilles’ heal. It’s $199 under contract.

MORE: Android Dilemma: Samsung Galaxy S III or Motorola RAZR HD?

The Nexus, also made by Samsung, is already six months old. That’s ancient, but not quite as ancient as my really ancient OG Droid. With that you get a slightly smaller screen, softkeys (which I like), pure Android (which I really like), poor battery life (an extended battery could help). Best of all, being Nexus, the most revered (feared?) replicant of all, you get Google’s TLC. With Nexus, we’ll be first in line to get Jelly Bean next month. $149 under contract. If you’re so inclined, here’s my review of the Nexus. Also, Google sells an unlocked version direct for only $349. That’s a sweet deal. For me that would require leaving Verizon and my grandfathered unlimited data plan, for AT&T.

I  recently re-watched (for the umpteenth time) Blade Runner on the 120″ home theater with volume pumped. What really makes this film is the score by Vangelis and the gorgeous framing by Ridley Scott. Perfection. Tip: totally avoid that lame happy ending variant. Stick with the Director’s Cut.

So while S III users will have hardware bragging rights, Nexus owners will have software bragging rights.

Which matters most to you?

For me, I’m on the fence, but oh-so-close to switching my Verizon order from an S III to a Nexus.

Maybe its a crazy scenario, but Google is innovating like made right now (that Project Glass/Sky diving demo was one for the ages) and it would be ashame not to benefit from it on a daily basis. Then again, the CyanogenMod guys are pretty busy these days too, and that could be the best way to get JB onto the S III. If Samsung were to come out with an official statement regarding upgrade timelines, that could make all of this brain wracking irrelevant.

Ah, decisions, decisions.

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