Android news and rumour roundup for week ending August 3

The best Android news of the week - and there's a lot of it

Let's face it - a lot of the technology that smartphone and tablet makers use in their devices is pretty similar. After all, there's only so many ways to shoehorn all the hardware necessary to run a very small computer into the available space, even with the incredibly impressive degree of miniaturization we've achieved. Think about it - the Samsung Galaxy SIII has a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, a gigabyte of RAM, and up to 64GB of internal storage. It wasn't really all that long ago that those were respectable stats for a desktop PC. Now it fits in your pocket.

Still, the point is that there are unavoidable, significant similarities between any two devices competing for the top spot in the market - not that that's stopping Apple and several top Android manufacturers from engaging in high-stakes patent warfare.

And that makes the news that Samsung may be working on OLED technology capable of providing even more pixel density than Apple's vaunted Retina display exciting, but also depressing - would anyone be at all surprised if Apple tried to argue that it had patented the idea of super-high-density displays on mobile devices?

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If you've been hankering for some Nexus 7-related swag, you're in luck - U.K.-based Mobile Fun reports that manufacturer ASUS has released five cool accessories for the 7-inch tablet, including a screen protector, two stand cases, a folio case and a case with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard. Slick.

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Speaking of the Nexus 7, it's apparently making a big dent in tablet-based Internet traffic market share already. According to market researcher Chitika, the tablet "experienced a jump in usage that has not been seen outside of the iPad, with an immediate 0.33 percent rise in traffic share following its release."

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If the Nexus 7's $199 price (for the 8GB version) is still too rich for you, there are Android tablets out there for even less - according to the tech blog Red Ferret, you can get a Pandigital Novel 7-inch tablet for $53. Of course, the Nexus 7 it ain't - it has Android 2.2 instead of Jelly Bean, just 2GB of storage and 256MB of RAM and a lower-resolution screen - but hey, it's got a MicroSD slot and an HDMI out. For the price, that's not half bad.

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In other weird Android device news - Google pushed back the retail release of the Nexus Q home media center thingy indefinitely, but gave the early version of the device to pre-order customers for free.

The Nexus Q seemed a bit limited and overpriced when it was rolled out at Google I/O at the end of June, and the news that Google wants to re-tool its magic 8-ball is likely a sign that the company is listening to the confused and underwhelmed feedback.

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Verizon GNex Jelly Bean watch: Nope, nothing yet. Sorry, folks.

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Delicious news department: An official port of Ice Cream Sandwich is on its way to the Raspberry Pi, a tiny, bare-bones computer meant for hobbyists and hackers. However cool the idea of having the whole ecosystem of Android apps available for the Raspberry Pi is, you'll still have to wait a little longer - the Raspberry Pi Foundation says it's still working out the kinks, and won't release the official port for about a month.

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New Jelly Bean-compatible proprietary binaries - the device drivers that run a phone's hardware - were released yesterday for the Nexus S, Nexus S 4G, the GSM and Verizon versions of the Galaxy Nexus, and the U.S. WiFi version of the Motorola Xoom. This means that anyone who's of a mind to do so can compile their own version of Jelly Bean 4.1.1 for those devices.

While some of those devices have already received Jelly Bean via over-the-air updates, others - notably the Nexus S 4G and Verizon GNex - have not. It's important not to read too much into the release of these binaries, of course, but it's also not unreasonable to view this as good news for those hoping for an upgrade to Jelly Bean.

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The gradual transition to Jelly Bean seems to have spurred some hardware makers into getting their update machinery in gear, with Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades coming for a host of older devices. These include the Sprint HTC Evo 3D, original Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Sprint HTC Evo Design 4G, among others.

This may have contributed to a rise in the proportion of Android devices running ICS, which Google says grew to nearly 16 percent in the second half of July.

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The bounty for the first person to unlock the Verizon Galaxy S III's bootloader is up to $3,565 on the XDA-developers forums. Good luck!

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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