If there’s anything that drives me up the wall in the Nexus community, it’s people who spout nonsense about the Verizon Galaxy Nexus. I feel like this post is important enough that if I didn’t do it, somebody else would (and indeed others have). My hope is that this post serves as the end of misinformation concerning Android OS updates on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus.
Myth #1: The Verizon Galaxy Nexus Is Not a Real Nexus
This is complete bullshit. There’s no other way to phrase it. Traditionally, Nexus devices have had all of the following traits:
- An unlockable bootloader
- Receives Android OS updates directly from Google
- Runs the stock, vanilla “Google Experience” build of Android
The Verizon Galaxy Nexus has all of these traits. Everyone who believes that the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is some kind of cheap knock-off seems to buy into the next myth hook, line, and sinker.
Myth #2: Updates for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus Come from Samsung or Verizon, not Google
Again, this is complete bullshit. The updates come straight from Google, although it is true that Verizon has to test and approve the updates first.
When Google rolls out an update to a carrier-free GSM phone or WiFi-only tablet, they can release the update directly to the device without any middle man. Verizon, however, requires testing and approval of any update pushed out to any phone that they sell. This approval process adds significant delays, thus the Verizon model typically doesn’t receive an update until two months after that same update gets released to GSM devices.
This is an incredibly reasonable demand for Verizon to have when you consider that they are putting up money to market and subsidize these phones, plus paying their own support staff to provide tech support. Because of this, they have every right to make sure that updates to phones they sell and support won’t cause a support nightmare for their staff.
Still, once Verizon approves the Google-created, Google-submitted update, it’s Google pushing it out. Now, not ALL Galaxy Nexus devices get updates from Google. As a matter of fact, most Galaxy Nexus devices throughout the world do not receive updates from Google, and instead get their updates from Samsung.
There’s a very easy way to tell whether your Galaxy Nexus’ firmware is from Google or from Samsung. If you go into your Galaxy Nexus’ “About Phone” screen and look at the build number, you’ll be able to tell instantly. Depending on what region your phone was purchased from, your Galaxy Nexus device will show build numbers in one of two possible conventions:
- A build number that is either five or six characters in length and always appears in the format of 3 letters, followed by 2 numbers, and sometimes one letter at the end. Examples would be ITL41D, ICL53F, JRO03C, etc.
- A build number that has the same as convention 1 above, but also has a period after it, followed by the baseband version. Examples would be IMM76K.I9250XWLD2, JRO03C.L700FH05, etc.
Convention 1 specifies builds which are created and updated by Google. There are three types of Galaxy Nexus devices that contain builds like these:
- GSM devices purchased SIM-unlocked in parts of western Europe that run the “yakju” firmware.
- GSM devices purchased SIM-unlocked in the USA from the Google Play Store. These devices run the “takju” firmware.
- Verizon devices, all of which run the “mysid” firmware.
Convention 2 specifies builds which are created and updated by Samsung. Often times (but not always), these builds also come with kernels marked “se.infra@SEI-29″ and a build date in KST (Korean Standard Time), clear references to Samsung. Any device variant not mentioned above, meaning Galaxy Nexus devices on Sprint and GSM devices purchased most places in the world, contain this type of firmware.
If you’re going to argue that the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is not a real Nexus on the grounds of requiring Verizon approval of updates, you should actually be directing your ire toward the Sprint variant and the vast majority of GSM devices out there since those devices don’t get updates from Google at all.
Myth #3: The Verizon Galaxy Nexus Will Never Get Another Update
Yes it will. At the time of this writing, GSM Galaxy Nexus devices have seen updates to Android 4.1.2, 4.2, and 4.2.1 since the Verizon variant got its last update (to Android 4.1.1). As stated earlier in this rant, Verizon normally runs on a two month delay from the GSM variants. Android 4.1.2 came out in October, which means Verizon shouldn’t have seen it until December. But then, Android 4.2 came out in mid-November, followed by 4.2.1 two weeks later in late November. Every time Google releases an update, Verizon’s two month counter starts over. So assuming that Google can cool the aggressive update schedule, we should see a 4.1.1 -> 4.2.1 update for Verizon around mid- to late-January.
In the end, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus was, for months, the only Galaxy Nexus variant available in the USA and it is fully supported by Google, even though Verizon has to approve the updates. Verizon has the best mobile network in the United States bar none and if you want your phone on that network, that’s the price that comes along with it.