Android news and rumour roundup for the week ending August 17

Galaxy Note 10.1, Google Play gift cards and more

I really thought the whole stylus idea had been consigned to the same storage closet as Zip drives and dial-up modems, but Samsung doggedly stuck with it in the Galaxy Note 10.1, an ambitious new design that attempts to compete with the iPad on its own turf.

LAST WEEK: Android news and rumor roundup for week ending Aug. 10

MORE ANDROID: Gartner: Android extends smartphone OS dominance in Q2

And while it may be tempting to snicker at the idea of the Galaxy Note 10.1 -- with its apparently flimsy construction, premium price and gauche stylus -- trying to compete with Apple's market leader, advances in technology have made this digital pen quite a bit mightier than its precursors.

Initial reviews praised the character recognition of the device's included S Pen, which not only handles block or cursive writing with some degree of aplomb, but can even recognize mathematical formulae and feed them to Wolfram Alpha for computation. The Galaxy Note 10.1's beefy hardware and split-screen multitasking feature were also widely lauded.

Still, size and price can be deceptive -- while it won't dethrone the iPad, it could have solid appeal among people who want the pen functionality. And hey, apparently there's a different pen available for it that acts as a Bluetooth phone handset. Pretty cool, huh? ____________________________________________________

Looks like you'll soon be able to buy gift cards for the Google Play Store. Android Central has pictures of the upcoming vouchers, and Android Police checked out an updated .apk for the Play Store, finding not only gift card support, but a new wish list feature as well.

Improving the Play Store is a smart move. Anything that makes the Android ecosystem more attractive brings in more developers and more competition to make the best apps, which leads to a better value for Android users. I'll let this out-of-context quotation from Steve Ballmer illustrate my point:

(And yeah, I know it's pretty old. Still funny.) ____________________________________________________

After a lengthy period in which we all kept telling each other "Samsung HAS to release Jelly Bean for the Galaxy S III at some point, right?" the nervous wait ended this week with the leak of an official ROM (Precaución: Este video es en español.) and a widespread rumor that the Samsung flagship will get Android 4.1 on Aug. 29. Android Authority points out that that's the same day the Galaxy Note 2 is supposed to come out.

Also, ROMantics rejoice! A workaround for the Verizon Galaxy S III's locked bootloader has been discovered, and XDA-Developers forum user AdamOutler has claimed the $3,880 in prize money. (A post on that forum seems to indicate that the funds will be donated to XDA-Developers' presence at 2012's Big Android Barbeque. That ought to buy plenty of ribs and beer.) The hack is risky -- if you do it wrong, you can brick your device -- but it's apparently workable. ____________________________________________________

Further back in the Samsung batting order, Sam Mobile says the older Galaxy S II is also getting Jelly Bean, and that the update should hit in September or October. ____________________________________________________

Verizon Galaxy Nexus Jelly Bean update: Sorry, no luck this week. As of now, your only option is to root and flash a custom ROM, though G for Games says the AOSP version of Jelly Bean works pretty well. ____________________________________________________

Our own eminent, bearded Android guru JR Raphael has a helpful guide to Ice Cream Sandwich for the large number of people whose devices were recently updated to that version of Android. ____________________________________________________

Pinterest for Android launched this week, and some people are just thrilled with how well it turned out. If only Twitter and Facebook were as good at designing official mobile apps!

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

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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