09
Jul
vzw-galaxy-nexus

Earlier today, the Jelly Bean source code rolled into AOSP (Android Open Source Project). This is a big deal - one we've been waiting for since the great Google I/O unveiling. What does it mean exactly?

It means that ROMs that are built from AOSP, like CyanogenMod, can now start integrating the Jelly Bean code and release the first true JB nightlies. Not broken ports from the Galaxy Nexus builds - real ROMs. They can also work out bugs because they can see the source code.

Manufacturers can now start working on updating their devices to the actual Jelly Bean release - remember, Google was still working on the final touches to JB when they released the preview, so even OEMs didn't have what rolled out today. The release is numbered 4.1.1, by the way, and the release version is JRO03C. That means nobody has it yet officially, not even the OTAed I/O Galaxy Nexuses or the Nexus 7s. Those OTAs should roll out shortly, and we'll be here to cover them - you can bet on that.

VZW Galaxy Nexus: There's Light At The End Of The Tunnel

But the release of the open source code was not the only highlight of this day. Google, which previously banished the Verizon Galaxy Nexus from being an officially supported AOSP device, seemingly restored it to that glorious status with the release of the previously unavailable proprietary binaries the source code of which is not open and instead maintained by other companies. These binaries are:

  • CDMA and LTE code, maintained by Samsung
  • Orientation sensor code, maintained by Invensense

If you compare what we have available in AOSP now for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus to the GSM one, you'll see that they actually match:

image image

Left: Verizon Galaxy Nexus; Right: GSM/HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus

In comparison, here's what we had before Jelly Bean, which was the reason toro (the codename for the Verizon GN) lost out to maguro (the GSM GN) and was not considered supported:

image

There's A But

So, the birds are chirping again and the double rainbow is permanently visible in every direction we look, right? Not exactly.

I had suspicions that not everything would be so rosy because in the previous months based on my discussions with JBQ, the chief release engineer at Google responsible for AOSP, I knew things were moving in the right direction, but I also knew that not everything was sorted out. The following message was posted by JBQ to the android-building mailing list:

As for AOSP on the VZW Galaxy Nexus, it essentially matches the GSM version now.

It's always been possible to create custom builds for the VZW Galaxy Nexus (we've always distributed all the files we could), but from this point you can expect that they'll be easier to develop and that they'll work better in Jelly Bean than they did in Ice Cream Sandwich.

Bit then he added:

I don't consider toro to be higher than "experimental" at this point.

Upon seeing it, I reached out to him to discuss it further, and here's what I have to report.

The biggest problem with the term "Galaxy Nexus AOSP support" is it depends on the definition of "support." There are no binaries available for NFC, GPS, or camera for either variant of the Galaxy Nexus (toro and maguro), so in that sense they're almost equally supported. This still doesn't mean full support - if you ever see these missing binaries appear here, you'll know we're there. But we're not yet (my guess is these binaries are either reverse engineered or grabbed from released devices).

Moving past that, I did say "almost equally." Here's why, according to JBQ:

In theory, the VZW Galaxy Nexus should work as well in AOSP as the GSM one (which doesn't mean that everything works, we're notably missing Camera, GPS and NFC).

In practice, that's not quite true, and there are some issues that only appear when running AOSP builds on the VZW Galaxy Nexus, which don't exist in retail builds and don't exist on AOSP builds on the GSM Galaxy Nexus.

This'll get explained in greater detail on source.android.com as soon as I update it.

He added (I mentioned this above):

You're pointing exactly at the problem: the notion of "supported" now needs to be explicitly defined.

There's now a big gap between devices that just don't work and devices that work really well, such that the mileposts now need to be better defined.

At the moment, we're still waiting for the more detailed explanation, which, as Jean-Baptiste said, would appear somewhere on source.android.com.

In conclusion, today's developments around the VZW Galaxy Nexus are certainly very important, but there is still a lot that needs to happen before we can say the Galaxy Nexus is a true Nexus. The same goes for the GSM Galaxy Nexus too, but the Verizon one continues to remain a few steps behind.

We'll bring you further coverage of the state of the Nexus union once we have more information.

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • http://eddieringle.com Eddie Ringle

    Built 4.1.1 fine on my toro with the proprietary blobs, works fine: http://i.imgur.com/YMrHV.png

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      JBQ is not crazy, there is something that will be flaky with this build, we just don't know what it is yet.

      Could you clarify where the NFC, camera, and GPS binaries are coming btw?

      • http://eddieringle.com Eddie Ringle

        GPS works, can't test NFC at the moment.
        Camera currently crashes, which is probably the flakiness you're looking for. Logcat shows this: http://pastebin.com/Sny0Exyd and is being worked on.

        I just grabbed the blobs from here: https://developers.google.com/android/nexus/drivers#torojro03c and built away.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          But those binaries don't include NFC, GPS, or camera, which from what JBQ said are still missing and as far as I understand required for full bug-less operation. I'm still a bit confused about this part.

          • http://eddieringle.com Eddie Ringle

            Yeah, there are still vendor-specific proprietary blobs that will improve the experience. The camera problems seemed to stem from a generic camera library being installed alongside the proper one; deleting the extra library fixed the camera issues. I did go through an I/O JB image and copy over some Verizon-specific stuff, but so far everything is pretty smooth while remaining pure-AOSP.

          • wickets

            "deleting the extra library fixed the camera issues." I really tip my hat to all you techno smarties.....thanks for sharing your insights

          • codemonkey85

            I don't suppose you have Google Now working then?

          • derekross

            I'm assuming the binaries for NFC, GPS and camera are pulled from 4.0.4 factory images/ROMs? Now we just need someone to make a viable GApps for JellyBean.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Somebody could breed a unicorn that can pee pure russian vodka and 25 year old scotch on command, and has the ability to solve most of the worlds problems; Verizon will find a way to screw it up, somehow.

  • New_Guy

    So basically, if we like custom roms, we should just stop buying phone from Verizon...I know I did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/erodriguez87 Eddie Rodriguez

    Great article. That explains a lot ... Were the files available for the Galaxy Nexus ICS build also missing camera/gps/nfc? I'm running cyanogenmod and the device works pretty well besides some GPS glitches from time to time.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      They were.

  • http://twitter.com/Bazar6 B Azar

    The meaning behind a "true Nexus" will become crystal clear when Googorola start producing their own Nexus devices... we won't have to worry about missing binaries from OEMs then... only problem will be if VZW will allow their phones on the network.

    • Greyhame

      As far as I understand, they are required by law to support any unlocked phone on their network. The real question then is whether or not the phone will have the proper radios required for CDMA operation. I haven't lost hope yet, but the chances are slim. I think the best bet would be Motorola with their close ties to Verizon. Wouldn't that be great?

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Historically, VZW and Motorola have had an almost incestuous connection. I forget the exact number, but it came out a few years back that somewhere around 50% of Motorola's entire cell phone production was sold through VZW, including worldwide sales. I think VZW is a little nervous with Google buying Motorola, they won't have the same leverage on Moto that they had in the past. It does look like they are putting a lot of the same pressure on HTC and Samsung now though.

  • CeluGeek

    But Verizon wants you all to believe their Galaxy Nexus is a true Nexus. After all, they'll use their GNex as the excuse to lock the crap out of their other Android phones. "You want a phone with an unlockable bootloader so you can hack it? Get the Galaxy Nexus! Otherwise stick with our nice DROIDS which we have locked tight because we know what's good for you better than you do."

  • Greyhame

    Great article! Thanks for taking the time to explain the intricacies of an AOSP fully supported device.

  • Asphyx

    I have to start and wonder, what is it about CDMA/LTE carriers that make them so afraid to open up the phones to AOSP?
    Sprint withholding code to dev under AOSP, Verizon with the bootlocker...
    Anyone starting to suspect that maybe there is a major security hole with the CDMA/LTE system that could be exploited to get all the free data you want? And they are locking up the phone to be sure we never find it?

    • ERIFNOMI

      Bloatware revenue?

  • NemaCystX

    I could have sworn that starting with Jellybean OEM's would get the releases weeks if not months in advance of official release to AOSP? Isn't that what was stated at Google I/O

  • LanceMiller

    Jelly Bean, heck I still can't find a non-buggy vanilla ICS build for my SGS2 that I figured would be a breeze for someone at CyanogenMod to build.

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