Google is a disgraceful flirt about new Android versions

A bunch of bogus little hints and everyone freaks right out. Also -- the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are starting families (though not with each other), a gaming tablet that's actually designed for games, and more.

Google obviously knows that it's got the Android blogosphere wrapped around its little finger like the femme fatale in a black-and-white gangster movie. It arches an eyebrow, and the masses quiver with anticipation. It bares a hint of ankle, and fights break out.

And it apparently can't resist tugging on the leash from time to time, as this week's unseemly furor over the possibility of Android 4.3's release demonstrates. While few major outlets represented the meager guesswork and augury behind the rumors as anything but what they were, everyone was quick to come out with their "Could we see Android 4.3 this week?" pieces.

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Why did everybody think Version 4.3 was coming out this week? The reasons were several. One of the most credible, which isn't saying a great deal, was a pair of tweets from Android open-source project boss Jean-Baptiste Queru on Tuesday, saying that "the future will be better tomorrow" and "4:30 p.m. is always a great time, that's when I get back home from work." See, because 4:30 is like 4.3, and he said that thing about the future. Yeah.

The next hot scoop was Android Community noticing that the screenshots of the Google Keyboard app released today said 4:30. Apparently, Google's official screenshots tend to reflect the current Android version -- as in, most recent ones say 4:20.

Android 4.3

Behold:

OK, so, if you're really desperate, you can say that this at least confirms that Google likes to use the time of day to play around with version numbers, but again -- you're basing the idea there's a new version imminent on this?

Now, it's important to note that the flimsiness of these rumors doesn't mean Android 4.3 isn't coming at least fairly soon -- sites have been seeing the user agent showing up in their logs for weeks, and it'll doubtless be rolled out in the not too distant future. But frothing with anticipation when Google does something as miniscule as changing the time on the screenshot in the sample picture on new apps doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Along with highlighting exactly how little access even enthusiast sites have into the inner circles of Google personnel, this whole goofy incident doesn't cast the most flattering light on the technology press. Here's Google, winkingly changing the screenshot around a little bit and laughing as nerd journalism's assembled finest immediately work themselves into a heavy lather.

Google: It's OK -- we're professionals. You don't have to tease us or pull our hair on the playground to get us to notice you. You're arguably the biggest deal in technology right now. You're going to get plenty of ink.

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I don't know if it's a marketing fad or what, but the good folks at Samsung and now HTC seem to have decided that top-drawer smartphones should fit into families, rather than being stand-alone devices with their own names that still rent apartments at 45. (Maybe not that last part.)

mini HTC One

Credit: Forte.delfi.ee

Hat tip: Boy Genius Report

An Estonian website has pictures of what seems to be a mini version of the HTC One:

The unconfirmed device is said to have a 720p, 4.3-inch screen, and the usual hardware downgrades -- 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, and a dual-core processor instead of a quad-core. It does, however, supposedly pack the same camera as the full-size version. There's also a vanilla Android edition coming later in the month.

But Samsung has gone further, peopling the smartphone landscape with no less than four versions of the Galaxy S4. Along with the flagship itself, there's a mini version, the GS4 Active, which is ruggedized for outdoor use, and now there's rumored to be a full-on digital camera version, according to Android Authority.

Essentially a hybrid of the Galaxy S4 and Samsung's interesting Galaxy Camera device, AA says the purported Galaxy S4 "Zoom" is currently under review at the FCC.

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I've always viewed mobile gaming with a pretty serious degree of skepticism -- I won't try to pretend they're not the big growth part of the industry or anything, but as a lifelong PC gamer, I find it very hard to take even well-polished phone and tablet offerings that seriously.

A big part of the reason for that is control. Why designers pretend that touchscreens can offer the same degree of precision and detail that analog controllers (to say nothing of mice and keyboards) do is beyond me.

Wikipad

Credit: Wikipad.com

However, the Wikipad, which is going on sale June 11, is apparently an attempt to split the difference: It's an entry-level Android tablet with a detachable frame that features analog sticks and control buttons.

So when you're using the tablet for the usual tablet tasks like dumb TV shows via Netflix or chatting about dumb TV shows on Twitter, you can use it normally. Attach the frame, however, and you've got a sort of Wii-U-looking mobile gaming device. Pretty impressive, especially at $250.

[Hat tip: Android Authority]

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

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