Recently, there was quite a bit of patent drama surrounding the Galaxy Nexus and other Samsung smartphones like the Galaxy SIII. Based on a universal search patent, Apple was granted a sales ban on the Galaxy Nexus, and while the device did make it back on the shelves eventually, it wasn’t without one minor change. As a temporary solution to the patent problem, Samsung removed the infringing universal search feature from the Galaxy Nexus and the Sprint Galaxy SIII and possibly other SIII’s as well. Although I’m not here to debate whether or not Apple should have this patent or be able to use it in this manner (I don’t think they should), it is quite disappointing that these patent battles can directly take away stock features that users expect to be on their smartphones.
Luckily, as usual the folks over at xda have come up with a solution for this problem. In order to restore universal search functionality on the Sprint Galaxy SIII even after receiving the update that removed it, all you have to do is install the GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk file which can be found through the source link below. Now, if you have an unrooted stock device then you are in for a bit of trouble, as you will have to reinstall the app on every boot in order to keep it working. However, if you have a rooted stock device, then you can simply push the .apk file to /system/app using ADB, and everything should work properly. This method may also work for other devices for which the functionality has been removed, but this specific xda thread concerns only the Sprint version of the SIII.
Obviously, while this hack will work for those who really want to use universal search on their device, it isn’t ideal, especially for unrooted users. Unfortunately, this is simply the state of the current patent wars, specifically between Apple and Android. Even though I don’t think the battles should happen at all, I don’t care as much if the companies in question fight it out in court. When the bickering begins to actually take existing features away from users, however, things have gone too far.
Regardless of whether Samsung really did infringe on Apple’s already questionable patent (Google had a universal desktop search before the iPhone or Android), users who buy a product shouldn’t ever have to install an update that takes features away from them barring a serious security vulnerability. Of course, we’ve already talked about how much better it would be if companies competed with innovation instead of patents before, so I’ll just add this incident to the list of reasons why the ridiculous patent battles need to stop.