Saturday, June 23, 2012

Verizon begins pushing Android 4.0 to RAZR / RAZR Maxx; turns on global capabilities

We already knew that a series of Verizon LTE handsets (RAZR / RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, and HTC Rezound) would be getting global roaming soon, and for the RAZR and RAZR Maxx, soon = now.

Verizon has confirmed that the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS, Android 4.0) update to the two devices, which last week it notified owners was "coming soon," has begun being pushed to devices over-the-air (OTA). Typical of Verizon updates, this is a limited "soak test," meaning it will only go to a small number of devices, not all.

The full roll-out, assuming there are no hiccups with the soak test (and there have been, at times, in the past) would begin in the next few days. The size of the update is 354MB, and you should have both a charged battery and a good signal (either 4G or wi-fi) before attempting it.

With ICS, you'll get such features as facial unlock, a native data usage meter showing a graphical display of mobile broadband usage that can go all the way down to the app level, UI changes, core app changes, and far, far more.

However, in addition to bringing ICS functionality to the RAZR and RAZR Maxx, the update also turns on the devices' GSM radios, which have been sitting dormant, until now. That means that when you go overseas, your devices will now be able to connect to GSM networks over there. Of course, you'll pay the typically expensive International roaming charges travelers are accustomed to.

For example, even subscribers to Verizon’s $5 per month Global Value plan, will pay $1 for a 1-minute call in the U.K. Rates can rise to as high as $5 per minute in other countries.

Although you will also be able to use data networks, as well, you may not want to. While Verizon does offer international data roaming plans, these aren’t cheap either. As an example, a 100MB data plan will cost $25. Considering many pay $30 for the company's still-around-yet-disappearing unlimited data plans, that is a shocking rate.

Notably, since the RAZR / RAZR Maxx along with Verizon's other LTE devices carry SIMSs or microSIMs, you could swap out the LTE SIM and slip one from a local carrier into the SIM slot, assuming Verizon allows you to unlock that slot. It is still unclear if that is part of the plan.

Verizon said that both phones will support voice and data service in more than 220 countries following the ICS upgrade.

You may be alerted to the fact that your device has an ICS update waiting, or you can check manually, by going into Settings, About phone, System updates. As noted, your phone might not see the update until the full, not soak, release.

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