Samsung has removed local search capabilities from its Galaxy S III in hopes of fortifying the phone against Apple patent lawsuits.
Local search allowed users to look up content and contact details stored on the phone through a unified search interface. Apple sued Samsung over its use of local search, and in July won a temporary sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab 10.1.
In response to the injunction, Samsung has removed local search from the Galaxy Nexus, and now it's stripping local search from the international version of the Galaxy S III. Wireless carriers in the United States have also rolled out updates that remove the feature.
Local search isn't the first Android phone feature to succumb to Apple patent lawsuits.
In May, HTC removed a “data tapping” feature from several new phones to avoid an import ban in the U.S. Data tapping allows the phone to bring up several possible actions when the user taps on certain types of text, such as phone numbers or addresses. HTC worked around Apple's patent claim by performing a single default action, such as calling a phone number when the user taps on it.
I also noticed a change to my AT&T Galaxy S II last year: The “overscroll bounce” effect is gone, so pages no longer scroll past their boundaries and snap back when you release your finger. Instead, the edge of the screen glows when you try to scroll past the end of a page. As FOSS Patents points out, Apple has demanded royalties from Samsung for past use of overscroll bounce.
Android phone makers have also tweaked their lock screens in response to Apple patents over “slide-to-unlock.” In the past, many Android phones used a bar that you'd swipe from left to right to unlock the phone, but now most phones allow the user to swipe in any direction, in some cases from any point on the device.
Some of the tweaks may be more annoying to users than others, but none are drastic enough to fundamentally alter the Android experience or -- more importantly -- change the way these phones are marketed to consumers.
A bigger battle is yet to come. On Monday, a jury trial between Apple and Samsung kicks off in the United States. In the case, Apple alleges that Samsung ripped off iPhone design concepts.
A victory for Apple would force a change in the look and feel of Samsung's phones (although, Android Police theorizes that the Galaxy S III was designed for patent immunity anyway). Otherwise, the patent war amounts to a handful of paper cuts for Android phones, and a whole lot of money for lawyers on both sides.