UPDATED: The Samsung Galaxy S3 has received a small but significant update, billed as a 'stability update' which removes Local Search.
What does the update do?
As updates go, seldom is there an advantage to removing a feature, especially on a top of the line flagship phone such as the Samsung Galaxy S3. Unfortunately in this case, that’s exactly what’s happened. The supposed “stability update” appears to only remove local search functionality from the Galaxy S3.
Why is this happening?
In the US, Samsung pulled the same stunt and the reasoning lay in the lawsuit battles being waged between their company and Apple. As Android Central points out, it was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus that came under fire, but Samsung removed the feature from the US S3 anyway, most likely in an attempt to prevent Apple finding another reason to take it court and delay distribution of the company’s latest smartphone.
Why the international version of the S3, which is also based off different hardware is suffering the same fate is less clear. It could well be for the same reasons as the US handset; as a means to avoid attracting the legal arm of Apple, however the notion of calling this as a stability update is then somewhat nonsensical with features being removed rather than added.
Will local search come back?
The update information makes no mention of the feature returning and we’re awaiting word from Samsung on the subject, but for the meantime there’s no official plans to reintroduce these smart search tools back into the handset. Having said that, we can speculate Samsung is likely working on an alternative, to maintain customer’s faith in the product and to riposte against the effects of Apple’s legal interruptions.
Can I avoid the update if I don’t download it?
The upside to all this is that there’s no compulsory nature to the update. Your S3 might be persistent about reminding you of the update’s existence, but that doesn’t mean you need to download it. Providing Samsung don’t release another update that genuinely improves stability or adds new features down the line before they can re-implement local search functionality in the process, we see no reason why you need to update now. But you can't avoid the update forever - it's highly likely Samsung will release another update appears with features you may want, in which case you will need to update.
If you do feel so inclined to be running the latest the S3 has to offer, then head on over to your phone’s update menu, which can check for the 27MB file OTA or pick it up using the Kies desktop software.
UPDATE 27/7/12: Samsung responded to our query regarding the return of the universal search feature and this is what they had to say, “The most recent software upgrade for the Galaxy S III in the UK included the inadvertent removal of the universal search function. Samsung will provide the correct software upgrade within the next few days. ”
Interestingly enough, this reads as though Samsung are passing the feature removal off as an accident. The question now is did they remove it intentionally in the first place to avoid Apple-related legal trouble and if so, why did they hide the feature removable from consumers?