Recent reports say that the Sprint variant of the Samsung Galaxy S3 was about to receive an OTA (over-the-air) update that would disable the universal search functionality on the handset. The update meant that users of the Sprint Galaxy S3 won't have been able to use the Google search bar on the homescreen to find their apps, contacts and other data. Only web-based results would come back when they searched with that method.

The news was first reported by Android Central, saying that the update removing the universal search was disguised as a Google security update. On Wednesday, Sprint finally confirmed that a software update for the Galaxy S3 will indeed put the universal search function out of action.

The new software update does disable the universal search function on Galaxy S III, said a Sprint spokesperson to Phone Scoop via email.

The report said that the OTA update also includes a security update. It also added that Samsung, not Sprint, was responsible for removing universal search from the Galaxy S3.

Meanwhile, AT&T has also reportedly joined Sprint to roll out an OTA update for the Galaxy S3 that includes a radio update along with removing local (on-device) search options.

The Verge reported that while AT&T Galaxy S3 owners will have a less-functional search bar  to deal with after the update, they can set things right by downloading the old app file for the Google Quick Search Box and installing it after the update.

Although, Samsung hasn't said anything about the reason behind the move, it's widely believed to be related to the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit.

The universal search functionality came under scrutiny recently after Apple approached U.S. courts seeking a ban on the Galaxy Nexus for infringing its software patent on universal search. While a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the preliminary injunction, Apple has time till Thursday to challenge the decision.

Both Google and Samsung have also said that they have been working together on a software patch that would remove the universal search feature from Galaxy Nexus.

While this OTA software patch is not yet released for the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S3 seems to be the first device to receive it in what seems to be a defensive move from Samsung. Given that the company expects to sell 10 million units of Galaxy S3 by the end of July, it's quite obvious that it would try to avoid any potential legal issues that might hamper the device's march in the U.S.