As is the norm with Google’s Nexus smartphone announcements, Android users are always excited to see the developments announced for the updated OS. This time was no different. Google officially announced Android 4.2, which surprisingly keeps its previous Jelly Bean moniker. Despite the lack of movement in terms of the OS’s skin, there are still plenty of evolutionary changes made to keep Android fans happy.
Changes to the OS includes a new quick settings menu, which can be accessed from the notification drop-down, multiple user profile support (specifically geared toward tablet users), Photo Sphere, updated keyboard, wireless TV integration, Google Now and a few others.
Multiple User Accounts:
One of the most notable changes in the OS update is the multiple user accounts, which, in short, allows different users to log into any Android device, similar to that on Windows. This allows each user to setup custom homescreens, backgrounds, widgets, apps and almost anything else you were able to change in UI in the first place. The really interesting feature is that your games, too, keeps separate profiles, which means your Angry Birds scores won’t clash with another user. This feature, however, is limited to tablet users, with Google keeping the option to expand to all smartphones in future. With a tweak or two, it won’t be long after the source files have been released that custom ROMs will include this feature.
Back with the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Google introduced the Panorama photo-capturing mode. The launch now seemed to have launched an eternity ago, although most OEMs are still lagging behind with their Ice Cream Sandwich rollout plans. Android 4.2 sees the feature being revisited in Photo Sphere. Simply stated, it’s a panorama mode that allows you to capture photos in 360 degree angles, stitching together the images using embedded XML. This then give you an image, which resembles Google’s Street View.
Google seemingly enjoy rolling out the changes for its OS’s notifications menu. The expandable notifications menu introduced in Android 4.1 sees additional changes, such as toggling Wi-Fi and airplane mode, adjusting brightness, and many more. Simply drag down the notification menu and select the quick settings icon, which opens up a drawer with these settings. This feature isn’t totally new to the Android UI, though, with TouchWiz and SenseUI having tinkered with this previously.
Although we’ve seen this before with Swype, Android now has their very own gesture-based keyboard typing. There is no real need to elaborate here, since it works almost exactly as with Swype, swiping your finger to each of the letters without lifting your fingers.
Wireless TV Integration:
Wireless TV Integration is not something new in the smartphone and tablet world. We’ve already seen examples of this with Sony’s Xperia handsets and a number of others. The feature has now been integrated in the default Android OS. To achieve this, simply connect a wireless display adapter to any HDMI-enabled TV, which will then start mirroring what’s on your DNLA-enabled Android device. The feature coincides with Day Dream.
Day Dream is Android’s version of a screensaver. You can set the screensaver to flip through your photo albums, news feeds, calendar events, etc. The screensaver pops up when you’re in docked or idle state.
Enhanced Lock Screen Widgets:
Previous updates to Android have all seen improved widgets. We’ve also seen a widgets on lock screens, which display shortcuts to messaging, calling and music playback, to name a few. The update allows you to customise your lock screen with more efficiency and options.
Google Now Update:
Although Google Now was a novel idea at the time, there wasn’t many cards (services) added to it. Most often it would keep track of traffic between your current destination, where you next meeting is due to take place, as well as travelling to the airport, etc. The really interesting trigger for Google Now was its ability to integrate with Google Maps: so if you’re logged into your Google account on your PC, search for an address, it will automatically pop up the navigation options and traffic to that destination. Google Now has seen an update of these cards, which also interact directly with your Gmail, such as package shipments, events, restaurant reservations, hotels, weather notifications, etc. which may or may not be available in your country. Some cards are also location specific, providing more information if you’re at the airport or train station.
As is expected, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean features a few bug fixes and minor updates below the surface. These also include pinch-to-zoom in the Gmail app and other gesture-based navigation, added speech output, triple-tap to magnify the homescreen, and panning using two fingers.
All these changes are expected with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on 13 November 2012, as always first being rolled out to Nexus devices.