Along with today’s Nexus device news, Google has also announced the latest revision of Android: 4.2 Jelly Bean. A few of us were expecting a bump to Key Lime Pie, but perhaps that will come next year at Google I/O 2013. Nevertheless, 4.2 offers a few new features you might want to check out.
Akin to the technology showcased by Google Street View, Android 4.2 includes a new extension of the existing panorama feature called Photo Sphere. With Photo Sphere, you can snap multiple pictures in every which way and all around you. Android 4.2′s camera software will then stitch them all together to create a single, immersive photo sphere for you to enjoy. View these spheres on your phone, share them on Google+ for friends to see, or even share them to the world over Google Maps.
I personally think this is an awesome step forward from the panoramic feature Android debuted with in 4.0. After Apple announced that iOS 6 would also come with a panorama feature, this really shows that Google is still working hard to push out new and innovative features with each release and isn’t going to sit idly by while the competition plays catch-up.
Google is now taking on Swype by integrating gesture typing into Android 4.2. No longer will you need to install third-party software; you can now get the intuitiveness of a gesture-based keyboard right out of the box. Android 4.2′s keyboard will try to predict what word you mean to type next and provide suggestions, allowing you to quickly tap through your sentences and get your messages across sooner rather than later.
User Switching for Tablets
Perhaps one of the more unexpected (or expected?) features new to Android 4.2: User switching. If you’ve got a tablet that you share among others, then you will now be able to give each user their own homescreen, wallpaper, apps, and games (that includes high scores and saved data)! This is pretty major news, as no other major mobile OS can offer this level of flexibility. Apple’s move, I guess?
I’d imagine this feature would be accessed by holding down the power button and selecting a user to switch to, or perhaps it is done through the new Quick Settings section of the notification shade. We’ll have to get a device in our hands before we know anything for certain.
Android Police wrote a story on the possibility of seeing multi-user capabilities back in July after CyanogenMod team member Abhisek Devkota noticed some interesting methods floating around Android’s source code, and now it appears that it was all true. Needless to say, I’m sure there are a few families out there that will be excited to see this new feature arrive at their coffee table tablet.
Miracast – Wireless Display Sharing
Android 4.2 now includes support for the Miracast standard, a technology based on Wi-Fi Direct that allows devices to wirelessly share their screens with another HDMI-ready display. Apparently for this to work, all you need is a wireless display adapter to plug into your HDMI-ready display and then you’re off and running.
I’ve personally been waiting for this to arrive for a while, now. There’s a ton of streaming options (particularly in HD) available on mobile devices that I’m unable to access through an ordinary PC, so support for Miracast will allow me to stream my Google Play movies over my phone or tablet and view them on the big screen.
Another speculated feature, Quick Settings adds a new view to the notification shade in Android 4.2. The functionality is similar to what you might find on TouchWiz devices or custom ROMs like CyanogenMod. Quick Settings will allow you to toggle network connections, tweak brightness levels, and other common tasks that would otherwise have you opening up the Settings application in order to accomplish. This is a much-needed improvement to the stock Android experience that I’m sure will see plenty of use from me and others.
Android 4.2 includes a new feature called Daydream. This is apparently a screensaver of sorts; it allows you to display photos, news headlines, and other useful information on your device’s screen when it is idle or docked. This could come in handy for those who want their tablet to double as a digital photo frame while it is idle, or those who want to be able to see important information (like breaking news) with only a quick glance at their tablet or phone.
So those are a few of the major new features in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. What do you think: a good, incremental upgrade from 4.1, or is it lacking? What features or improvements would you like to see in the next Android release — no doubt to be dubbed Key Lime Pie?