Hurricane Sandy may have completely changed Google’s plans for today, convincing the company to cancel its media event that was supposed to take place in New York today. But Google decided to continue with its Nexus announcements anyway, revealing in the process the new Android 4.2 OS. And it’s called Jelly Bean, as most rumors suggested before the event, not Key Lime Pie.
What’s new in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean?
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is an incremental Android update that will offer users a variety of new features. In case you were wondering, some of the recent leaks that we’ve seen in the past weeks were right on the money detailing several of the new Android 4.2 features. So let’s check them out one by one!
Photo Sphere camera feature
Android 4.2 will offer users a new camera feature, dubbed Photo Sphere, which will let them create interesting panoramic photos that will have both a horizontal and a vertical component. After all, Google had this technology all along, used so far in its Street View Google Maps feature.
Swype-like Gesture Typing keyboard
Gesture Typing is one of the new keyboard-related Android 4.2 features: “just glide your finger over the letters you want to type, and lift after each word. You don’t have to worry about spaces because they’re added automatically for you.”
In other words, Android 4.2 will have a Swype-like default keyboard for you to “power through your messages like never before” complete with text predicting features and more accurate Android dictionaries. Naturally, the text-to-speech capabilities have also been improved.
Multi-user support for tablets
This one was recently previewed in a recent leak: multi-user support. We learned that the feature is available only on Android tablets that will run Android 4.2, something that was rather logical. Here’s what you get:
It’s your fully customized tablet. And theirs, too. With support for multiple users, you can give each person their own space. Everyone can have their own homescreen, background, widgets, apps and games – even individual high scores and levels! And since Android is built with multitasking at its core, it’s a snap to switch between users – no need to log in and out.
Share what’s on your phone on the big screen
With Android 4.2 installed on devices, users will be able to use them to share their display with other devices to take advantage of their bigger screens. The feature can be used on any HDMI-enabled TV as long as it’s connected to a wireless display adapter.
Daydream is a new Android feature that will turn your Android device into a live gadget when in idle or dock. The device will show “useful and delightful information,” photo albums or “the latest news from Google Currents and more.” We can’t help but feel that the “and more” ending of the description of Daydream is somehow related to ads, which is how Google is making its money off.
Expandable, actionable notifications
The notification area is also getting its own update in Android 4.2, just as it was rumored before. Here’s how the new “expandable, actionable notifications” work:
Just swipe down from the top of the screen to see all your notifications in one place. Late for a meeting or missed a call? Take action in an instant directly from the notifications shade.
Google Search and Google Now updates
Since Search is how Google makes its money, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Android 4.2 would offer improved Google Search and Google Now features.
However, don’t expect any big changes. Google Search still leverages the power of Google’s Knowledge Graph and offers voice-based search features. But Google Now has apparently been slightly improved:
With the latest version, you can see popular photo spots nearby, track packages easily, get information about upcoming movies, and much more.
Buttery experience, widgets and Android Beam
Some things stay the same though.
Google didn’t highlight any specific performance improvements in Android 4.2 over Android 4.1. We’re looking at the same “buttery graphics and silky transitions,” as well as “more reactive and uniform touch responses.”
The same goes for widgets that “work like magic” just as they did in Android 4.1.
Finally, Android Beam now lets you share photos and videos “with a simple tap, in addition to sharing contacts, web pages, YouTube videos, directions and apps.
With Android Jelly Bean, more people can use smartphones despite various impediments. Here are some of the accessibility features that will be available in Android 4.2:
Enable screen magnification to easily zoom or pan the entire screen to get a closer look. Visually impaired users can now enter full-screen magnification with a triple-tap on the screen, and even type and interact with the device while zoomed in. Blind users can use Gesture Mode to reliably navigate the UI using touch and swipe gestures in combination with speech output.
Simply put, these are the main Android 4.2 Jelly Bean highlights, as listed on the company’s official Android website. There must be a variety of other Android 4.2 features under the hood, which we’ll get to in our extensive Android coverage – we’re specifically interested to see whether there are new security features available in Android 4.2 among other things. But so far, this is apparently all that consumers need to know about the new OS. What do you like best about Android 4.2?