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Android 4.2: A Smooth flavor of Jelly Bean.

When Google announced its new Nexus tablet and smartphone line, the search giant also announced, almost in passing, that there's a new version of Android on its way: Android 4.2.
While Android 4.2 isn't a major upgrade, it does bring significant improvements to the popular, open-source mobile operating system. Android 4.2, which will still go by Android 4.1's name Jelly Bean, will first ship on Google and LG's new Nexus 4 smartphone and Samsung's Nexus 10 tablet on November 13. I expect, but I have been unable to confirm, that the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus will also be upgraded to 4.2 then. As for the rest of the Android device family, as always it depends not on Google, but on your smartphone carrier or tablet vendor when, if ever, you'll see an Android upgrade.
Some of the Android 4.2 upgrades are minor. Sure, it might be nice to use the Photo Sphere feature to stitch together photos to from Google Street View style panoramic images, but you're not going to do that more than once every blue moon. It's also nice that the 4.2 Play Store app includes a personalized music-shopping function, Music Explorer. Thanks to personalized music services such as Pandora, I really don't need more help in finding new music.

Other new features, however, will want you to make the jump. From least to most important in my book these are:

Android 4.2 takes the speed and simplicity of Jelly Bean to a different level – a completely new camera experience that’s beyond smart, a new form of typing that helps you power through your messages, and much more.

Simple, Beautiful and Beyond Smart

One tablet, many users. 


On Android 4.2-powered tablets, but not on smartphones, you'll be able to have multiple users. Each user will get his or her own setup. That means, for example, you can have your own home-screen, background, widgets, apps and games, while your spouse or office partner can have their own unique tablet experience. You can set this up so a new user must login to the tablet or they'll be able to simply hit a button and away they'll go with their own tablet take.
So, why isn't this available for smartphones? We don't know. There's some speculation that it's to avoid a Nokia patent on multi-user phones.
There may be something to that, but since multi-user functionality on computing devices goes back to the 60s, I'm inclined to think that Google didn't bother with it because there's almost no demand for it on smartphones. I, for one, have no problem letting someone use one of my tablets for a few minutes, but I'm far more hesitant about letting anyone borrow my phones.
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. Available only on tablets.

Share what’s on your phone on the big screen.

Android 4.2 allows devices to enable wireless display. You can share movies, YouTube videos, and anything that’s on your screen on an HDTV. Just connect a wireless display adapter to any HDMI-enabled TV to mirror what’s on your screen quickly and easily.
Apple recently introduced AirPlay Mirroring in iOS 5 and Mac OS X, Mountain Lion. With it, you can throw your screen to any Apple TV-equipped television. Android 4.2 will let you do the same thing with any TV, DVD-player, or other media device that supports Miracast.
Miracast is the trade name for Wi-Fi Direct or WiDi. This is an 802.11n compatible network protocol for display-sharing. With a compatible device or a Miracast adapter, you'll be able to stream Internet TV shows and movies from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. Miracast adapters will be available this quarter.


Daydream lets your Android device display useful and delightful information when idle or docked. Show off your photo albums, get the latest news from Google Currents, and more.
One of the new features of Android 4.2 that hasn't gotten much mention recently is the new "Daydream" mode. It hasn't gotten much play because unlike the other major updates like the gesture keyboard, Daydream mode is a flashy extra, but it is quite a nice one. If you've gotten the Android 4.2 update, you'll find Daydream kind of hidden in Settings>Display>Daydream.

It is essentially a screensaver, although it will only turn on under certain conditions. You can set your Android device to start Daydreaming either when the device is docked, when it is charging, or both. As the Daydream mode, users can choose between having the device display the clock, shifting colors, Google Currents headlines, or photos.

The clock and colors are fairly basic (although the clock has a nice feature to set the display to a "very dim mode", which is great for a bedside table), but this may be the first interesting use of Google Currents that we've seen. Currents has always been somewhat overshadowed by other apps that do the same sort of thing like Flipboard, Pulse News, or Feedly. Unfortunately, we say it is an interesting use of Currents because it isn't exactly useful. While it is nice to see the headline scroll of Currents in Daydream, it isn't interactive at all, so you can't tap an interesting headline to jump into the story. So, the whole thing ends up feeling a bit pointless.

Photos can be displayed in two different modes, either a slideshow, or as a "photo table" (basically a collage). For either option, users can choose to show photos that are on the device, or select any or all of your Google+/Picasa photo albums to cycle through. That is a great option for anyone who uses Google+/Picasa, or keeps all of their photos on their Android device at all times. But, if you use Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram, and don't keep copies on your device, this feature won't really do much for you.

Overall, Daydream mode is a nice new feature, and we can see some pretty interesting potential there for offering more options, but it definitely feels like a first attempt, and there is a reason why the feature is a bit buried. We'd love to see more services be able to hook into it, and we'd love to see the displays be more interactive, especially with headlines.

Expandable, actionable notifications.

Android has always put you in control when it comes to staying notified and connected. 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.

Fast and smooth.

We put Android under a microscope, making everything feel fast, fluid, and smooth. With buttery graphics and silky transitions, moving between home screens and switching between apps is effortless, like turning pages in a book.
More reactive and uniform touch responses mean you can almost feel the pixels beneath as your finger moves across the screen. Jelly Bean makes your Android device even more responsive by boosting your device's CPU instantly when you touch the screen, and turns it down when you don't need it to improve battery life.

Beam photos and videos.

With Android Beam on Jelly Bean you can now easily share your photos and videos with just a simple tap, in addition to sharing contacts, web pages, YouTube videos, directions, and apps. Just touch two NFC-enabled Android devices back-to-back, then tap to beam whatever's on the screen to your friend.

Widgets work like magic.

With Jelly Bean it's now even easier to personalize your home screen. As you place widgets on the screen, everything else automatically moves to make room. When they're too big, widgets resize on their own. Interacting with your favorite apps and customizing your home screen has never been easier.


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.

Best of Google

Live in the Now.

Google Now brings you the information you need, when and where you need it, before you even ask. Google Now tells you today's weather before you start your day, or when the next train will arrive as you’re standing on the platform. With the latest version, you can see popular photo spots nearby, track packages easily, get information about upcoming movies, and much more.
See what’s new in Google Now.

A new look for Google Search.

It's easier than ever to quickly get answers, explore, and browse search results. Android also lets you search the web with your voice, and it's convenient for getting quick answers on the fly. It speaks back to you and is powered by the Knowledge Graph, bringing you a precise answer if it knows it, and precisely ranked search results, so you can always find out more.

Amazing Photo Sphere camera

Up, down and all around you, it’s like no camera you’ve ever seen. With Android 4.2, snap pictures in every direction that come together into incredible, immersive photo spheres that put you right inside the scene. View your photo spheres right on your phone, share them on Google+ with your friends and family, or even add them to Google Maps for the world to see.
Explore incredible photo spheres from photographers around the world.

A smarter keyboard, now with Gesture Typing

Writing messages on the go is easier than ever with Gesture Typing – 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.
The keyboard can anticipate and predict the next word, so you can finish entire sentences just by selecting suggested words. Power through your messages like never before.
Android's dictionaries are now more accurate and relevant. With improved speech-to-text capabilities, voice typing on Android is even better. It works even when you don't have a data connection, so you can type with your voice everywhere you go. Do you use Swype, the popular third-party on-screen keyboard replacement? If you do, then you'll find the same basic functionality to make on-screen keyboards more useful in Gesture Typing. This probably won't be enough to sway hard-core Swype users away from their favorite virrtual keyboard, but it will show screen-typers that there is a better way than using a display keyboard than just as a QWERTY glass keyboard.

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