Hurricane Sandy may have played spoilsport ahead of Google’s main event in New York, but that hasn’t stopped the guys over at Mountain View from announcing their brand new Nexus smartphone (LG Nexus 4) and tablets (Nexus 7 32GB, 3G & Nexus 10). To users’ delight, both devices will be equipped with a new iteration of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 4.2, that brings along with it quite a few enjoyable and groundbreaking features. As was rumored a while before the event, the latest firmware does not sport the ‘Key Lime Pie’ label. Instead, it’s simply being dubbed as “a new flavor of Jelly Bean”, which would lead one to believe that most of the features offered in this particular version are more or less enhancements of the goodies that came with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. On the contrary, Android 4.2 adds quite a few completely new features that may very well convince users from other contemporary mobile platforms to switch over to Google’s mobile OS. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at what new features the latest version has to offer.
Adding to the variety of camera modes offered by Android, Photo Sphere is a fresh take on the concept of panoramic photo capturing. Unlike the conventional panorama mode, Photo Sphere lets you capture extended views of the scenes around you, allowing you to enjoy Google Street View style 360-degree images. The astonishing aspect of grabbing photos via Photo Sphere lies in the fact that it doesn’t require you to swivel on your feet in order to capture panoramic views in a specific direction and/or sequence. Instead, as the video below portrays, you can move your device’s camera in a random direction to snap photos, and let the camera app itself automagically stitch all the views together on a sphere to present you with your 360-degree HQ pictures.
Once done with snapping, you may share your masterpieces with the entire world via Google+ as well as Google Maps. The official Google Maps Street View webpage already contains numerous examples of user-submitted 360-degree panoramic photos captured via Photo Sphere.
While Android 4.1 Jelly Bean saw the stock keyboard beefed up with the next word prediction feature, version 4.2 borrows yet another remarkable feature from the likes of Swype, Touchpal Keyboard and other top-notch third-party alternative Android keyboards. Via Gesture Typing, Android users will now be able to avail Swype-like one-motion gesture-based text input on their devices.
For those unaware, or who never had a chance to use the aforementioned alternative keyboards, Gesture Typing allows you to input complete words without having to tap each individual letter on your keyboard. Instead, all you need to do is glide your finger over the letters required to form the desired word. Once you lift your finger after having navigated to all the required alphabets in the required order, the keyboard will itself input the exact word for you. A great timesaver and loveable feature, without any doubt!
Multiple User Support (Tablets Only)
It might currently be exclusive to tablet owners only, but multiple user support (as in several desktop OSs) has finally been offered by Android, meaning that you no longer have to fight with your siblings over personalizing your Android’s home screen as per your personal preferences and elements over and over again. That’s right! You and your family members/friends can each now have their own personal account on a shared tablet.
Once configured, your personal user account can be accessed right from the lockscreen, allowing you to enjoy your personalized home screens, respective on-screen elements and, most importantly, your personal data belonging to the installed apps. The real test, however, lies in the swiftness with which your OS will allow you to switch between different accounts, and also the maximum number of simultaneous user accounts that it is capable of handing at any given instance.
Android 4.2 has also been powered with Miracast wireless display support, allowing users to remotely browse on their HDMI-enabled TVs whatever is being displayed on their smartphone screens. All you need to do is hook up your HDTV to a wireless display adapter, and you’re ready to enjoy all your games, movies and browsing sessions on your large-screen TVs without the involvement of any cables whatsoever.
Not the most awe-inspiring facet of this particular iteration, the Daydream feature will attract users who love being fed by an unending stream of multimedia content whilst their devices are docked or idle. In this particular case, Daydreaming will be displaying your Gallery photos, RSS feeds from Google Currents, the conventional full-screen digital clock and more.
Enhanced Google Now
If you were thinking that Google’s dedicated search app and super-smart virtual assistant, Google Now, may already have reached the apex with all the astonishing features, like automated Smart Cards, Knowledge Graph support and hands-free, voice-enabled searching by speaking the wakeup word ‘Google’, think again! Things only get better with Android 4.2, as Google Now now supports fetching and displaying information regarding flight schedules, hotel & restaurant reservation confirmations, movie opening in theaters, package shipment details, and events etc. A big and rather significant void has also finally been filled with the addition of the option to schedule events and launch apps via voice commands.
Notification Power Controls
So far, an obvious advantage of numerous custom Android ROMs has been their ability to present users with some of the most sought-after system toggles via the notification panel/dropdown. The feature has finally been incorporated within the stock offerings, as Android 4.2 lets you toggle Wi-Fi, sound profiles, vibration, brightness, GPS and Bluetooth etc. right from within the notification shade. There are a couple of ways to access these notification power controls. You may either hit a dedicated button or use the two-finger swipe down gesture to reveal these toggles.
Multiple Lockscreens With Widgets
You read it right! Android 4.2 sports not one but five different lockscreens, each capable of sporting a resizable widget of your Calendar, Messaging, Gmail or Clock app. These lockscreens can be managed in terms of their preferred order of appearance, and you have the option to set any screen as your default lockscreen. The Camera app can be launched by swiping leftwards from the lockscreen, whereas Google Now is accessible by swiping upwards from a dedicated button at the bottom-center of the screen.
To explore all the features of the redesigned Android 4.2 lockscreen, you may read our thorough review.
Ever since its announcement in June this year, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean has been lauded by many as the best, fastest and most responsive version of Google’s mobile OS so far, and Android 4.2 builds further upon it. The firmware is due to be shipped along with the recently-announced Nexus devices, but we expect Google to announce OTA updates for other high-end devices, too. As ever, we can also expect custom ROM developers to come up with offerings of their own, filled with the latest JB goodness, and perhaps, even more!