Google has announced the release of Android 4.2, an update to Jelly Bean, that promises to bring a new camera app, typing improvements, and other upgrades to the Jelly Bean experience. No doubt this was going to be part of Google’s announcement at their event today. While a hurricane may dampen the fun that was planned, it cannot stop the march of Android on to bigger and better things.
Headlining the changes are improvements to the camera app, adding the capability to create a “photo sphere.” This takes the concept of panoramic photos to the next level, letting photographers take pictures in any and every direction, then snapping them together into one immersive photo. The experience must be somewhat similar to a planetarium or possibly using Google Sky if the photo sphere is viewed on your device, though Google’s links to some examples were returning errors at the time of this writing.
Google appears to have jumped on the Swype bandwagon, as they introduce “Gesture Typing” which lets you glide your finger over the keyboard to type a word, only lifting when you get to the end of a word. Google indicates they have added predictive capabilities to help users complete their messages even faster. Google also mentions the dictionaries and text-to-speech capabilities have been improved, including the ability to voice type without a data connection.
Over the months we have seen clues here and there that support for multiple users was coming to Android and it is officially here in this latest update. Multi-user support means everyone can have their own homescreen, widgets, backgrounds, apps, and games. Google indicates that fast-switching between users exists – no logging on and logging off. However, this feature is only available on tablet devices.
Some of the other improvements include the ability to wirelessly stream your display to your HDTV using an HDMI wireless display adapter; a feature called “Daydream” which appears to be a screensaver type application that will display photos, news feeds or other items when a device is idle or docked; and expanded notifications that not only show more information, they let users initiate action directly from the notification area. Google has also added improvements to Google Now that enable you to see nearby photo spots, track packages, or quickly check upcoming movie info.
Under the hood, Google indicates they have made improvements to the UI and use of the CPU to make everything fast,fluid and smooth. They indicate Android’s code will now boost a CPU when you touch the screen then idle it back when not using a device in order to improve battery life.
FInally, Beam now supports the sharing of photos, videos, contacts, web pages, YouTube videos, directions and apps using NFC capabilities. Even a little thing, like automatically moving items on a homescreen to make room for new widgets or app icons, is included in the update. Accessibility options have also been improved for visually impaired users.