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Android 4.2 Announced: Photo Sphere, Gesture Typing, Multi-User, TV Connect, Quick Settings, and Much More!

Yesterday, we created of forums for the newly announced Google Nexus 4 and 10. For many, however, the real star of the show isn’t either of the two new devices, but rather the newly refreshed OS. Retaining the code name from Android 4.1, 4.2 is a revamped version of Jelly Bean. Despite the lack of name change, 4.2 offers various new and exciting features. Join us as we take a closer look at some of the highlights!

 

Photo Sphere and Camera UI Improvements

Not too long ago, Google gave us native support for panoramic photos with the launch of ICS. However, in their eyes, a standard panoramic shot doesn’t properly convey the feeling of actually being there. Photo Sphere takes us one step closer.

Once Photo Sphere mode is enabled, the app first guides you as you move your device to capture the entire scene. By using the same technology employed by Google Maps Street View, Photo Sphere then stitches the shots into a 360-degree view that allows you to pan and zoom, as you would in Street View.  Those wishing to look at photo spheres from photographers around the would can do so as well.

In addition to Photo Sphere, the Camera app’s UI also been updated with gesture controls. Thanks to the gestures, the interface no longer obscures the photo being taken with various controls. Instead, the app now makes full use of the screen real estate so that you can take better photos.

 

Gesture Typing

Taking a page from Swype’s play book, the new keyboard built into Android 4.2 has slide gesture functionality. The heavily revised keyboard differentiates itself from current versions of Swype, however, by showing predictions in real time, as you slide around your fingers.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen real time gesture recognitiondubstep aside. That said, the interface looks to be better on Google’s latest offering, but the real test will be in actual day to day usage. The dictionaries have also been updated, as has voice recognition.

 

 

 

Multi-User

Remember all the buzz about enabling multi-user support on Android? Apparently, Google does too. We all knew this was coming; it was only a matter of “when.”

Well, it’s finally here. Multi-User support has finally made its way to the OS officially. Each user is given his or her own personal space, complete with a customized home screen, background, widgets, apps, and games. While we don’t have access to the source code to verify, this is likely accomplished by sectioning off the /data partition between users. Interestingly, switching between user profiles is done via fast user switching, rather than completely logging in and out.

Naturally, this feature is only available / practical on tablets, but you can bet your bacon that this will find its way to phones in the coming months, after 4.2 is released to AOSP.

 

TV Connect

Many were disappointed to learn that the Nexus Q was only able to stream Google Play content rather than supporting full device mirroring. Problem, no more. In Android 4.2, users will be able to wirelessly mirror their displays to various supported devices.

While we can’t speak in regards to additional functionality for Google’s enigmatic black orb, we can say that this will truly be a useful feature if executed properly. The underlying technology is the new industry standard Miracast, which was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and is based on Wi-Fi Direct.

 

DayDream

A fun, new feature present in 4.2 allows your device to display photo albums, news, and more when your device is docked.

 

Quick Settings

Remember AP’s video showing the “future site of quick settings?” It’s finally here. Google has now added a separate panel to the notification bar that can be accessed by a two-finger swipe from the top of the screen or simple button tap in the upper right corner if the notification tray is extended. Once summoned, it gives you quick access to user accounts, brightness, device settings, WiFi, Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, Battery, and Wireless Display.

 

Lock Screen Widgets

Much as we have seen in third party applications, Android now natively supports widgets on the lock screen. In fact, you can now add several pages of widgets to your device’s lock screen, essentially giving you a home screen—before you get to your home screen. Memetastic.

 

 

Enhanced Google Now

Google Now was also updated with more cards. A good example of this is how the software can pick out shipping updates and flight details from your email, and display them in a context-relevant manner. This, however, is not exclusively tied with the updated OS, as those with devices running 4.1 can access the update today.

 

Head over to the Android What’s New page to learn more, and be sure to check out the newly created forums for the Nexus 4 and 10 when you have the chance. Which features are you most excited for? Leave a comment below letting us know!

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