When I bought my Nexus 7 and my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I did so with the anticipation of getting all the latest and greatest from Google as soon as it was ready… well, I haven’t been disappointed. This past week both of my Nexus devices got their upgrades to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.
The phone and tablet versions are very similar, so unless I specify otherwise, everything I go over here will apply to both.
Upon waking up a 4.2 device you will immediately notice a change with the lock screen. First the clock style has changed slightly giving the “hour” digits a bolder font than the “minutes”, also the date is in bold font, and if you have an alarm set it will on the same line but in the non bold font.
The lock screen is actually now lock screens, and act like your normal home screens that swipe left and right allowing for one widget per screen. Another change to the lock screen is the location of the Google Now and Camera shortcuts. Google Now has been moved to the bottom center where the Home button would be and where Now is usually accessed from. The Camera (on the phone version), by default is accessed by swiping the lock screen to the right.
The Notification Shade has been updated as well with the addition of Quick Settings. These new settings shortcuts are accessed a little differently on a phone and tablet. On a tablet you get to notifications by swiping down on the left side of the bar, the quick settings are accessed by swiping down from the right side of the bar.
On a phone this is a little different. Swipe down with 1 finger to get the notifications or swipe down with 2 fingers to access the quick settings. Or you can also switch between the two by touching the icon on the top right. It changes depending on which screen you are on.
The stock keyboard in Android 4.2 adds gesture typing by default. Basically this is Google’s version of Swype. The nice thing about it is, there’s no need to switch keyboards. You can type normally when you like or use the gesture typing whenever you like, plus it uses your user dictionary. If you are unfamiliar with Swype or gesture typing, it allows you to type by gliding a finger from letter to letter. You’ll see a trail follow your finger and a pop up showing the word Google thinks you’re typing.
Daydreams are similar to screensaver on your PC. You’ll find settings for these in the Display area of settings. You can set the Daydream to activate when your device is charging or docked (or both), and will appear instead of the lock screen when your device is set to put the screen to sleep. If you lock the screen the Daydream won’t appear.
Camera and Gallery
The new camera app has been completely redesigned with the view finder now taking up the full screen. The focus area is now represented by an animated circle and all the camera options for Flash, Brightness, front or rear camera switching and Settings are accessed by touching and holding the screen and the sliding to the option you want. A new camera mode called Photo Sphere has been adding allowing yo to create a 360 degree panoramic photo. Simply align the little blue dots the view finder shows you to create your photo.
The Gallery has received an update as well, adding more features for photo editing and a refreshed “filmstrip view” mode that can be accessed via pinching a photo while viewing it in the gallery.
So, even though Android 4.2 keeps the Jelly Bean name, it’s much more than just an incremental upgrade. In fact, it’s packed full of great new features while retaining its fast and smooth look and feel. Google has taken what they started with Ice Cream Sandwich and ramped it up to a whole new level. So, if you have a Nexus tablet or a Samsung Galaxy Nexus or LG Nexus 4 enjoy your new features, otherwise you’ll have to wait for your phone manufacturer and service carrier to roll out your update. You could also look into a custom ROM for your phone once they start using Android 4.2.