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My Thoughts on Android 4.2

Android 4.2 is Google’s next major release of Android. Like the last major release, Android 4.2 is still being called Jelly Bean. However, there are plenty of improvements with this revision of Android for it to be called an update. Android 4.2 is currently available on the Nexus 10, Nexus 7, Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus.

Google try to keep a consistent user interface on their Android phones and tablets. In early 2011, Google released Android 3.0 Honeycomb with a completely different user interface for tablet devices. That user interface is still used on many Android tablets today and I think it works better on larger displays. However, what Google are doing now will be less confusing to the average user, and to their credit, Google are making some changes to the user interface to make it less like that of a stretched out smartphone.

One key problem with Android is lag. Android doesn’t seem as smooth as iOS. This is because there are hundreds of Android devices, all with different hardware configurations. Google can’t just optimise Android to run smoothly on all devices with Processor A inside, because it will then perform poorly on a device with Processor B. Google have tried to fix that in Android 4.1 and above with Project Butter, but they still aren’t quite there yet. The key problems at the moment are multitasking lag and the slight delay with touch responses.

There are three main features Google have added to Android 4.2. Google have added lock screen widgets which can be accessed from a swipe down from the large clock, and with left and right swipes to move between different widgets. At the moment, there are only a few Google widgets that are available on the lock screen. However, third party widget support will probably be added very soon.

The second feature added in Android 4.2 is a set of quick settings in the notification panel. The quick settings panel can be accessed on tablets by swiping down on the right side of the notification bar. It can be accessed on smartphones with a two finger swipe on the notification bar, or a one finger swipe and a tap on an icon in the top right corner. However, those quick settings can’t be customised, and I prefer having the buttons for quick settings above my notifications. I expect Google will add options to customise this in a future release of Android.

The third feature Google have added is multiple user support for tablets. This is good for families who buy a tablet device to share. Each user can have their own high scores in the games they like, and they will no longer have to log out of each other’s social networking accounts. However, it would have been nice to see that feature on smartphones. It was left out because smartphones are more personal, and they sometimes have less storage. However, young children generally don’t have smartphones and like to play games on their parent’s phone.

One thing I should point out is that Google decided not to release Android 4.2 for the Nexus S or the Motorola Xoom. It has not been confirmed yet whether Google have completely dropped support for those devices, but that is what it looks like. If this is true, it will be a shame. Both those devices definitely have the hardware required for Andriod 4.2 and will be seeing unofficial ports to Android 4.2 in the near future. However, I think that all mobile devices should get at least 3 years of official software support.

Overall, Android is fine for the average user. Besides the lag, Android is fairly easy to use, and the user interface is both simple and very functional. An Android device can do most, if not all of what you will want to do on an iPhone and in some cases, an Android device will only cost a 10th of the price. However, smart people will know the best smartphone on the market will cost them more than £50. Hopefully, they will buy a Nexus device and get updates and performance improvements as soon as they are released.

UPDATE: I have since found out that Android 4.2 already has support for third party lock screen widgets. Some developers have integrated third party widgets into their apps.

Posted on Tuesday 27th November 2012 - Leave a comment