October 30, 2012

The New Nexus Devices And Android 4.2, Jellybean

We all knew it was coming, and we pretty much knew what to expect. But now everything is official. Yesterday, Google announced 2 new devices, upgraded versions of the popular Nexus 7, and even a new version of Android. Read on more to find out what's new!

The LG Nexus 4
The Nexus 4, which is made by LG, is the follow-up to the Galaxy Nexus, but with specs and a price that is hard to beat. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad core processor to process its 4.7 inch 1280 x 768 (320 ppi) screen, and a 2,100 mAh Lithium polymer battery to power it all. The Nexus 4 has an 8MP camera (which will work well with Photo sphere, a new version in Android 4.2 which will be talked about later) and a 1.3MP front facing camera. Then there are the usual suspects- an accelerometer, compass, NFC, light sensor, and a barometer. Yes, you read that right, a barometer. It was seen in the Galaxy Nexus and here it is again. It helps with GPS, so your phone won't be replacing the weather stations- yet. And you want even more? There's wireless charging to top it off. And of course, Android 4.2.

So you're wondering, how much? You can get all this in an unlocked Nexus 4 from the Google Play store (8gb) starting at $299. And if you want more storage, you can have a 16gb model for $349. Both will be available starting November 13.

The Nexus 10
To summarize, the Nexus 10 is a low priced tablet with incredible specs. You get Android 4.2 on a 10.055 inch screen with an incredible resolution- 300 ppi (2560 x 1600). To put this into perspective, the new iPad mini is 163 ppi and the iPad with Retina display is 264 pixels per inch. Wow. The Nexus 10 features a dual-core A15 processor, and unlike the Nexus 7 it has a rear camera (5 MP) and it has a 1.9 MP front facing. There is much more this device has to offer, and you can find it on the Google Play store. On November 13 the devices go on sale. There are only Wi-Fi versions for now, and the 16GB version is $399 and the 32GB one is $499.

The Nexus 7
First of all, to eliminate any confusion, this is not an upgraded Nexus 7. The specs are the same, but the prices are different. The 8GB model has been dropped and replaced by the 16GB model (which is now available for $199). A 32GB version has been added for $249, and if you want one with mobile data, you can get a 32GB HSPA+ Nexus 7 for $299.

Android 4.2 (Jellybean)
As expected, with new Nexus devices comes a new version of Android. However, Android 4.1 was just released in July after Google I/O in June- so we weren't sure what to expect, and if a new version would be released at all! Well, that question has been answered. Android 4.2 is official, and it's still named Jellybean. However, just like 4.1, the 0.1 that has been added shouldn't be ignored. There is plenty to be excited about.

Photo sphere
Starting with Photo sphere, which was mentioned when talking about the Nexus 4 above. Photo sphere is essentially panorama on steroids. Or in other words, Google Street View on your phone. The phone stitches together multiple pictures to create an interactive imagine, far beyond an angle that a single picture could take. You can share it into Google+, where a special viewer has been added so you too can pan around on your desktop, and you can even share these on Google maps for the world to see.

Multiple users
Another noteworthy improvement is multiple users. Although this will only be available on tablets, it is still something worth mentioning. The multiuser support allows you to have multiple "accounts" on your tablet, similar to what a computer does with multiple accounts. Whatever apps you install and that app data is saved to your account, and so are all your settings.

Gesture mode
In Android 4.1, Google improved the stock keyboard by adding Swiftkey-like functionality. In 4.2 they're doing it again, except with Swype this time. Gesture typing, as it is called, allows you to swipe between letters and only lifting your finger after you finish the word. The keyboard then figures out what word you meant. This comes with benefits however- it figures out the word while you go, so you know exactly what Android thinks while you are typing. And you still get the word prediction. Nice!

Sharing to other screens
You can now share what is on your phone/tablet screen. The downside is that you need a wireless display adapter and an HDMI-enabled TV, but if you have this then you're all set.

Daydream is sort of a "screen saver" that can be shown when your device is idle or locked. You can show photo albums, news, and more.

If you need a break, take it. There's even more. And personally, these are the things I'm most excited for.

Starting off with quick settings. Many of the manufacturer skins by HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony, Motorola, and others already incorporate this, but I think this is the best implementation yet. It looks nice, and "flows" with the rest of the operating system and user interface that isn't too intrusive. On the top right of the drop down notification shade, a new button is visible. If you press it, you are presented with many quick settings. This is even accessible by using two fingers to open the notification shade rather than one. On the Nexus 10, swiping down from the right side gives these quick settings and swiping down from the left gives the notification shade.
Lock screen widgets

Another addition to look forward to are the widgets on the lock screen. We haven't seen any official videos from Google yet (but this is briefly shown in the video posted by The Verge), but it looks very interesting. Basically you can put widgets on your lock screen that can swipe between to get information without unlocking your phone.

Then of course, there's Google Now. First shown to us in Android 4.1, and now it's better than ever. Google Now now digs into your Gmail data as well. Here are some of the new things it can get from your emails:

  • Flights
  • Restaurant reservations
  • Hotel confirmations
  • Events
  • Tracking packages
Other than Gmail, it also has new features such as:
  • Nearby attractions and photo spots
  • Movies, concerts, and more
  • News and stocks
You're also getting new voice actions to launch apps, schedule meetings, and check when your next appointment is.

If this isn't making you throw your money at the screen, then hopefully these smaller but major improvements will put you over the edge:
  • Pinch to zoom in the Gmail app
  • Quick settings in the camera by long pressing the screen

Check out The Verge's inside look: