updated 03:03 pm EDT, Mon October 29, 2012
New version brings new camera app, multiple accounts
Along with its new Nexus smartphone and Nexus tablets revealed today, Google announced the newest version of its Android operating system, version 4.2 Jelly Bean. As version 4.2 is an iterative update, it retains the Jelly Bean moniker introduced with version 4.1. The new version brings a number of new features, including multiple user accounts for tablets and improvements to the camera app.
The main addition to the camera app in version 4.2 is a native 360-degree panorama capability. Google dubs the feature "photo sphere," and users can simply activate the feature and then rotate in a circle holding their phone. The feature works both horizontally and vertically, and on-screen guides help ensure that users capture a steady and continuous image. Unlike traditional panorama implementations, though, the photo sphere feature allows users to capture information on two axes, resulting in a spherical image that gives the feature its name.
The new version also integrates an improved keyboard that implements Gesture Typing, a Swype-like feature allowing users to drag a finger from letter to letter in order to enter a word. The keyboard anticipates and predicts words, letting users complete entire sentences with suggested words. Google also claims to have updated its dictionaries in order to make them more accurate and relevant. Also seeing improvements is the voice typing feature, which Google claims works better than before. The voice typing feature also works offline.
Android tablets will now also feature the option for multiple user accounts. These will allow users to each have their own homescreen, background, widgets, apps, and games. Google also claims that switching between user accounts will be fast and simple, as it relies on Android's core multitasking capabilities.
Other features announced in the update include the ability to share wirelessly from an Android device's screen, as well as new interface options for notifications. The update also brings a feature called Daydream, allowing devices to display photo albums, news, and more information when docked or idle.
The update will ship with the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, and new Nexus 7 when those devices are released. It will presumably land on other Nexus devices in the near future, though Google has yet to announce specific timeframes.