Earlier this week, my Nexus 7 received the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update from Google. It was an update that I had waited for ever since Google revealed the software in a hasty announcement back in October and one that I was hoping would give me even more reason to use my 7-inch slate. After spending several days extensively using the software, it’s safe to say that while Android 4.2 isn’t a massive upgrade over the original version of Jelly Bean, Android 4.1, it’s a useful one nonetheless, especially for Android tablet owners.
Up until a few days ago, I thought Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was Google’s best piece of mobile software to date. However, after spending an absurd amount of time poking around its new operating system for its mobile devices, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, it’s safe to say that there is a new king in town.
Android 4.2 is able to build upon Android 4.1 with a host of useful features and without sacrifice. And while there are some head scratches, for the most part, the new version of Jelly Bean is a delight to use.
Again, those expecting the world from Android 4.2 are going to be let down. This is not a massive Android upgrade chock full of features, enhancements and more. What it is though is a refinement of an operating system that truly is Google’s best yet.
The wait for Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie might be long, but with the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the wait will be much easier.
Android 4.1 promised a smooth, fast user interface to phone and tablet users. Google delivered on that promise as Android 4.1 was much smoother and faster than the UI found in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
That feeling is the same in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Google has managed to add a bunch of useful features, including some UI enhancements, without sacrificing the speed of the operating system.
Navigating from app to app is seamless and smooth, as it should be, in Android 4.2. Browsing the web, I haven’t experienced any hiccups. Switching between my home screens is fluid. So, in other words, the overall performance on my Nexus 7 is how it should be.
The only issue I ran into was one time, when switching between user accounts, the operating system slowed down. It never happened again and it was right after I set the account up. So, I’ll chalk that up as an anomaly.
So far, so good. I typically get around eight to nine hours of use from the Nexus 7 when I’m in my normal routine of checking emails, playing games, browsing the web, reading a magazine and so on. That battery life improves when I am less active and I often am able to get around 10 hours. And this is about what I’ve got with Android 4.2.
Battery life staying as it was may not seem like a big deal but after experiencing battery drain after updating many of mobile devices with the latest hardware, I’ll take the status quo every time.
I talked to a lot of Nexus 7 owners who were a bit worried about the first major update for the Nexus 7. Nexus devices, because they are developer devices and get the updates first, are often plagued by issues. For example, with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I experienced a host of issues with the first version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Sometimes being a guinea pig for Google isn’t fun.
Fortunately, with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, I haven’t experienced any major issues nor have I seen any Nexus 7 owners complaining about a plethora of bugs. I’ve heard and see some users complaining about a Bluetooth issue as well as an over sensitive auto-brightness function but thus far, neither of those bugs are affecting my device.
Features I Love
There are quite a few features in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Some I find to be extremely useful, and some I find to be extremely useless.
Obviously, I know the sentiments about these features won’t be the same for everybody who owns a Nexus 7 running Android 4.2 but these first few features are the ones that I found myself returning to over and over again in the past few days. I expect that trend to continue as time goes on.
This may seem like a crazy claim but the new Multiple User feature that Google included in Android 4.2 might even be my favorite overall Android feature. I might be a bit overzealous but this has really opened up a new world with my Nexus 7.
My girlfriend and I both own iPads. And while we both use them extensively for work, both of us find the 7-inch form factor to be much more manageable when we want to quickly pick up a table to browse the web for an item or read an article or a book. However, because I am constantly downloading applications and shifting things around, she often finds navigating through my home screens to be a painful experience.
No more. Not with this multiple user function. Now, I have set up a separate account for her where she can customize here home screens to her liking. That way, she gets her own personalized experience and never has to ask where something is again.
This is huge as it now means that we essentially have one table that operates as two. Not bad for a $250 tablet.
Another feature that I have used constantly is something called Quick Settings which is a neat little menu that appears when the Notification Bar is swiped down on the far right side. And what I like about is that I no longer have to go into the Nexus 7’s Settings menu to fiddle with the settings that I change the most. If you’ve ever used the Settings on an Android devices, you’d know that sometimes, finding what you want to change can be a pain.
With Quick Settings, I am headache free. And those gray hairs? Well, those are genetic. I am easily able to change my Wi-Fi connection if I take my Nexus 7 out. I can turn down auto brightness of my display to conserve battery or turn it up when I need some extra light.
It’s simple and useful, and who doesn’t love simple and useful?
Lock Screen Widgets
Like many of you, I get a lot of email. And any tool that allows me to simplify my Inbox is a welcomed feature indeed. With Android 4.2’s new lock screen widgets, I am able to do just that. I get a quick preview of my Inbox on my lock screen so that I can see what’s there before I even have to unlock my device. As you can see in the photo, there is really no reason to check my personal account.
Lock screen widgets also allow me to easily view my calendar, look at the date or search for a song. I imagine more functionality will arrive in later updates but as it stands, I’ve found these to be useful additions without cluttering up the gorgeous Android lock screen.
Features That Are Growing on Me
There are also some features that I am still on the fence about. While not terrible, I just can’t decide whether I’ll be using them as extensively as the features above.
Google Now, one of the main features of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, caught my eye from the start. Problem is, like Siri, I used it for a bit, only to watch it fade away into obscurity on my device. And by obscurity I mean quickly swiping away the predictive ‘cards’ that it offers. With the latest update, Google has added some interesting features, particularly the ability to easily track packages.
As someone who has an unhealthy Amazon habit, this is a big deal and it already has me using Google Now more than I ever have. It also has started making some useful recommendations for places nearby.
While I am not one hundred percent certain that I will be using it every single day, I can tell you this. I will be using it more than Siri.
As someone who never got into gesture keyboards like Swype, trying to use the new gesture swiping on the stock Android keyboard has been a challenge. But because the keyboard is so accurate and easy to use, it’s growing on me and I think I might continue this sort of half regular, half gesture typing thing that I have going on.
Features That Need Work
For the most part, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is a fantastic operating system. There is one advertised feature though that I’ve found to be incredibly useless. At least for now.
Daydream is essentially a screensaver that allows users to display anything from a clock to colors to news stories from Google Currents when the device is docked or being charged. It’s a nice touch but I really don’t think it should have been a featured feature. Until it gets more functionality, I won’t be using it.
And to think, Google decided to advertise this over Quick Settings.
Should You Install It?
Without a doubt, users who are fortunate enough to receive the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update should install it when it arrives. The fact that I am using 99% of its features on a daily basis should tell you something about how useful this update is.
Simply put, Android’s best operating system just got better.
Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie most likely though that update likely won’t arrive until next year. There are no concrete rumors out there about the update though I know of one thing I’d love to see Google include.
Some of the Android 4.2 features, the Multiple Users function especially, are hard to find. (It took me far longer to track down than I am willing to admit.) It would be fantastic to see Google make some of these features more visible for first time users.
What do you want to see in Android 5.0?