Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review
Introduction

Android 4.2 is a new flavor of Jelly Bean. Those are the words that probably best describe the newest of Google’s mobile platform.

4.2 is not a revolutionary leap in Android. It is more of a feature pack on top of the 4.1 Jelly Bean. It arrived with little hype - no dedicated event, not even a change in the name, not a single big feature that would catch the eye.

But with all that, Google has managed to be the most aggressive company when it comes to rolling out updates, steady and methodical, quietly bulking up on features. While 4.1 was all about Project Butter and speed, 4.2 moves the focus back to the user. Google has improved Jelly Bean in virtually every aspect where it needed the extra coat of polish: the camera UI, lockscreen with widgets, clock app, keyboard and security.

With all that, is it the most mature operating system out there and how does it fare against iOS and Windows Phone? When will it come to your device? And finally, when Google updates Android, does this make a sound in the Android ecosystem? Let’s dive right in and try to answer all those questions.


Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review
4.2 Jelly Bean: The new features

1. Camera

It’s hard to pick one particular feature we love the most about Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, but when you consider recent studies that it is the camera that is the most used feature in phones nowadays, let’s start with it. Google has rebuilt the camera interface with a new radial menu that appears whenever and wherever you tap while in the camera app. It allows you to fine tune Flash usage, Exposure, White Balance and Switch between cameras with a single finger, and is extremely convenient.

The second big update is the addition of Photo Sphere, a 360-degree panorama mode, that Google lifted from its Street View Maps team. The technology is similar to Microsoft’s Photosynth, but without the proprietary file formats. It is quick and works very well in most situations. It won’t always stitch everything perfectly, though. We had some issues with evening out the white balance in shots, and of course it does not work well when there are moving objects in the image.

But what strikes us the most is the fact that the camera feels snappier to use even for single shots. We’ve been running Android 4.2 on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and while its camera was fast, it seemed even quicker to capture multiple shots after the update.

You also get a bunch of Instagram-like filters that come built in the Gallery application. Not just that, there are tons of editing options starting with most basic cropping and rotating the image, to deeper tweaks - levels, contrasts and other adjustments. All of this is recorded into a full history of your actions so you can revert back to earlier stages of your image manipulations. This is great news for photography enthusiasts.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review
2. Lockscreen widgets

4.2 Jelly Bean brings widgets to the lockscreen. Android phone makers like Samsung and HTC have long been trying to fix the static lock screen in stock Android, adding some shortcuts to it, but now Google finally solves this problem. You can now sidescroll right to go into the camera and left to look at widgets. Out of the box there are only four widgets that you can add to the lockscreen, but third-party apps have already started offering lockscreen widgets, so in addition to the stock Gmail for example, you can have say a Twitter widget (via Plume for instance). Good news is that all of those lockscreen widgets are dynamically updated in the background. Whenever you receive a new email you can check it out straight from the lockscreen widget and without going into the mail app.

One word of caution though. Lockscreen widgets do not require a password. Even if you have your device password-protected, anyone can see the widgets without being asked for a password. That means that if you have a Gmail lockscreen widget, anyone who picks up your phone can read your emails on the widget (not in the app, though). This is not a bug, this is a feature. It is there for your convenience, so if you are concerned about the privacy of your email the solution is simple - don’t use those lockscreen widgets that reveal your information.

We love the idea of lockscreen widgets so you can check out basic things like the time and weather without having to unlock your device. However as it is right now, Google allows only one widget per screen. You can’t have two widgets on the same screen. Imagine you want a Twitter and Gmail widget on a single lockscreen panel. That is not possible in the lockscreen right now. We really hope Google fixes this in an update soon, allowing for more than one widget on a single lockscreen panel.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review
3. Quick Settings

Next on the list of updates is Quick Setting, a menu of the most oft used toggles and shortcuts, designed to save the average user a trip to Settings. You bring this by either scrolling down from the top to bottom with two fingers, or bringing the notification shade and pressing the Quick Button icon in the top right corner.

Those are welcome additions - displaying things like the battery percentage, and allowing to set the screen brightness, but we do feel that Google could have easily gone with direct toggles for some of the things. Instead we get shortcuts. One glaring example is brightness. Instead of a brightness slider right into the menu, you have to first tap on a shortcut, and only then you get to adjust the screen brightness. That might be picking the nits, but we had to get it off our chests.

4. Updated Gmail

Gmail also gets a small, but very welcome update with features like "auto-fit messages." What this means is that instead of a zoomed-in version of emails, now all messages fit vertically so you only have to scroll up and down, and not left and right to see them. This is something we know from iOS, and a very simple and useful thing to have. The trick is though, that auto-fit is not automatically enabled. You have to go into Gmail settings and enable it from there.

You can also pinch to zoom inside messages, and in your inbox a simple swipe to the left or right archives messages, a very convenient way to clear up your mailbox.

5. New Clock app

4.2 also introduces a brand new Clock app. Finally, it brings native stopwatch and count-down timer, with a convenient number pad to quickly set the timer.

The alarm UI has been overhauled and vastly improved. Fonts are bigger, cleaner, easier to read. Setting multiple alarms is done in a straightforward transparent way. It is robust - you can set alarms repeating across days, hours, and with different ring tones.

Those who just can’t get enough sleep, can now snooze the alarm using the volume down button or with a simple swipe to the left. Hey, five minutes of extra sleep always count!


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37 Comments

1. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

I love android. Hope Galaxy Note II get that very soon

11. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Very soon equates to about three to six months.

17. MobileCaseReview

Posts: 242; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Probably near the end of the December with some fancing porting from alot of the devs. Plenty of roms are currently being worked on.

21. adelta90

Posts: 63; Member since: Sep 14, 2012

people who choose android very often dont wait for the manufacturer to release it, we just use AOSP till the manufacturer chooses to release the latest version

22. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I see a few commenters had to wait three to six months for the latest update.

25. AnTuTu

Posts: 1580; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Mxyzptlk:- Get a life brother.

27. tedkord

Posts: 17094; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

"Google is doing tremendous work on its operating system and keeps pushing the pedal with quick updates, and it seems that it has taken a confident lead in terms of features over iOS and Windows Phone." He reads that, and it bothers him, so he has a deep rooted need to say something negative about Android.

33. JasonJia11

Posts: 6; Member since: Dec 01, 2012

I see your name on just about every Android article trolling and hating on Android. You also said in one of your comments that you were an Apple fanboy. If you have so much time in your day to be hating on Android, why don't you go and read articles about how Apple is outdated, is getting old, and just plainly sucks? Get it into your head iSheep.

34. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Well he specialises in "Hit N Run" ... never comes back to reply or discuss :)

35. tedkord

Posts: 17094; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

What else can you do when the facts ruin contrary to your argument?

36. Airforce

Posts: 70; Member since: Jul 24, 2012

Apple has really inspired Android to go further and be the leading phone os

2. wendygarett unregistered

Wonderful review pa :) keep up the good work

3. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

The only 'bug' I have found is that even when my wifi is set to never turn on when device is asleep, the tablet will sometimes decide to 'wake up' and start using wifi....other than that is an excellent update.

4. Valdomero

Posts: 635; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

Too bad my GS2 won't get any updates :(

6. thelegend6657 unregistered

Good things come to those who waited . Just be patient . Thats what you get for not buying a nexus

9. SleepingOz unregistered

If you don't want to wait for the official updates, you can always flash it yourself..

10. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

FLASH IT

14. nyamo

Posts: 274; Member since: Mar 19, 2011

go over to xda and see whats cooking, i'm sure you'll get a port

37. eddo85

Posts: 11; Member since: Dec 03, 2012

i am using an aokp rom on my s2 and i am not missing touchwiz at all

5. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

=-O is that you Victor? You look nice :>

7. xfire99

Posts: 1205; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

Like the new 4 native lockscreen, swiping right for camera and the new security features. Gmail updates are also welcome. Bring it to Note 2 ASAP now pls.

8. plgladio

Posts: 314; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Victor: Is that you in IMG 17?

12. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

It may be a good review. However, just go surfing, and read about the pain on the a** this update has become. 1. The camera UI is hideous, annoying, and just plain ugly. 2. Widget screen just a total waste of time and energy. 3. Went from project butter to lags and slow as molasses, performance issues a sure bet. 4. Bluetooth disable, unable to use headphones and/or Bose speaker or Monster. My advise, just like iOS 5 users are on the sidelines until maps are repair, wait until Googles fixes all the bugs. Update will make you wish you were back using gingerbread.

18. Fallout09

Posts: 421; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I dont know what you are talking about with system lags. I updated my Nexus 7 and it performs better than ever.

13. yowanvista

Posts: 341; Member since: Sep 20, 2011

4.2.1 is out, fixes all those small bugs

15. nyamo

Posts: 274; Member since: Mar 19, 2011

4.2 is nice, but for those of us who have been using custom roms for years its not nearly as much of a gain. the toggles are semi useful but still not my cup of tea (perhaps they will grow on me).... as for the lock screen widgets, useless, especially since a lock screen still allows widgets to bypass and be used. but i digress, for the average user, 4.2 will be a wonderful update

16. AmitMajumder

Posts: 178; Member since: May 21, 2012

After John, Victor is the one who showed his face. Why doesn't everyone in PA show off their faces? Are they too shy??

19. ap1989

Posts: 145; Member since: Oct 12, 2011

Cant wait til my Gnex gets it. Android > iOASS

20. LOTR12

Posts: 13; Member since: Nov 04, 2012

Multi-user support is good for keeping "data" out of others reach. If you know what i mean!

23. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

By data you mean porn?

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