Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Review

Image © Allison Joyce/Stringer: Getty Images.

March 20, 2013

Google Android seems to have adopted a different OS version release strategy this year. Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, had arrived in 2011. That version received a warm welcome from both app developers and mobile users alike. Instead of going on to version 5.0, though, Google decided to release mini versions of subsequent updates, each featuring a little surprise for its audience, probably allowing developers and users to get accustomed to each upcoming version.

Android 4.1 hit the market in mid-2012. Now we have yet another delicious version of the OS, Android 4.2, also referred to as the Jelly Bean.

The company has ironed out several of the previous versions' issues in its very latest update. Google obviously aims at reaching a much wider global audience than ever before, while also preventing the latest OS’ from toppling its current formidable market position. So what is this version all about? Is it really all that worth it? Here is a review of the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS.

Appearance-Wise

 

Jelly Bean appears to be much like Ice Cream Sandwich at first glance. However, it is notably more powerful than all its predecessors. Google cleverly avoids trouble with Apple’s “slide right to unlock” patent, by permitting users to swipe left to access the camera feature. The rest of the swipe features include standard Android gestures.

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General UI

 

The latest Android OS version enables users to customize the placing of widgets on any screen, in the way they desire to see it. What is more; these widgets can even be resized according to user preference. One issue, however, is that all the apps may not render properly on tablets.

The company would hopefully address the problem in the near future.

The new version also makes it easier for visually challenged users to use Gesture Mode in order to navigate the UI, by making use of sound and touch input. Google provides APIs to developers to work with this functionality as well, and create support for pairing external Braille devices with smartphones and tablets.

Notification API

 

Jelly Bean has introduced a new API for developers to take full advantage of this UI element. Exhibiting a clean and uncluttered interface, the notifications are bigger in size, thereby making them more readable. Dragging two fingers up and down the screen lets users browse all the UI elements, without having to flip through the entire set of options on the screen. While this two-finger action is exclusive to Android’s preloaded apps, this is bound to change in the near future with developers creating third-party apps for this OS.

A mere tap on the right-hand corner reveals a plethora of quick settings options, which you can use to play around with network settings, view data usage, adjust screen brightness and much more. Jelly Bean also gives users the one-tap option of hiding or disabling unwanted apps and notifications.​

Project Butter

 

Google’s engineers have worked diligently on “Project Butter”, incorporating it into Jelly Bean, thus making it as smooth and hassle-free as the Apple iOS. The “vsync timing” feature enables the device to register much faster frame rates, intuitively trying to guess the user’s next move across the UI.

While device users would only note that the UI is smoother and responds much faster, this feature is most advantageous to developers; especially those who create advanced apps involving graphics and sound.

Google Now

 

Another new and very desirable feature included in Android 4.2 is Google Now, which brings users fast searching, along with displaying information which is most relevant to them. Requiring no special setup, this feature offers to help users with practically all their day-to-day tasks, such as creating an event on the calendar, displaying the exact location of the event, then taking the user to the next appointment, also letting them know how long it would take to traverse that distance, if necessary.

Much like Siri, though not quite so efficient, Google Now currently includes updates for events and appointments; traffic and weather updates; currency and translation services; location-based information and much more.

Keyboard

 

Jelly Bean also comes with a speedier and much more efficient virtual keyboard, with improved text-to-speech conversion abilities. Voice typing finally needs no data connection and gesture typing, also known as Swype, makes the whole process of typing faster and much more trouble-free.

Android Beam

 

Andriod Beam offers users the NFC or Near Field Communication feature. This is good, but is no more novel to the user. This new OS version allows users to share contacts, photos, videos and other files and other information with each other, by touching their Android devices back-to-back.

The drawback here is that the feature is not supported by the earlier versions of this OS, and will work only with other Jelly Bean devices.

Bottom Line

 

Jelly Bean is not a stunningly remarkable improvement over its immediate predecessor, the Ice Cream Sandwich. However, there are several factors in favor of this operating system. The general enhancement of the UI, “Project Butter” and the Notifications feature scores the highest marks. Google Now is fast right now, but has scope to improve with the passage of time.

The greatest disadvantage with Android, yet, is that it does not offer users as many security options as Apple’s iOS. It also does not include built-in options for tracing lost or stolen devices.

The negatives notwithstanding, Google has undoubtedly delivered a winner with its Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update. It would most importantly emerge successful in bridging the OS version gap, which has, up until now, created severe fragmentation problems for the company.