My review of Android 4.2 (Nexus 7 & Galaxy Nexus)
I just wrote a review on my blog, thought I'd share it here. After playing around with the latest version, I'm going back to Android 4.1. Details below.
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Note: I've edited out most of the cursing and did not upload pics in here (too lazy to upload them again)
What I like about Android 4.2
- Improved camera interface with quick access to camera settings
- Gesture-typing keyboard
What I don't like about Android 4.2
- Unintuitive and ugly lockscreen changes
- Split notification bar on tablets
- Quick toggles access is unintuitive. Quick toggles can't be customized.
Here's a quick list of improvements, features, and changes in Android 4.2
- Lockscreen: the font of the hour numeral is now in bold. Added ability to add widgets to the lockscreen and swipe left or right between them. Google Now can now be accessed from the lockscreen by dragging up from the home button instead of the lock button
- Improved Gmail app - pinch-zooming, gestures
- Gesture typing, similar to Swype, added to the keyboard
- Developer options removed from the settings menu. Can be brought back by tapping on the "Build number" under "About phone" menu in Settings.
- (Nexus 7) Screen-off animation now has a fade effect instead of an old tv shut-off effect.
- Google Now can now use your emails to provide more useful information and more cards, e.g: hotel & restaurant reservations, UPS tracking, more local events, etc.
- Wireless display mirroring via Miracast.
- Daydream screensavers while charging or docked
- Accessibility improvements: triple-tap to magnify the whole screen, navigate with 2 fingers while zoomed
- Improved Clock app: improved UI, has basic clock, alarm, timer, and count-down clock
- Improved camera app: simplified UI, camera settings can now be accessed by tapping and holding anywhere on the screen. New Photo Sphere mode lets you take full panoramic photos, not just 180-degree horizontal photos.
- Notification bar is split on tablets: swipe down on the left for notifications; swipe down on the right for quick toggles. Phone get a button to switch between notifications and quick toggles.
So, lets start with the first thing you see after loading into Android 4.2.
At first sight, you might not even tell the difference between Android 4.1 lockscreen and 4.2 lockscreen. The thing that did stand out to me at first sight was that clock widget on top. It might look the same as the previous version, except Google has decided to make the hour numeral in bold font. I'm not sure what the hell Google's design team was smoking when they thought that was a good look and an "improvement". It looks weird and out of place. There was nothing wrong with the old clock widget on Android 4.1; why change something that's not broken in any way?
Thankfully, another addition to the lockscreen lets you change that ugly *** stock widget. You now have an ability to set custom widgets on the lockscreen. You can even delete the stock widget. Stock widgets include calendar, gmail, and sound search. Third-party developers have already started updating their widget apps to support the new lockscreen widgets in Jelly Bean. At the time of this review, UCCW and HD Widgets for tablets, have both been updated.
Another small change is the way you access Google Now. Instead of swiping the lock up, you now swipe up from the home button. To some extent, it feels unintuitive because you now have to deal with two separate buttons. Just like the aforementioned bold font, this change seems unnecessary. Was there really an outcry from Android fans to change the clock widget and Google Now access point? Not only does it look ugly now, but it makes the lockscreen somewhat pointless since there are now more ways of unlocking your phone and accidentally doing something while the phone or tablet is in your pocket.
Another update was pinch to zoom in Gmail. Although, you first have to enable it in gmail settings. Why the hell wouldn't Google have this on by default? It works ok. You still have to double-click after zooming in. Performance-wise, scrolling and panning around the email message seems to have been improved. Although, the slight lag I've experienced before Android 4.2 might have been because I was running a custom ROM (AOKP JB Milestone 1). Another small addition to Gmail is archiving emails by swiping them left or right.
Google has always been improving it's Android keyboard. Each update seemed to update the responsiveness, prediction, and the overall look of it. For Android 4.2, Google has done all of that but also added an amazing feature which makes typing on a touch-screen keyboard easier than ever - gesture typing. Pretty much the same as Swype, the new Android 4.2 keyboard lets you slide your finger across the keyboard, from letter to letter, typing long sentences in a matter of seconds. It works great; prediction seems to be pretty good. I only had a couple of mistakes, usually on curse words; but it works great nonetheless. The only major downside of this new keyboard is that there are still no symbols on the main keyboard so you can long-press them. Instead you still have to switch between letters and numbers/symbols windows. Overall, this is one of the major updates in Android 4.2, and it's a welcomed one.
Notification bar & quick toggles
And now let me share some thoughts on the most backwards-assed change/feature in this new Android update. On tablets, the notification bar is now split. Left side is for actual notifications. While the right side is for quick-toggles. I thought Google's Android team might have smoked some bad ganja when they came up with those unnecessary changes to the lockscreen, now I think they might have been on some bath salts... First of all, why the hell did they split the notification bar and quick toggles in to two separate windows, when pretty much every major mobile manufacturer that uses Android has quick toggles right on top of the notification window?! Not only is it unintuitive, but you can't even customize the toggles. And to add more to that pile of crap, WiFi and bluetooth toggles take you to their settings windows.
What's wrong with having quick toggles on top of the notification window? The above image is from my Galaxy Nexus running AOKP. All quick toggles are on top of the notification window, and even with a weather widget on top, there's still plenty room left for actual notifications. This really is the gamebreaker for me!
A simple clock app seems kind of insignificant compared to all of the features in Android, but Google has somehow managed to make this basic app relevant. The app received a small facelift and a couple of new features. The new clock app now has 3 windows: countdown timer, clock & alarm, and stopwatch. Honestly, I don't even remember if the old one had these features or not, never really used the clock app. Setting an alarm now presents you with a simple dialer instead of that 2-digit roller. The new, revamped clock app, feels more simplified than the old one. But it's still just a clock app... Moving on...
There's an interesting new accessibility feature that allows you to triple-tap anywhere on the screen to zoom in. It seems to work everywhere I tried. And it works well. You can pan around the screen with two fingers. Tapping links or apps, or anything really, still works while you're zoomed in. A nice feature for those with eyesight problems.
Save the best for last! Well, last major feature/change anyway. To start, the whole interface has been simplified and amassed into an elegant, clean UI. The bottom bar has been completely removed. The shutter button is still in the same place. And it's still neon blue. On the bottom left you still have your capture type selection. The usual capture modes are still there: photo, video, panorama, however, there's now another capture mode - PhotoSphere.
PhotoSphere allows you to take full 360-degree panorama shots, up and down. Meaning you can take a single panorama shot of everything around, above, and below you. In practice it works ok. I did a quick test of it, taking a pic of my room. It came out ok. The usual panorama issues were present - low quality photo and compiling issues.
180-degree and 360-degree panoramas look good, although, the latter had some compiling issues. Not sure if that's even the right way of putting it; the second picture had some issues combing the frames into one picture.
One other cool feature of PhotoSphere is the ability to create a "planet" of a panorama shot. It basically takes the photo and wraps it into a ball, creating what resembles a planet (or a weird-looking eye in this case). I'd show the "planet" of my room as well, but I don't want to make it look even worse than it already does.
PhotoSphere is nice and all, but the real standout feature/change for me is the new way of accessing camera settings. You can click and hold anywhere on that camera screen to access a circle of settings. Then, all you do is swipe for whatever setting you want, and then swipe again to change it. It's hard to explain with words. It's something you have to experience for your self. But trust me when I tell you, this is the most intuitive way of quickly changing camera settings. Now you don't have to write down a step-by-step guide to access your exposure levels, or HDR, or anything else you might want. The new circle settings make it as easy as possible! You can still access camera settings by clicking the small circle on the bottom right, but...why? Anyway, to sum up my feelings towards the new camera features and changes, I'd just say it in the most basic terms possible - I ing love the new camera features in Android 4.2!
Small changes & features
In Android 4.2, Google Now can tap into your Gmail and add any useful info into Google Now's cards. I've personally experienced this when I ordered something from NewEgg and received an email with UPS tracking number. Google Now had a UPS tracking card. Sorry, no screenshot, but it's a small update after all.
Screen off animation
On the Nexus 7, the screen off animation has been changed. It used to be the same as it was on the phone - the old-tv shut off animation effect. Now it's a simple fade away effect. I liked the old one more, it was unique.
Useless eye candy
Google has added some worthless screensaver feature called Daydream. All it does is display a screensaver while the device is charging or docked. I'm sure everybody screamed and jumped for joy when heard about this feature...
Miracast screen sharing
Another new feature here lets you wirelessly share your Android device's screen with a tv using Miracast. I don't have a Miracast-enabled tv, so there's not much I can say here.
Developer options hidden by default
Google has decided that average people shouldn't be messing with developer options because, well, those are for developers, ie, people who actually know what the hell those options are and what they used for. I tend to agree. You don't want your mom accidentally toggling "layout bounds" and then going mental because her phone now resembles a Pacman level. I personally don't mind having Dev options shown, but then again, the only things I touch there are "USB debugging" for rooting my phone, and "Show touches" for an extra visual feedback on my touches.
I don't think Google likes New Year's holidays...
That's the only reason I see for why they left out December out of the "Events" field in contacts app (I mean People app). How did they eff this up?! They didn't even change anything about the People app!
Even though I love the new camera features and the new gesture-typing keyboard, it's the unintuitive and ugly lockscreen along with a split notification bar that makes me want to roll back to the previous version of Android. Not only are the changes to the lockscreen and notification window massive fails (in my view), but they also seem unnecessary. Lockscreen widgets and quick toggles in notification window can already be done with simple apps. I am going back to Android 4.1 (AOKP) but I am taking that camera with me (by flashing a 4.2 addon).
Leave a comment if I missed some feature or if you have a different take on Android 4.2. :)
Galaxy Nexus - rooted, Android 4.2
Nexus 7 - not rooted, Android 4.2