We’ve had a good picture of the hardware side of Google’s cancelled event in New York City for several weeks already. Courtesy of a number of leaks, we already knew of the LG-produced Nexus 4 smartphone, the Samsung-made Nexus 10 tablet and an update to the Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet. However, what we didn’t know were the specifics of their operating system, the updated Jelly Bean that got the version number of Android 4.2.
Google Now, which was introduced in Android 4.1, got beefed up in this revision, courtesy of new “cards” that show information on flights, restaurant and hotel reservations and shipping details in addition to the feature’s previous functionality.
One of the new features that Google introduced in its new software is Photo Sphere, which boosts Android’s built-in panorama shooting mode by allowing users to take panoramas in every direction, which could make for much larger and potentially more stunning wide-angle pictures.
On the usability front, Android now packs in a gesture typing keyboard option that builds in functionality that should be familiar to users of Swype. However, Google has given its new keyboard some predictive capabilities that promise a “smarter” typing experience.
For tablet users, multi-user support would be a highly-welcomed feature. Unlike smartphones, which tend to be highly-personal devices, tablets have taken on the role of a coffee-table (or babysitting) system for many owners. Allowing users to set individual preferences would be a godsend for these sorts of consumers.
Significantly, Android would edge out both Apple and Microsoft on this front (though Windows Phone 8 is supposed to have a “Kid’s Corner” feature that gives a limited degree of multi-user functionality).
Support for wireless audio and video streaming using the Miracast protocol has also been included in the update. This is a competitor to AirPlay that also allows users to directly connect to a TV for video streaming. Miracast has gotten some traction due to support from Samsung and LG, which have already added the feature to some of their devices.