Hands on with Jelly Bean 4.2
Early last week, the brand new Nexus 4 smartphone went on sale…and then nearly immediately sold out. While that device is one of the few devices to sport the updated Android OS 4.2 (still known as Jelly Bean), you don’t have to wait for the Nexus 4 to be restocked at Google if you want to get hands one the newest version of the OS.

Other devices getting Jelly Bean 4.2 include earlier Galaxy Nexus smartphones, as well as the Nexus 7 tablet. If you have one of those devices in hand already, you may have already gotten the notification that an update is ready, but if not you can try to obtain it manually by going to Settings, scrolling down to About, and then choosing the System updates on the next page.

When you complete the update, you’ll have the ability to have multiple user logons on the same device (meaning your kids can use your tablet without messing up your own profile).

Once you upgrade, you can add other users by heading to Settings, and then scrolling down to the “Users” option under Device, and tapping through. You can then add a user by tapping the “Add User” button in the top right”.

These new users will go through a setup process like you did when you first set up the device, and then they can personalize their space on the tablet. Once new users are installed, you can choose between them from the lock screen by tapping on the appropriate user icon at the bottom of the screen. Each user can protect their account using their choice of a lock pattern, face unlock, PIN or password.

One heads up, though: other users of the tablet can accept app permissions on behalf of all tablet users, so if one of the other users of your device installs malware, it won’t be limited to their own profile.

With the 4.2 update, you’ll also get Gesture Typing, which allows you to swipe to type (without having to add a third-party keyboard). With this new feature, you just simply slide your finger around on the keyboard from letter to letter – without letting go. The system will track the word that is being formed, and display the word it thinks you’ve formed so far in a little hovering bubble above your finger.

Having used a few slide-style keyboards before, I was a bit dubious that this would actually be of any benefit whatsoever; most of those third party keyboards provided okay but sometimes peculiar results. The results for Gesture Typing, on the other hand, were pretty freaky in their accuracy, largely because it’s tapping into the predictive capabilities of the operating system itself.

Another new feature that will be of major interest is the new Photo Sphere camera app, which allows you to create your own 360 degree panorama by stitching photos taken from every direction you can hold the Android device.

Unfortunately for Nexus 7 users, Photo Sphere isn’t available due to the lack of a high-res rear-facing camera, so I wasn’t able to test it out (dang!). Users of the Galaxy phones who get the update should be able to try it out, however.

One other nice touch is a quick settings menu, which you can activate by swiping down from the right-hand side of the top of the screen, in the same way you activate the notifications panel.

When you swipe down on the right, you get fast access to a few settings that you’ll use regularly, like brightness, Wi-Fi, rotation lock, airplane mode, Bluetooth, battery, and general settings. A lot handier than digging your way into the Settings panel.

The bottom line: even if isn’t a huge overhaul, the new features in Jelly Bean 4.2 are definitely welcome, and worth the update.

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