Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts: Android 4.2 and Google's Nexus lineup

After having to cancel their Android event on Monday due to the hurricane that currently sweeps across New York, Google almost quietly announced what they already wanted to show us on Monday: the "final" lineup of Nexus devices as well as a new version of Android Jelly Bean.

Google finally did it. They now offer (almost) every size possible as Android devices. The only thing that's missing is a phablet (half tablet, half phone).
Of course there's the "old" Google Nexus 7, a 7' tablet which is now available with 32GB of storage but also comes with HSPA+ mobile data. This is really great because tablets are slowly replacing laptops for people who want to read, surf the world wide web and update their social networks (because they don't know those life in the www ;) and possibly play games. I unfortunately don't own a Nexus 7 but now this gadget is finally complete!

Next, they announced a new Nexus smartphone. This time they partnered with LG and created a phone that almost looks like the Galaxy Nexus, which means, it's stunning ;)
They call it the Nexus 4 (why of course – it's a 4 point something inch display!) and almost comes with the iPhone's Retina display (320 vs. 326 ppi). A cool new feature is wireless charging. Sure, we already knew that from Palm devices and the Samsung Galaxy S3 as well as Nokia's new Lumia phones also support it – but it's the first time for a Nexus. It's really great and I especially love that it's based on an existing standard so you won't have to rely on an LG/Google Nexus wireless charger. The rear-facing camera has 8 megapixel which is also nice.
The rest of the specs is also quite amazing but I don't like listing CPU power or whatever. Just remember that NFC is on board ;)
It won't support LTE but no phone really does – at least not worldwide because of all the different frequencies. So I can understand why Google omitted the feature to reduce size and cost of the device. This is why the price is so incredible. Compared to all other phones out there it's the one with the best-value!

But Google also – again – partnered with Samsung in developing a 10' Nexus tablet, the Nexus 10. From what I have seen it's a beautiful tablet and I'm really jealous because I only own a HP TouchPad.
This tablet even tops the newest iPad with Retina display as it has 300 ppi which is 36 ppi more than the iPad. It's really interesting to see what is possible these days. Even though the human eye can differentiate details up to 300 PPI, I doubt that it makes that big a difference. Still – in your face Apple. That's for comparing devices on stage :P
Of course the nexus 10 also comes with NFC and the if announcements are right, the battery life is awesome. I don't think that there's a version with mobile data, which is sad, but maybe (and I hope so) they will update it later this or next year. But again, extremely cheap (only the price ;) device.

How will we be able to buy the devices? In my case, currently not at all. The Nexus 4 and 10 will be available through the Google Play store only, which unfortunately only includes seven out of the almost 200 nations of the world. The Nexus 10 being available at Walmart stores also won't help people outside the U.S. Same with the mobile data enabled Nexus 7. At least the old Nexus 7 is available in retail stores. Let's hope the Play store will come to more countries soon.
That's one thing I really don't like about Google. The Google Play store is really awesome. Everything is available through a single website (and app) but only in selected countries. I can understand why they can only offer music and movies in certain countries – copyright is not that easy. But why can't the devices be available everywhere? Would be a great competition for retailers as well as online stores like Amazon.

Now there's only one thing left: Android 4.2. As expected, it's still Android Jelly Beans but the features amaze me ;)
First of all, Photo Sphere, the 360° camera. It's already available for other devices and now it finally came to Android. The panoramic feature in the last Android version was already great but taking 360° pictures is even cooler. I don't think that you can really capture the essence of a moment on camera but 360° is something I missed since I first used Microsoft's 360° camera app for Windows Phone 7, some months ago.
Next is the new keyboard. This is actually something I planed to write a blog post about this week. I recently started testing Swype and it's just amazing how much faster you can type when not really typing but swyping. I can't wait to get the new Android version to play with the Gesture Typing  keyboard and maybe compare it to Swype and other services.
One thing we already expected is multi-user support. It's only available on tablets and I already mentioned in one of my last blog posts that I can only understand its value on tablets. Google apparently thinks alike (or ready my blog ;) and integrated that. It's a great idea because I bet you'll share your tablet more often than your smartphone but unfortunately I have to retract my first statement! A colleague from university made a good point on why it also makes sense to have multiple users on a phone: to switch between a business and private user.

Another great feature which everybody was waiting for is screen sharing. Android 4.2 supports wirelessly sharing your device's screen with a TV that supports the Miracast standard. It's really great and not surprising that Android supports a standard everyone can use. This will be a great alternative to Apple's AirPlay and I hope some more companies will allow sharing between all kinds of PCs (including Macs ;)
The last thing is an updated Google Now which is already available in the Google Play Store (included in the update for Google Search). Can't wait testing some of the new stuff, that also integrates with my Gmail account. And something I almost forgot are widgets on the lock screen as well as the quick settings that will turning on and off device capabilities really simple (they remind me of BlackBerry 10's quick settings in the notification bar ;)

As usual I'm pretty excited about Google's announcement. Both the new devices and the new version of Android are pretty good. Let's hope device manufacturers will soon update their devices to support this new version. Looks like Android's getting better and better and soon there won't be anything left for people to miss (especially when comparing to other, not so innovative operating systems ;)

A long blog post and I have to thank you for reading it until the end. As usual I hope you enjoyed it and some people will share their thoughts with me. If I got something wrong or you have a different opinion, just tell me! Comments as well as shares are appreciated ;)
If you want to watch a video related to this topic, I can recommend The Verge's Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Android 4.2: an exclusive first look from inside the Google HQ:


PS. Have a great and scary Halloween tomorrow!

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