A Sweeter Jelly Bean
It's a tradition for Google to introduce a new version of its Android OS with the release of a new Nexus phone. If you recall, Google unveiled Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in June 2012 alongside the Nexus 7. So what's the surprise for Nexus 4? Android 4.2 of course! Despite being a "0.1' incremental update, there are several new features that you should take note of:-
Quick Settings, as the name suggests, is simply a shortcut to Settings, Wi-Fi, Cell Connection, Battery, Bluetooth and Wireless Display. They also double-up as status indicators, which at a glance, tell you whether Bluetooth connection is enabled or whether there is cellular connection. You can access Quick Settings in two ways:
- Tapping the top right most icon of the notification panel
- Swiping down with two fingers on the home screen
Compared to power toggles on ASUS and Samsung devices, the Quick Settings in Android 4.2 seems very basic. For example, you can enable/disable WiFi, GPS, screen rotation, Bluetooth, mobile data or silent mode on the Galaxy Note II with just one tap. Third party apps such as Power Toggles also give you the option to configure what to include in the panel (e.g. replace airplane mode with data sync).
Lock Screen Widgets
Once a "barren" screen, Google has added some life to the lock screen with widgets. Locks creen widgets are different from home screen widgets in the sense that you can only put one widget per screen panel.
To add a lock screen widget, simply swipe from the left edge of the screen inwards. You will be brought to a page with a plus symbol where you can add the four lock screen widgets: Calendar, Digital Clock, Gmail and Messaging. If you swipe from the right edge of the screen, it will bring you straight into camera mode. We find it annoying that once you enter the camera mode, you cannot slide back to the lock screen. The only way out is to tap on the Back button.
Having widgets on your lockscreen will raise security and privacy concerns - can anyone obtain confidential information from the calendar or Gmail widget? Can people see your personal information from the widgets?
If you have set up a screen lock mechanism (face unlock, pattern, pin or password), unauthorized users will be unable to add widgets to your lock screen. In addition, if there is an attempt to access any of the widgets (e.g. Gmail), there will be a prompt for authentication.
However, onlookers can still view the information displayed by the widgets even though they are unable to open the app individually. For example, the first two lines of your Gmail messages can be seen. Appointments on the Calendar widget and messages are in public view too.
To make matters worse, there is no way to resize the lock screen widgets to minimize the amount of information revealed. Therefore, we highly recommend that you do not use lock screen widgets if data security and privacy are your top concerns.
If you have used Swiftkey 3 or Swype, you will feel right at home with Google's Gesture Type. For those who are unfamiliar with these typing techniques, Gesture Type and some third party keyboards allow you to glide your finger over letters at one go to compose messages. The stock Android keyboard is also able to anticipate and predict the next word based on the context of the message.
By default, Gesture Type is enabled on Android 4.2 devices. We gave the new keyboard feature a try and found it to be quite accurate. Within a minute or so, we were busy swiping our fingers all over the keyboard and punching out text faster than usual. If you prefer the conventional input method, you can disable Gesture Type via Settings > Language & input > Android keyboard > Uncheck the option for "Enable gesture typing".
The "Auto-fit messages" feature is disabled by default. To enable it, go to the Gmail app > Menu > Settings > General Settings > Check the box for Auto-fit messages.
Besides delivering an optimal viewing experience, Gmail also allows you to zoom in on the text in the email. This is especially handy for those who may find the font size a little small.
Remember how Google introduced swiping gestures for multitasking and notifications on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich? The swiping technique is implemented now in Gmail where you can swipe to archive or delete emails. To select your preferred swiping action, go to the Gmail app > Menu > Settings > General settings > Swiping conversation list.
Like its Windows Phone 8 counterpart (Lumia 920), the Nexus 4 can be charged wirelessly using Qi standard. Qi is an interoperable wireless charging standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and LG is one of the 131 members of the WPC. You can refer to this article for more information of its inner workings.
Aside from the growing list of Qi wireless charging accessories, Google also introduced its own accessory known as the Wireless Charging Orb. The Nexus 4 also can dock on the Orb either in portrait or landscape mode.
We tested the Nexus 4 on the Nokia's wireless charging plate, and realized that the charging light on the plate would turn on and off from time to time. This means that charging is not very consistent on the Nokia's accessories. At point of publication, there is no official word on the pricing and availability of the Wireless Charging Orb.
Similar to the screen saver on your desktop or laptop, Daydream allows you to display images, colors, feed from Currents on the screen while the Nexus 4 is charging or docked. To enable this feature, go to Settings > Display > Daydream > Slide the switch to On.
At the moment, you have only five choices (Clock, Colors, Currents, Photo Frame and Photo Table) for DayDream. Here's the official list from Google of what each option can do when DayDream is on:
- Clock: displays the phone's digital or analog clock.
- Colors: shows changing colors on the screen.
- Currents: displays snippets from the Currents app. You can touch one to open it or swipe it away to hide it.
- Photo Frame: presents a slideshow of photos on your phone or Google+ account. Touch the Settings icon next to Photo Frame to control what photos are displayed.
- Photo Table: scatters photos on your phone or Google+ account across your screen. Touch & hold an image to move it around the screen, or swipe it away to hide it. Touch the Settings icon next to Photo Table to control what photos are displayed.
You can also unlock a sixth, hidden BeanFlinger option by tapping on the Android version several times under Settings > About Phone.
The Nexus 4 supports the Miracast protocol to utilize wireless displays designed with this standard. As a point-to-point wireless streaming standard, Miracast connects the Nexus 4 via a Wi-Fi direct access to a variety of compatible displays and devices. This isn't something new as we have seen similar standards such as DLNA (1) (2) (3) and Apple's AirPlay.