Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Has Arrived: Photo Sphere Panoramic Camera, Gesture Typing, Wireless HDTV Streaming


Google unfortunately had to cancel its Nexus event in NYC today, but not snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this Google from the swift announcement of its appointed products. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (not Key Lime Pie, as some had previously pontificated) has arrived.

The software update will debut on the Nexus 10 tablet and the LG Nexus 4 smartphone, the latest devices to join Google’s family of pure vanilla Android products.

As expected, Android 4.2 will finally offer multiple user accounts, allowing family members to share the device while maintaining their own unique settings. And speaking of settings, Android 4.2 will have a “quick settings” section if you click the icon on the top right, allowing you to switch between user accounts, toggle Wifi and Bluetooth, adjust brightness, go into airplane mode, etc.

The photo gallery app has also been revamped a bit, but the major introduction here is Photo Sphere. According to the release, this is essentially an app that lets you create 360-degree panoramic photos (clearly a jab back at iOS 6′s Panorama feature) that are shareable on Google+, Google Maps, etc.

Android 4.2 will include gesture typing, a lot like Swype, letting you glide your finger over the letters instead of tap them. Google Now has also seen an update, adding cards for flight information, restaurant reservations, hotel confirmations, and shipping details.

And for fans of big-screen browsing, Android 4.2 brings with it support for Miracast wireless displays. This means users can watch movies, play games, browse, or whatever on their HDTV wirelessly.

TechCrunch » android

Angry Birds Star Wars Gameplay Revealed In New Teaser

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 12.45.21 PM

In case you were wondering what Rovio’s upcoming Star Wars/Angry Birds mashup would actually look like, the company has now posted a gameplay trailer to its YouTube account. It should surprise no one that it looks an awful lot like Rovio put Angry Birds characters in Star Wars costumes and settings, while retaining essentially the same gameplay. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t look good.

The birds have special Star Wars-themed powers and abilities, which should add an interesting twist to the already satisfying Angry Birds physics-based gameplay. The short video includes shots of Luke wielding a lightsaber, and Leia using some kind of weird tractor-beam type thing that I don’t remember coming from Star Wars canon material. This micro-trailer will be followed November 5 by a full trailer, and we’ll see the game actually released for all to play on November 8.

TechCrunch » android

Why Android Jelly Bean 4.2′s Multiple User Account Switching Is Tablet-Only? (Hint: Nokia Patented It For Phones)


One of the coolest (and most useful) features of Google’s Android Jelly Been 4.2 update is multiple user account switching, offering up the option to have several users share access to a device, while keeping their settings and content walled off from each other. It’s something we’ve been used to on PCs forever, so it’s bound to be welcomed by Android users. However, we’ve learned that the new feature will likely only apply to tablets, certainly as far as Google’s Nexus range is concerned. Phones need not apply. The reason — and this is purely an educated guess on my part — could well be that back in the day Nokia already patented the idea (via its involvement with Symbian).

Here we go again.

The patent ‘Multi-user mobile telephone’, whose inventor is Tim Ocock, an ex-Symbian employee, is described as follows:

A mobile telephone is designed to be used by several different end-users at different times. A first end-user can alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that first end-user and a subsequent end-user can alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that subsequent end-user; each end-user has only to respond to prompts displayed on a screen in order to alter the mobile telephone so that it operates in a manner specific to that end-user.

In contrast, here’s how Google’s marketing material describes the new tablet-only Android feature (my emphasis):

With support for multiple users, you can give each person their own space. Everyone can have their own homescreen, background, widgets, apps and games – even individual high scores and levels! And since Android is built with multitasking at its core, it’s a snap to switch between users – no need to log in and out. Available only on tablets.

As I understand it, the use-case that Nokia had in mind was emerging markets where the prohibitive cost of a mobile phone might mean that family members shared the device. But clearly, the patent is more widespread than that. And whilst it might be a more relevant and useful feature on a post-PC tablet device, the fact that Nokia appears to hold a patent for multiple user switching on a phone, might well explain why Google is limiting the feature to tablets only and not phones.

More from that Symbian/Nokia patent:

The present invention therefore moves away from the established assumption that a mobile telephone is personal to a single end-user and instead readily allows the mobile telephone to be used by several end-users through appropriate on-screen prompts. Such a device may be especially relevant to communities where few individuals can afford the cost of their own personal telephone. More generally, it is useful for any entity to whom there are benefits from being able to easily share mobile telephones across multiple end-users (e.g. large corporation may have a pool of such mobile telephones; any employee can then simply pick up one of these telephones and be able to use it like a personal device).

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Google Defends Leaving LTE Out Of The Nexus 4: None Of Its Excuses Are Good Enough


Google announced a host of new hardware today, including a new Nexus reference device for its Android mobile OS, the LG-manufactured Nexus 4. Reading through the Nexus 4′s spec list is like checking boxes on a list of what’s required for a smartphone to be competitive. Until you hit its wireless connectivity standards and find that LTE is missing, with only HSPA+ speeds supported. What’s going on? Google has a few answers, but none really grant the decision a pass.

In an extensive piece at The Verge, Google provides a number of reasons why it couldn’t ship the Nexus 4 with LTE. First, Google says it can’t create a device that’s carrier-independent with LTE built-in. As a reference device, the Nexus line is supposed to be network agnostic; in order to build in LTE, it would have to make various custom phones on its own without financial aid from carriers.

That’s a fair point, but remember that the Galaxy Nexus eventually got an LTE version, so why not launch at least one LTE variant of the Nexus 4? In the past, Google has seemed willing to work with limited carrier access in order to provide some customers with true 4G connectivity, but this time around, at least at launch, it hasn’t. It’s an inconsistency that makes that reasoning seem at least a little confusing.

Second reason provided by Google: power draw. LTE uses a lot more power and battery life, and Google’s Andy Rubin cites poor user experience on the LTE Galaxy Nexus as a reason to leave LTE out of the Nexus 4. Of course, that hasn’t stopped other hardware manufacturers from working around this issue, including LG, which includes LTE radios in its Optimus G smartphone, upon which the Nexus 4 design is based. Invoking the spectre of users worried about battery life is a clever enough way to make a fault seem like a feature, but it ends up looking like lazy engineering, given how many others in the same field have addressed that issue sometime over the past couple of years.

Finally (and getting back to why it didn’t offer a Verizon LTE version as it did with the Galaxy Nexus) Google says that politics surrounding LTE network control is a big problem. It would prevent Google from issuing timely updates to devices on Verizon’s CDMA LTE network, while the cost of developing different devices for GSM/HSPA LTE networks would be the big hindrance there. Again, these excuses have some merit; Google wants Nexus customers to be able to update as soon as possible, and it isn’t looking to spend crazily on Nexus hardware since hardware isn’t its business. But still, these feel thin. For one, Verizon users would likely enjoy having the option to receive slightly delayed updates than no LTE at all. At least offer the choice. Provide an LTE version at launch next to the HSPA+ options. Saying “user experience suffers” seems like a justification of the removal of consumer options. Plus, Apple can issue updates to its devices in a timely manner regardless of carrier or network type, so that excuse again rings hollow.

And while it’s true that building on any one network standard would offer only a subset of customers access to LTE, they’re not statistically insignificant markets.

“AT&T currently has LTE in just 77 markets covering 135 million people, and Everything Everywhere in the UK has a goal of covering only 20 million people by year’s end,” reads The Verge’s post. Canada also has 25.8 million subscribers on the same frequency LTE as AT&T’s network. To characterize that potential pool as “small,” especially given that it covers subscribers with the highest average revenue per subscriber and mobile broadband usage in the world, is absolutely ridiculous.

The Nexus 4 is very affordable at $ 299 on contract, and that should win it some fans, but by leaving LTE out of it, it feels at least two years behind the times. For a phone that is looked to as the definitive Android handset in the media and by users, that’s not something you can explain away, regardless of the reasons you choose to use.

TechCrunch » Gadgets