As of August 2013, Android powers nearly eighty percent of all smartphones on the planet. This should be good news for Google, the company behind the popular mobile operating system. The search giant keeps to a rapid-fire schedule of updates, refreshing Android every few months. Like its last two predecessors, Android 4.3 is still named Jelly Bean.
This is the first indicator that the changes it brings are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. So, what’s new?
1) Restricted User Profiles
Are you always afraid that someone may inadvertently open the Facebook app as they play Angry Birds on your tablet? Restricted user profiles may be the answer you’ve been praying for. Currently, the system is not available on smartphones, and is limited to tablets. The profiles appear as colored buttons on the lock screen. After the device is unlocked, users need to log in with their assigned name and password.
From your account, create a profile, name it, then check the apps that you want that user to access. If they need access to apps that require location information such as Google Maps, you should to check that too, as Android 4.3 blocks restricted profiles from such apps until you allow it. These users have access to your Google Books and Music library, but they need separate accounts for Kindle, Netflix and a few other apps.
They are not allowed to access the native Gmail and Email apps at all, and the operating system does not even give you the ability to permit it. This means that you have to install a compatible third party app to give these users access their emails. They are also not allowed to change account settings
2) Predictive Phone Dialer
Unlike past editions of stock Android, this version of Jelly Bean will suggest up to three contacts every time you start dialing a number. Please note that you need to turn on this feature from system settings, as it is off by default.
3) Refreshed User Interface for the Camera App
Anyone who has ever used Android’s stock camera app will be familiar with its uncluttered interface. In previous versions of Jelly Bean, camera settings were arranged around a circle. In Android 4.3, these are arranged along a shallow arc. To invoke it, long press anywhere on the screen, then drag your finger around the icons to select an option. You can also access the settings by tapping a small circle next to the blue shutter button.
4) An Improved Notification System
Android has an intuitive way of notifying users about new messages, emails, updates and so on. Android 4.3 improves on the system by giving external devices such as Google Glass and smart watches the ability to access and display these notifications. Users who get tweets after every two seconds will appreciate this feature, as they no longer need to keep fishing into their pockets or bags for their phones.
5) A Continuous Scanning Mode for WiFi
If you are one of those people whose device’s battery life is regularly decimated by an always-on GPS, you will love this feature. Be warned; it is off by default, so you need to turn it on through advanced WiFi settings. When enabled, your device will keep scanning for WiFi even when the network interface is turned off. This improves the accuracy of location services, which means that your GPS does not need to be on all the time. With this feature enabled, you will probably notice a marginal increase in your device’s battery life.
6) Improved Security
With hackers and governments prying into people’s private lives, keeping information secure has become a major challenge. In response to these concerns, Google added Security Enhanced Linux to Android 4.3. This gives developers and network administrators the tools they need to keep devices secure. In addition, this version of Jelly Bean stores sensitive information such as WiFi passwords more securely. Android 4.3 also gives media providers better tools to protect their content. One of the first companies to take advantage of this feature is Netflix, which now allows owners of Android devices to stream high definition content to their devices. Previously, this was not possible.
Some users of the first generation Nexus 7, particularly those who bought the version that came with eight gigabytes of storage may have noticed that it slowed down after being used for several months. To solve this problem, Google added a feature called TRIM to Android 4.3. This cleans the flash storage used in tablets and smartphones of all deleted data, improving long term performance.
8) Native Support for Miracast
Miracast works in a similar way to Bluetooth, providing a way for smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smart televisions and other devices to connect without using wires. They can then share music, videos, pictures among other files. Unlike previous versions of Jelly Bean, Android 4.3 offers native support for this feature.
9) Support for Bluetooth 4.0 and AVRCP 1.3
Android 4.3 adds support for the Bluetooth 4.0 standard, which is also known as Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth Smart. Tablets and smartphones that support this feature can maintain always-on connections with wearable devices such as smart watches and Google Glass without having to use a lot of power. In addition, Android 4.3 supports version 1.3 of the Audio Video Remote Control Profile. This gives tablets and smartphones the ability to control and interact with compatible media devices.
10) Improved Graphics Capabilities
Android 4.3 is the first major mobile operating system to support the OpenGL ES 3.0 standard. This gives developers and studios the ability to design games with more interesting features and an elevated level of realism.