Android 4.2 Jelllybean was announced in October 2012 and released in November and after 9 months speculation as to the newer version be it 4.3 or 5.0 is reaching a fever pitch. So when Google sent out an invite last week for a breakfast with Chrome and Android boss Sundar Pichai it immediately became the most likely announcement. It was also speculated that we would get a new Nexus 7 and some Chrome announcements.
As is usual for Google they streamed the event live on YouTube. So what did they announce?
Sundar Pichai used the normal routine and spend several minutes talking about figures and facts. One particularly stood out – half of tablets sold worldwide these days is an Android tablet and over 10% of these are Nexus 7’s.
As such it wasn’t a surprise to have a new Nexus 7 launched. The new Nexus 7 looks much like the old one, but has significantly updated specs. It is 2mm slimmer, reduced bezel size by 6mm and 50g lighter. A rear facing camera has been added with 5 megapixels and keeps its 1.2 megapixel front facing camera. The display has been upgraded from 1280×1200 to 1920×1200 HD – that’s 323ppi. It has dual-stereo speakers and virtual surround sound. Inside it has a quadcore 1.4 Snapdragon S4 CPU. A 4g LTE unlocked version will be available in the US initially. Finally it has 2GB ram from 1GB, has dual band wifi, Bluetooth 4, a battery life boost and shipping with 4.3.
Prices – $229 for the 16gb, $269 for the 32gb and 32gb LTE for $349 and it will be available July 30th in the US. It will be available in the UK ‘in coming weeks’ with no prices yet announced.
Android 4.3 Jellybean
4.3 was announced and the notable new features include:
- Adding ‘restricted profiles’ which can control access to content and apps at a user level. In other words a kid mode. This will allow you to restrict access to apps, to prevent in app purchases, prevent access to settings and several other things.
- Bluetooth Smart (also known as Bluetooth low energy) support has been added which allows for much more energy efficient and faster Bluetooth usage
- OpenGL support has been added. This allows better smoother graphics and when app developers start to use it should make a significant difference in games.
- DRM APIs have been added to allow easier Netflix and streaming integration. This should allow higher res (1080p) streaming direct to the tablet.
- Extended language support for Africaans, Amheric, Hindu, Swahili and Zulu
4.3 will start being pushed to Nexus devices today – that’s the Nexus 7, Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and the Galaxy Nexus. ‘Google Edition’ phones will get the update ‘very soon’. It will make its way slowly to other phones over the next few months to years.
A new app called Google Play Games is being launched – it looks remarkably similar to Apples Game Centre. It has social and public leaderboards and is available today, They also demoed several games including Price of Persia, Asphalt 8 and Riptide soon to launch in the next couple of weeks.
The Play Store has added a new category to the Books section – textbooks. This will be available on the web or on Android and will allow you to purchase or rent (for 6 months) textbooks. They didn’t say exactly how many books would be available but did say they had the five major textbook publishers participating.
They then started talking about video – in total almost of bandwidth in the US is video but only 15% of people put online videos on their main TV. The answer to this is ‘Chromecast’. A small simple USB device that you plug into your TV. Plug it into a HDMI port, power it by USB (most modern TV’s have an unused USB port) and connect it to your wifi. Youtube and Chrome will then get a button to allow you to push video directly to the TV.
They demonstrated this with YouTube videos and Google Music on a Android and a iPhone app and on a laptop and it did seem very simple. Youtube, Netflix, Pandora and Google Music were mentioned as apps but what really was exiting was the demonstration of tab mirroring from Chrome. Whatever you have in Chrome you can show on your TV. They also announced an SDK so any developers can build their own apps for the device and when the devs get their hands on it there will be a lot more options.
The killer feature is the price – its available for $35 in the US immediately. It will be available elsewhere ‘as soon as possible’ on Amazon, Google Play, and Best Buy and will include 3 months Netflix subscription. This device can make any TV a Smart TV.
Today’s announcement was aimed very much at Apple’s market – the new Nexus 7 is a clear superior to the iPad Mini and the Chromecast is equivalent to the AppleTV but they are both significantly cheaper. Google is making a big play for our gaming and media and this part of the announcement was very impressive and successful.
The Android 4.3 announcement was a little less successful – the changes for 4.3 are clear improvements, but unless you have been waiting for one of the new features won’t be a big boost.