At first glance, Google Android 4.3 Jelly Bean looks like a minor operating system update. The overall user interface hasn’t changed much since Android 4.3, and there aren’t a ton of user-oriented features.
But when you start digging beneath the surface, Android 4.3 has more than a new version number. It’s designed to be more responsive, offers parents the ability to restrict a child’s access to certain apps or content, includes support for new 2D and 3D graphics technologies, and supports the new Bluetooth Low Energy standard. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The first devices in line for the Android 4.3 update are Google Nexus devices. If you have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus or newer device, an over-the-air update is probably on the way — or you can download the factory image for your phone or tablet.
Samsung and HTC will also soon be pushing out updates for the Google Edition HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.
Here are some of the things that are new in Android 4.3 so far:
- Even when you turn off WiFi, it’ll stay on a bit in the background to help with location services — unless you dig even deeper into the advanced settings to really turn it off.
- There’s support for OpenGL ES 3.0 3D graphics.
- Bluetooth Low Energy is now supported, allowing for wireless, short-range communications with certain devices (like smartwatches) while using less power.
- There are a few new developer options for testing/debugging.
- The default “Roboto” font has been updated. Android Police has an analysis of the new font, as well as download links for folks that want to install it on devices that aren’t yet running Android 4.3.
- Third-party Android 4.3 apps may be able to totally replace the default notification system. Hello Facebook Home?
- It looks like you may have an option in the default Android 4.3 app drawer to sort apps and widgets by frequency of use. Right now apps can only be sorted alphabetically.
- When pairing with a car stereo over Bluetooth, your mobile device can now send song info to your car audio system.
- There’s support for T9 dialing in the phone dialer.
- Dialpad auto-complete.
- Google has fixed the vulnerability known as the “Master Key” exploit.
- Google Keep is now a system app.
- Camera icons rotate when you turn the phone, while the overall camera app UI stays in place.
- Use the volume keys to snap photos in the camera app.
- Mult-user support gets an update, allowing you to restrict a user’s access to apps or content.
- New DRM APIs mean Netflix and other online video sites may start streaming content in 1080p.
- Android 4.3 uses SELinux security in the Linux kernel.
Keep in mind, these changes were all found in a leaked build of a pre-release version of Android 4.3. It’s possible that some or all of these features won’t be available in the final release. It’s also possible that we’ll see more new features if and when Google officially launches Android 4.3.
We’ll probably have to wait until the launch of Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie before we see more dramatic changes to the operating system though.