Android Refreshed

If you’re an Android user, you may have heard about Android 4.3, the latest update to Google’s mobile OS. And if you rock one of the Nexus devices, such as the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10 or the Galaxy Nexus, chances are you may already have got it. These Nexus devices are the first ones to receive the update rolling out currently, but since the last version was 4.2.2, you may be wondering what the brouhaha is about. In a way, you’re right – this is just an incremental update, but since Android is relatively a new mobile OS (it’s closest rival iOS is now approaching version 7), even a tiny upgrade is enough to send the interwebs into a tizzy, and not without good reason. While there are a few new features that users can directly make use of, Android 4.3 also includes quite a few under-the-hood improvements. Let’s get a closer look at what goodies it brings with it.

ANDROID REFRESHED

Changes noticeable up front

Possibly one of the most noticeable new features is Restricted Profiles – an upgrade to the multi-user mode for tablets that was added in Android 4.2. This lets you create new user profiles with restricted access to apps and settings – all completely customizable. So you could cut off access to the Play Store or Gmail and only allow games in case your little one uses your slate, or enforce a lockdown on social apps and games in case you have a tablet that is used by your employees. Daydream, a screensaver-like feature introduced in Android 4.1 has also received a boost with the option of using your device as a photo frame. Next, the stock Android dialer now comes with auto-complete, and suggests contacts from your address book when you start typing letters or numbers. Those rocking a Nexus 7 (2013 edition) or a Nexus 10 will also be able to wirelessly stream content to a hi-def TV that supports the Miracast standard.

Under the hood improvements

Bluetooth capabilities have been bumped up, and apart from the ability to now have your song names to be displayed on your car stereo when streaming music from your phone, there’s a new Bluetooth Smart capability that allows better compatibility with certain low-energy Bluetooth accessories including heart rate monitors, smart watches etc. Gaming fiends will also appreciate integration of a new graphics standard that will allow developers to offer games with more bells and whistles on the visual effects front. Apps that need your location to work can now make use of a scan-only Wi-Fi mode that works even when your Wi-Fi is switched off and doesn’t guzzle too much battery.

In addition, there are a smorgasbord of other improvements, all aimed at enhancing performance and making your Android experience smoother… including smarter notifications, enhanced text input, support for more languages including Hindi, faster user switching and quicker touch response for gamepads.

Faster, smoother and even more loaded – what’s not to like? You may have to wait a bit if you don’t happen to have a Nexus device; depending on your brand of device, updates should be coming down the pike in time. But if you do have a Nexus and have been putting off hitting the update button, go right ahead and do it – it’s a small step for the Android platform, but a giant leap for when you’re using it.

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