Today, Google finally took the wraps off the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean 4.3. Here are the features included in the new version.
Google surprised many observers by not announcing Android 4.3 at its I/O Developer Conference earlier this year; traditionally it has used that event to promote the latest Android release.
Control User Accounts With Restricted Profiles
In Android 4.2, Google added the ability to create additional users for a tablet (in much the same way as you can have multiple users with independent log-ins on a computer). In Android 4.3, device owners can create restricted profiles that set limits on what a user can do. For example, you can prevent a child’s account on a device from being able to make in-app purchases. Developers can also make an app behave differently based on the type of profile it is being viewed in. In the example app shown, the child’s account can’t even see extra levels available for purchase. While that aspect will require support from individual app developers, the basic restrictions are useful, and help solve one of our biggest tablet complaints
Dial Pad Auto Complete Enhances Contacts
Stock Android can now auto complete names and phone numbers directly from the dialling screen. Previously, if you wanted to pull up a person’s phone number while dialling, you had to tap the search icon and start typing a name. It’s a small change (and one which has already been introduced by many manufacturers in their custom Android skins), but it’s a welcome one.
Bluetooth Can Pair With Low-Power Devices
Google added new Bluetooth 4.0 features that allow devices to pair directly with low-power devices. This is great news for people who use fitness sensors. During the demo, Google put a heart rate monitor on an engineer doing jumping jacks, and his heart rate was updated live on a phone a few feet away in real time.
Keep Location Features With Always-On Wi-Fi Scanning
Wi-Fi often serves double-duty as a location service if you don’t want to leave GPS on all the time. If you switch off Wi-Fi to save battery, though, that isn’t possible. In Android 4.3, your device can continue scanning for Wi-Fi in a more passive mode that uses much less battery, but still pings for networks so you can keep using location-based features. If you’d prefer not to do this, you can entirely disable it in Settings.
4.3 isn’t a major new release; it’s a point update which changes a few features. It’s quite possible we’ll continue to see this approach from Google. At Google I/O, the company unveiled Google Play Services, a means of updating Android with small specific features rather than requiring an entire OS update, and this is likely to be the route for many feature changes going forward. This may mean fewer major new features in Android updates, but you won’t have to wait as long to get your hands on them.