What Do We Want From Android 4.2?


Late last week, I wrote about some of newest rumors to surface regarding Google’s next Android iteration. If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, since then the majority of that information has been identified as the work of a hoaxster; don’t expect Project Roadrunner to bring enhanced battery life, nor Google Play to implement new streaming options. I could wring my hands in frustration over that turn of events, but why bother? Rumors always carry the risk of being false, and even when that turns out to be the case, they can still get us thinking about some important topics; maybe Google really could be doing more to improve device battery life, for instance. Today I wanted to wander down that path a little with some good old-fashioned speculation about what I’d like to see Google deliver in Android 4.2.

Not everything tied to those rumors was an outright falsehood. The discovery of Android 4.2 devices (or at least those self-identifying themselves as such) in server logs is very real, suggesting that Google’s well into testing its next Android release. Whether that will be Key Lime Pie, or Kit Kat Bar, we can’t say just yet, but it’s definitely on the horizon. We’re still trying to work out the details of what Google’s up to for its next Nexus device(s), but Android 4.2 arriving at the same time seems to be a recurring feature in rumors concerning the launch.

So, what’s an obvious feature I’m expecting from Android 4.2? Multiple user support is something we’ve already seen signs of in Jelly Bean, and considering how well it works in custom ROMs that have implemented the user-switching interface, I’d bet that we’re just about to see it officially launch.

It seems that oftentimes when I mention user switching, there are least a few of you out there who just don’t “get” it, or see it as a superfluous feature. It really has a lot of potential, though, even if you’re not regularly letting other people access your phone or tablet. Maybe you’d be interested in setting up separate profiles for work and personal uses, keeping you from being distracted by games or music during the day, while also helping to insulate your personal life from incessant work-related messages.

Another rumor that keeps coming up is that we’ll be seeing some super-high-resolution Android handsets launch in the near future, presumably under Android 4.2’s reign. What would 1080p hitting mainstream mean for Android? We know that the platform can already adapt to different resolutions and pixel densities, but what if Google went beyond that?

I would love to see some sort of Note-II-like split-screen mode built in to the operating system. After all, really high-end quad-core processors combined with these kind of excessive resolutions is a recipe just asking to be made into a multi-threaded, windowed take on the Android UI. Think about it: you could have four qHD “windows” each running a separate app, zooming up to full-screen when you needed to interact with one. That’s no doubt a complicated technical challenge to achieve, but the available (or soon to be) hardware just seems to begging for Google to develop it.

For my money, Project Butter is the most exciting part of Jelly Bean, but it’s still not quite where it needs to be. I’m continually dissatisfied with the sort of UI performance Android delivers, considering how capable I’d expect a given device to be based on my knowledge of its hardware. Butter was a big help, but Google needs to not rest on its laurels and follow-through with continual improvements along the same sort of lines. Project Margarine, perhaps?

It would be great to see a better way to migrate content, especially app data, from one Android to another, but I’m not sure that’s something we can, nor should expect from Android 4.2. The logistics have the potential to be a nightmare, and it could be more trouble than it’s worth without apps specifically preparing data to be compatible in such a manner. Maybe Google might start working on something like that for the future, putting new guidelines in place, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m just scratching the surface here, and am fully prepared to be surprised by all that Google actually ends up bringing to the table. What have you been hoping might make the cut for Android 4.2? What do you think Google will end up calling it? How many more of these incremental releases will we see before Android 5.0, and just what might that deliver? Join me in the comments, where we can speculate away!

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!