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Android 4.3 Jelly Bean review

Michael Sawh

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Reviewed:

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Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.3 restricted profiles
  • HTC One Mini
  • Android 4.3
  • Android 4.3 screenshots

Summary

Our Score:

8

Key Features

  • Refreshed camera app
  • Gesture keyboard
  • Improved Daydream mode
  • Restricted profiles
  • Manufacturer: Google
  • Review Price: free/subscription

What is Android 4.3 Jelly Bean?

Announced alongside the new Nexus 7 and the Chromecast TV dongle, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean is Google’s latest mobile operating system update. It adds new features and refines many previously introduced in Android 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean.

Available first for the Nexus 7 2, original Nexus 7, Nexus 10, the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus smartphones, the latest Jelly Bean update will also eventually roll out to other Android-running smartphones and tablets. Sony has confirmed that the 4.3 update will be available for selected Xperia smartphones and Google Editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are expected to pack 4.3 as well.

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean makes a host of performance improvements, including triple buffering, reduced touch latency for gamepads, Bluetooth Smart support, CPU input boost, and a version of Project Butter that runs even smoother. The camera app, keyboard and notifications have also been tweaked to improve your everyday Android smartphone and tablet experience.

We managed to test out Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, so here’s what’s new, and worth checking out when the ‘Android 4.3 update available’ message pops up on your device.

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean - Camera app

The native camera app has been redesigned in Android 4.3 to make accessing settings quicker and easier. Swapping the circular menu system for a new arch-shaped design, users can now swipe through icons in the middle of the screen to open up the advanced settings.

If you want to change the exposure levels, you can simply swipe through the Exposure icon to adjust appropriately. It can initially be quite fiddly to use, but it does make jumping into different camera modes feel more fluid.

Android 4.3 screenshots

One of the most interesting camera features introduced in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean was Photo Sphere. This allows users to take a 360-degree photo by stitching together images to capture the entire scene. In its first incarnation, threading images didn't work that well and images often looked like a jigsaw puzzle gone wrong. Android 4.3 improves the transition between images and exposure adjustment. You can now also share interactive Photo Sphere photos over your Google account.

Putting it to the test, progress has clearly been made in terms of the Photo Sphere end results. Dynamic management of exposure level is more prominent but threading images is still far from perfect. The slower you scan, the better the images will be. It's getting there and when you get it right, the results can be pretty special.

Last, but by no means least, taking pictures is now no longer restricted just to the on-screen trigger. Android 4.3 allows you to use the volume rocker as a shutter button. Simply press either end of the rocker and you now have a dedicated camera button - this is something that has been adopted by some third-party Android UIs and, of course, the iPhone 5.

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean – Gesture keyboard and Dialpad autocomplete

The gesture keyboard (introduced in Android 4.2) and dialpad autocomplete should save you a few precious seconds when typing out messages and dialling numbers. The gesture keyboard works in the same manner as the Swype keyboard.

It lets you swipe from letter to letter without taking your finger off the screen. The keyboard will begin to predict words based on your gestures and adds spaces automatically. It works well with the more accurate dictionaries added in 4.1 and should appeal to speedy typists.

Android 4.3 screenshots 3

Furthermore, if you don’t want to dip into the phonebook for a number, the dialpad autocomplete feature means you can simply start typing a number and matching contacts will appear above. This feature can be enabled in the phone settings in Other Call Settings. It’s actually surprisingly handy if you know the first few digits of a phone number as well.

These minor tweaks will speed-up your day-to-day phone use.

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean – Smarter notifications

Notifications have been a staple Android feature from the very beginning. After adding expanding notifications in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, there are now more ways to deal with an appointment or a missed call. For instance, by making an appointment in the Calendar to go for a run, the reminder will pop up in the notification bar and provide the options to see the location of the run in Maps or simply Snooze the event reminder. It improves an already great way to avoid launching another app to deal with the notification.

Android 4.3 screenshots 4

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean – Location detection via Wi-Fi, Daydream

Apps and software that use location-tracking can have a significant impact on battery life. In Android 4.3 you can still provide that information to Android apps like Glympse and Share Where.

Now, though, it can be done a via a scan-only mode Wi-Fi setting. Android 4.3 Jelly Bean devices will be able to perform location scanning for apps to keep them updated even when the Wi-Fi is turned off.

Introduced in Android 4.1, Daydream is essentially a screensaver that can show off pictures when your Android tablet or smartphone is charging or docked. New Photo Frame and Photo Table modes let you use your device as a picture frame to display one or multiple images. You can access the new Daydream modes in the display settings menu.

Android 4.3

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean – Restricted profiles

Arguably the most interesting Android 4.3 feature is the changes made to user profiles. It is something that the iPad currently lacks. The latest update is supposed to make switching between users faster from the lock screen, but it is still a little laboured.

The biggest new addition is that profiles can now be set up and given limited access to apps and content.

To set up restricted profiles, you can simply jump into the Users tab in Settings where you can choose to add a User profile and now a Restricted profile. Here you’ll see a list of all the apps downloaded to the device with a toggle beside each one to turn on or off. When you wake the tablet up and access the restricted profile, you’ll only see the apps you have enabled for the profile.

Android 4.3 screenshots

(Setting up restricted profiles on the Nexus 10)

There are some apps that are not compatible with restricted profiles like Gmail and Calendar, however you can grant access to Play accounts for Music, Magazine and Movies. If you need to use the camera, that also needs to be added in the setup as well. Interestingly, when you hook up the Android 4.3-running tablet to a PC, it will only let you access content from the profile currently opened on the device.

In terms of being an entirely kids-proof system, there are still ways to do some meddling. You can still access Bluetooth and NFC to transfer files. You can also uninstall apps as well. If you think your top score on Angry Birds is safe, you can think again. Android apps like Kids Place and Zoodles can offer a better solution to the problem of keeping others out of your profile.

Should I download the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update?

On the surface, the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update doesn’t make any wholesale changes. If you dig a little deeper though, there are few tweaks that Google has made to make this one of the slickest versions of Android. From the gesture keyboard, to the revamped camera app, everything is geared towards making Android work smarter, quicker and to improve the overall performance.

The introduction of restricted profiles is another feature that Android users can wave under the noses of iOS devotees. When stories about kids racking up big credit card bills on mum and dad’s iPad are almost a weekly occurrence, it underpins Google's attempts to make its devices safer and more secure to use as a family.

The real potential of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean lies with future devices. Bluetooth Smart and notification access from third-party apps looks set to pave the way for more wearable Android devices and will continue to fuel talk of Android smartwatches. And from a more techy perspective, OpenGL ES 3.0 support means developers can once again push the boundaries of mobile gaming to deliver console standard visuals.

Verdict

It’s a real no-brainer to download Android 4.3 update when it’s available. It makes subtle improvements to an already impressive Jelly Bean operating system. It's quicker, works smarter and gives us a glimpse into the potential of Android devices in the future. It also leaves us eager to find out what Google will serve up when Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie arrives.

Read more: Check out our Nexus 7 2 review and our look at Google Play Music All Access.

Overall Score

8

Alex Walsh

July 29, 2013, 3:03 pm

Lots of people reporting performance issues with the Nexus 4 and android 4.3.

chaosdefinesorder

July 29, 2013, 4:21 pm

gesture typing and the Daydreams you have mentioned are both definitely present in 4.2.2, so are not new for 4.3. The other things you have mentioned are new

shadyguy

July 29, 2013, 6:15 pm

Ive been having *minor* performance issues on my nexus 4 since the update. swiping from the hotkeys to google now lags a bit, the home key doesnt always respond in some apps e.t.c

Pg

July 30, 2013, 12:52 pm

I'd the galaxy nexus & when 4.2.2 came out I updated. Had minor performance issues for ages too (things lagging a little bit, noticeable as they'd never lagged before), then my phone died a few times and after the third one wouldn't boot up :-( Now, they could be unrelated issues, hard to say really.

What I did later read was that it's recommended that you do a factory reset after upgrading the version of android. It's worth checking out whether you should do that after 4.3 upgrade, it might resolve those performance issues.

mothergoose85

July 31, 2013, 9:07 am

This is also a major perk - http://www.engadget.com/2013/0...

Julius Mikkelsen

July 31, 2013, 10:21 pm

My Nexus 4 apparently turned off. That is to say, the screen went black, and I couldn't unlock it. After a lot of fiddling it suddenly turned on again though. I would recommend waiting.

Sharky

August 1, 2013, 9:04 am

I think they were saying that the Photo Frame and Photo Table Daydreams are new, can't remember seeing them in 4.2, but not sure. Can't see what's new with Gesture keyboard though, maybe it's just more accurate.

chaosdefinesorder

August 1, 2013, 9:22 am

I can confirm they are on my Nexus 10 stock ROM (4.2.2) as well as Cyanogenmod 10.1 (4.2.2 based), and also in my Galaxy Note on Paranoid Android 4.2.2 based ROM

pete williams

August 1, 2013, 10:08 am

I used to love my Nexus 4 but 4.3 has ruined it. The phone is slower and laggy and some apps and widgets crash or just don't work at all. I'm really miffed.

Kevin

August 14, 2013, 6:33 am

I have a nexus 10 that has not worked properly since 4.3 was installed. Don't rush to upgrade. If you haven't clicked yes to upgrade, just say NO!

Suresh

August 31, 2013, 3:46 am

Nexus 4 phone sucking phone battery, it not even come 3-4 hours normal usage (One call, message). I'm expecting solution for this next update

jeremy

September 4, 2013, 3:33 am

looks like the new ver will be kit kat 4.4 NOT key lime pie as prev. thought

will

October 10, 2013, 11:12 pm

will the messiging change on the galaxy s4 to make it better?

freddo

November 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

Can Jellybean be installed on a Viewsonic Viewpad 10e that has ICS 4.03

kate

November 6, 2013, 8:45 pm

Since downloading the update I no longer have the "mobile data button on my drop down menu so I can easily turn it off and on. I have to do several steps going into settings now. Also, I'm having issues with searching a name to text someone. I type in their name but it doesn't pull them up. Only typing the first letter of their name and then scrolling through a list can I find them. Is anyone else having these problems?

Lyuba

November 18, 2013, 7:38 pm

I am having both of those issues as well and it's driving me crazy!

jeff k

November 22, 2013, 6:16 pm

I downloaded 4.3 to my Galaxy 3 and now the calendar options for viewing day, week ,year etc. remain on the calendar screen on the right side and do not disappear after choosing your type of view. Previously they disappeared. ATT, Samsung and Google were not able to help, seems to be a software glitch with the calendar

Denis

November 30, 2013, 2:26 pm

Same Issue on the Galaxy S4, why would they remove that, it was so useful.

matt

December 9, 2013, 9:04 pm

Updated my galaxy tab 2's icecream sandwich to jellybean 4.3. Everything has gone backwards. The screenshot option is gone, everything is so messy and screen turns when watching videos even if the screen rotation is off. On top of that, everything works slower, the touch screen reacts less

JazzyJerome

December 14, 2013, 1:05 pm

The update has arrived but I am going to wait to install it.

mrrpotatoo

December 19, 2013, 6:31 pm

will galaxy grand duos get jelly bean 4.3??

Welli DS

December 31, 2013, 1:33 am

I updated my Samsung note 2 as well as my wife's S4 . Big mistake....
First of , I hate the new pop up box when we get a SMS. Also there are tons of pop ups, when I try to use my phone I have to skip a pop up or go in to it.
I went ahead and removed the 4.3 and went back to 4.1.1 way better.
I cant believe they mess up this OS OMG !

hailthekale

January 11, 2014, 3:03 am

Ever since I updated it my phone has been running super slow, and it freezes constantly. Sometimes it stays on a black screen when I try to open an app or a white screen. I do not like this new update at all it is messing my phone up!

Welli DS

January 14, 2014, 11:09 am

I have a Samsung note II when AT&T first release the update , my phone picket it up I clicked to update, my phone got stuck on the Samsung logo. Nothing AT&T did would fix the issue , they end up giving me a new phone. Now , my super killer battery that lasted forever is gone. I have to recharge my phone twice a day. Text messages come in, I cant disable the pop up on the home screen. I don't see any advantages of the upgrade. I think it was not a smart move...

Kristine

January 14, 2014, 6:36 pm

I exeperience the same thing. This should be fix!

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