Google's Android 4.2 revamp adds panoramic camera, gesture typing

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) released version 4.2 of its Android mobile operating system, which integrates a host of new features as well as a smoother, more responsive user experience.

Chief among the highlights of Android 4.2 (which retains the same Jelly Bean nickname bestowed on version 4.1, introduced this summer) is the new Photo Sphere camera, which enables users to capture 360-degree panoramic images they can share via the Google+ social platform or upload to Google Maps. The revamped OS also touts Gesture Typing, a Swype-like text input tool enabling users to drag their finger across the screen from letter to letter--the software adds spaces between words and suggests words to further simplify the process, bolstered by expanded dictionaries.

Also new in Android 4.2: Miracast, which brings wireless media sharing capabilities similar to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Airplay. Users can share movies, YouTube videos, photos and other content from their smartphone to an HDMI-enabled television. With the new Daydream, users may also display photos and Google Current news when their device is idle or docked.

Android 4.2 additionally brings new support for multiple tablet users. Each individual within a family or staff can customize their own homescreen, background, widgets, apps and games. Android multitasking simplifies toggling between users, without requiring logins or logouts.

Android 4.2 enhances Google Now, which now spotlights popular photo spots, movie previews and package tracking, alongside information like local weather and traffic updates. Google also promises faster, more precise mobile search results, more fluid graphics and screen transitions and more responsive touch interactions, automatically boosting the device's CPU when the user touches the device screen and dialing it back down when idle to improve battery life.

Android 4.2 will power devices including LG Electronics' Nexus 4 smartphone, the latest in Google's series of "lead" Nexus-branded devices. Modeled on LG's high-end Optimus G phone, the Nexus 4 sports Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and boasts a 4.7-inch WXGA True HD IPS+ display, 2 GB of RAM, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and support for Near Field Communications, Bluetooth and Google's Wireless Charging Orb, an inductive charging dock. The Nexus 4 will be sold unlocked and is GSM/HSPA+ compatible--it goes on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 13, priced at $299 for 8GB of storage or $349 for 16GB. A T-Mobile USA version will be sold for $199 with a two-year contract.

Google also unveiled the Samsung-made Nexus 10 tablet, a 10-inch device with a 2560 x 1600 screen resolution, aimed at media consumption. The Nexus 10 will come in 16 GB or 32 GB models and will only support Wi-Fi. The tablet is powered by a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 chip, likely made by Samsung. Google is selling the tablet for $399 for the 16 GB model and $499 for the 32 GB version, or about $100 less than a comparable Apple iPad with Retina display. The Nexus 10 will be available Nov. 13 in the Google Play store.

Finally, Google updated its 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, adding a pentaband HSPA+ radio as well as 32 GB of storage. The device will sell for $299, which is $50 more than the 16 GB model. Google will sell the device unlocked but it is also available with Google either a T-Mobile or AT&T (NYSE:T) SIM card pre-installed. It also will be available starting Nov. 13.

For more:
- read this Android Official Blog entry

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