Gadgets

So, I decided to flash my Nexus 7 with the recently announced Android L Developer Preview (dubbed to be Android 5.0 Lollipop). I am yet to completely explore the new Android. However, here is a quick and simple review along with a few screen captures.

UI: 

This is the first thing you will definitely notice. The UI looks refreshing and is based on the Material design. You can see that pretty clearly in the different screen captures.

Performance & Battery Life:

While I have not tested the battery life yet, the performance seemed normal. I did  not see any major improvement from KitKat (which itself was very good anyway). I thought a developer preview would be less stable but in using it for a couple of days now, I could not find any issues whatsoever.

Soft Keys:

The three soft keys are new as well (triangle, circle and a square), as you can see in the screen captures. However, personally I did not like them. Probably, it will take some time to get used to them.

Control Center (Pull down bar): 

In KitKat, you could access WiFi, location, mobile data etc settings by simply pulling down from the top and tapping on whatever you wanted. Here you were merely tapping the shortcut as you would be taken the specific settings page to do the action you wanted. This is now more powerful in Android L and you can do stuff right there in the pull down bar. You can toggle WiFi, location, bluetooth etc right there. While this is good, this could cause problems in smaller devices (where the buttons are smaller as well) where you can accidentally turn off WiFi when you wanted to actually tap on the network name to connect to a different network.

Notifications:

I miss the single button to dismiss all notifications in the notification bar. Probably that will come back in the stabler versions of Android L.

Lock Screen Notifications:

Notifications show up on the lock screen but show limited information (as you can see in the screen capture) for security purposes.

Multitasking:

The square button shows all the recent apps. However, instead of a 2D list of apps that you can scroll Android L has a 3D cascade of app tiles similar to the cards interface in Google Now. Personally, I felt this design slows you down when you have multiple apps open and want to switch between them fast.

ART Runtime:

Android Kitkat brought in an option for developers to switch from the traditional dalvik to ART runtime. That option is now gone and Google has switched completely to ART. In my experience, ART was much better than dalvik in terms of battery consumption and performance. So, this is a welcome change.

Google Apps:

All Google Apps like Calculator, People, Keyboard, Settings etc have been redesigned to match the new UI. Most of them have got functionality enhancements as well.

Apps:

I have not downloaded and tried all the apps yet but most of the apps seem to work with Android L without any issues. Some apps did have some issues, though. Hoping that the developers or Google will fix these issues before the release.

Meeting Minutes:

Meeting Minutes Pro and the 3 day free trial worked perfectly on Android L. However, Meeting Minutes Sync seems to have some issues. Don’t worry, it will be addressed (by Google or us) before Android L is released.

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Google launched the Nexus 4 smartphone, Nexus 7 HSPA+ 7″ tablet and the Nexus 10 10″ tablet earlier this week with the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS. Needless to say all the 3 new products were sold out like hot cakes within a few hours of launch. Subsequently, Google started rolling out the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OTA update to the Nexus family of devices. My Nexus 7 got the update yesterday and my Galaxy Nexus phone got the update today. Here is a quick and simple peek into what has changed with Jelly Bean 4.2 and what I feel about the update…

Multi-User Support: This is something that I haven’t seen till now in mobile devices. Right now, it is available only on tablets and lets you create multiple user accounts with a separate home screen, apps etc. So you and your partner/friend can share a tablet and still keep the data separate.

Photo Sphere Camera: This is the BEST features of this update. Using this you can very easily capture a panoramic shot covering 360 degrees. Now you don’t need an SLR camera or take a shot from a long distance to cover all the 100 people that attended your birthday party in a single picture. I will try to post some pictures taken using the feature soon..

Gesture (swipe) Typing: This feature looks very cool but am not sure about its usability. I was able to type much faster using the traditional method on my tablet than with gesture typing. It is better suited for phones than tablets. Also, it might be useful for those that cannot use their both hands to type.

Performance: The previous version of Jelly Bean itself was pretty slick. This version has just raised the bar. The devices have become even slicker with the update that can be very easily noticed.

Lock Screen Widgets: You can create multiple lock screen widgets to display useful information while the screen is locked. Photos, Email, News etc can be placed here. The email lock screen widget shows you a preview of the message that helps you determine whether or not to unlock to device to read it.

Mini Settings from Notification bar: The most commonly used settings can be simply reached from the notification bar instead of needing to go to the Settings app. This is a useful feature update.

Miscellaneous: There is a new clock app, improved and optimized UI around the OS, clear demarcation of the permissions required while downloading new apps/updates from Google Play etc.

Note: This post is just my experience of playing around with the Jelly Bean 4.2 update for a few hours. There could be a lot more features that I have not tired yet.  For more information on the update, please go here.

Apple released the iPad mini yesterday apart from a host of other new-new and old-new devices. Marketing folks at Apple are pretty good and can make even the worst product look great with their innovative charts and statistics. One other fact that was noticed by everyone but not specifically announced by Apple was the sunset of the old new iPad (3rd gen) that was released only in March this year. Apparently, Apple is clearing their stock of the 3rd gen iPads as refurbs starting at a price of $379. The new new iPad (4th gen) is the same as the old new iPad (3rd gen) but has the lightning connector and the A6X processor.

Here is a quick comparison of the 4 popular 7 inch tablets in the market. In this comparison I have used the Google (ASUS) Nexus 7 as the baseline with which the other three are compared. It is clearly evident from this comparison that the iPad mini is essentially an outdated and overpriced device. In more simple terms it is an iPad 2 in a smaller casing. And it is also clearly evident that the Nexus 7 emerges as the WINNER. Kindle Fire HD is a pretty good device that will work for those that consume a lot of content from Amazon.

** – It is rumored that the 32 GB Nexus 7 will be introduced by the end of this month. Some folks have already been able to purchase it at some retail stores in the US.

%% – It is also rumored that the 32 GB Nexus 7 will be sold at $249 while the 16 GB variant will be sold at $199. The 8 GB variant will apparently be discontinued.

## – Prices of the Kindle Fire HD without special offers has been considered for the comparison.

Note: Google doesn’t write me any checks (though I would be more than happy if they did) out of the profits they make out the Nexus 7. I personally own a 16 GB Nexus 7.