Google has officially unveiled its latest Android operating system, the new Jelly Bean, version 4.2, bringing a whole host of new features for both smartphones and tablets.
Among the highlights is a ‘Photo Sphere’ feature that allows you to take full 360-panorama shots of your surroundings, much like Google Streetview, and share them with friends or the whole world on Google Maps.
Also new is gesture typing on the on-screen keyboard. If you’ve used Swype, you’ll know what it is. If you haven’t: essentially, you can trace your finger over multiple letters and the software will guess the word you’re trying to type using a clever algorithm.
Elsewhere, there is support for Miracast that enables content on your device to be streamed directly on big screens over Wi-Fi. Notifications have also been enhanced and can now be expanded to give you additional options depending on their nature. For example, for calendar events, you can 'snooze' a reminder or email guests who are attending.
Google Now, meanwhile, gets integration with Gmail and additional cards with useful information such as flight information, table reservations, room bookings and shipping details.
Android 4.2 also introduces features for tablets. Perhaps the most exciting of these is the ability to create multiple users per device, keep emails, apps and other sensitive data from prying eyes, ideal for family members.
Daydream is another pleasing, if gimmicky, addition. This is basically a screensaver that pulls your photos or displays news stories when the tablet is not in use, which could be pretty neat to look at on your work desk or whathaveyou.
The OS refresh also brings performance optimisations and bug fixes. Although UI changes are minimal, menus and screens appear more streamlined and easier to navigate, which is always welcome.
An update to Android 4.2 will be rolled out to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Google Nexus 7 by mid-November, followed by other devices in the months to follow. Stay tuned and we'll let you know when you can expect an update on your handset or tablet.