What's new in Android 4.3? More than you might think

Android 4.3: What's New

It may have taken a little longer than expected to arrive, but rejoice: Google's Android 4.3 update is finally here.

El Goog announced the launch of Android 4.3 during a media event this morning. The update -- which retains the Jelly Bean moniker -- will debut with the new Nexus 7 tablet; it'll also roll out to the first-gen Nexus 7 as well as the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, and Galaxy Nexus starting today and to the new Google Play Experience devices sometime "soon" (hmm...).

Android 4.3 is by no means an earth-shattering release -- nor is it meant to be -- but it does deliver a handful of significant new features and under-the-hood improvements.

Here's what's on the way:

Android 4.3 Restricted Profiles

• An expanded multi-user mode for tablets with the option to create restricted profiles. This seems geared mainly toward parents, who can now allow their kids to use a tablet in a tightly controlled environment with access only to a limited set of apps and content.

• An improved system for switching users from the lock screen that's faster than the version introduced with Android 4.2.

• Bluetooth Smart technology. Also known as Bluetooth Low-Energy, this allows a device to pair with low-powered accessories like fitness sensors.

• Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 support. This allows for functions like the displaying of song names on car stereos.

• Support for an enhanced-audio "virtual surround sound experience" on devices with compatible hardware.

• Under-the-hood support for OpenGL ES 3.0. Translation: Games will be able to use even more detailed and photo-realistic 3D graphics.

• Under-the-hood support for a new DRM programming interface. Translation: Apps like Netflix will now be able to stream video in 1080p HD quality on smartphones and tablets.

• A new Wi-Fi "scan-only" mode that lets a device use Wi-Fi to scan access points and improve location gathering -- without requiring Wi-Fi to be turned on or connections to be established. This should make a noticeable difference in both location accuracy and battery life.

Android 4.3 Smart Dialer

• A new "smart dialer" with autocomplete capabilities. When you start entering numbers or letters, the dial pad will begin suggesting names from your contacts.

• Improved performance -- specifically, lower latency -- for third-party game pads and joysticks.

• A new tab in the system settings to easily view and manage all apps that you've disabled, grouped together in one place.

• An improved version of the system Photo Frame Daydream screensaver that lets you navigate through your albums.

• A simplified and streamlined initial device setup procedure.

• The added ability for apps to tap into the Android 4.x-level Quick Response feature. This means when you reject a call and opt to send the caller a predefined text message, you'll be able to use any app that supports the function instead of being stuck only with the stock Messaging application.

• The added ability for apps to "listen" to notifications. This should open up new possibilities for apps like Tasker and Light Flow and allow them to function without the complicated "Accessibility" workaround they've had to rely upon up till now.

• The tweaks to the Camera UI that we initially saw in the Google Play Experience devices.

• Some improvements to the Photo Sphere feature that allow for higher quality and more consistent images.

Android Power Twitter

We'll undoubtedly discover more subtle changes and bits of polish as the days wear on, but those are the (relatively) big improvements you can expect to see in Android 4.3.

Now... anyone else hankering for a nice cool slice of Key Lime Pie?

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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