Android 4.2, at last! 4 things to try after the upgrade

Android 4.2 Verizon Galaxy Nexus

It's been a long time coming -- almost five months, if you're counting -- but today, Verizon Wireless is finally updating its oft-neglected Galaxy Nexus phone to Android 4.2.

Big Red will deliver Android 4.2.2 to its Galaxy Nexus owners in waves, meaning a subset of people will get the software each day over the course of a few weeks. You'll receive a notification on your phone when the upgrade becomes available to you.

So what to do once Android 4.2 arrives? For phones, Android 4.2 is a relatively minor upgrade from the 4.1 level of the Jelly Bean platform (for tablets, it's another story). Still, make no mistake about it: The software adds some nice new touches to the user experience.

Here are four things to try once the upgrade hits your device.

[SEE ALSO: Why I ditched the Verizon Galaxy Nexus]

1. Lock screen widgets

Initially a novel curiosity, Android 4.2's lock screen widgets have blossomed into one of the platform's more interesting and powerful features. Lock screen widgets, as the name suggests, let you put live, functioning programs right on your device's lock screen -- allowing you to gain quick access to info without having to unlock your device.

Android 4.2 DashClock

For me, the most useful lock screen widgets are the ones that provide me with the sort of data I want at a glance (and the sort of data I don't mind having outside of my phone's security gate). My favorite lock screen widget at the moment is DashClock, a customizable and expandable app that puts everything from the current weather to info about missed calls, texts and Google Voice messages at my fingertips.

Other useful options include Google's native Sound Search widget, which gives you a quick way to identify the name and artist of any playing song, and HD Widgets, which lets you create attractive lock screen toggles for things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and your phone's flash light.

To get started with lock screen widgets, simply swipe your finger to the right on your lock screen and tap the gray "+" icon that appears. And be sure to check out my collection of 20 excellent Android lock screen widgets to expand your collection and make the most of the feature.

2. Photo Sphere

You've heard about this one, right? Android 4.2's Photo Sphere gives you the ability to capture interactive 360-degree images and then share them with friends. It really is a must-try thing.

The function is right in your phone's Camera app; just tap the camera-shaped icon in the bottom corner of the screen and then tap the icon that looks like a globe. Follow the system's prompts and get ready to see your friends snarl with jealousy.

3. Quick Settings

Android 4.2 Quick Settings

This one is less of a "wow" and more of an "about damn time," but it's worth noting nevertheless: With Android 4.2, you can get to a bunch of useful system settings right from your phone's notification pulldown.

If you've already swiped your finger downward, tap the icon in the upper-right corner of the notification panel to get to Quick Settings. Or -- here's the cooler way to do it -- just swipe downward on your screen with two fingers, from anywhere in the system, to jump right to the Quick Settings menu.

4. Daydream

Android 4.2 Daydream

If you ever dock your phone, you'll almost certainly appreciate Android 4.2's Daydream feature. The feature lets you set a custom screen saver for your phone that shows up anytime the device is docked or charging.

The trick to making the feature useful is finding the right Daydream screensaver for your needs. I like the one provided by Beautiful Widgets; it shows me a gorgeous-looking animated weather screen with moving clouds and all the current weather info for my area. Not your cup of tea? No problem: There are loads of other interesting options available.

You can set up Daydream for your phone by going into the device's main settings menu, then selecting Display and Daydream.

Android 4.2: Everything else

These are some key highlights from Android 4.2 for phones, but there's plenty more to explore. The 4.2 release includes lots of subtle polish along with a powerful new security system and an improved system keyboard with support for swipe-style typing. (Personally, I prefer SwiftKey Flow, but having the swipe functionality built into the native keyboard is undoubtedly a nice touch.)

Android Power Twitter

So welcome to the club, Verizon Galaxy Nexus owners. Your membership may have arrived far later than it should have, but we're glad you're finally here.

[Android 4.2: The complete FAQ]

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon