An In-Depth Look at the Latest From Google: Android 4.2

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Hurricane Sandy interrupted Google’s press event — scheduled for last Monday — but that didn’t stop the company from announcing its latest Android products and the newest version of its mobile operating system. Called Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean,” it has a lot to offer. Let’s take a look at some of the new products, including the brand new Nexus 4, and what Android 4.2 has to offer.

Android 4.2 introduces gesture typing, a brand new camera interface, better notifications, support for multiple users, a new lock screen system called Daydream, improved Google Now and Google Search, and much more. It’s also faster than ever (even though Android 4.1 was already a massive improvement on that front).

Gesture typing allows you to swipe your finger from letter to letter to create a word, instead of touch typing, very similar to what we’ve seen from third-party applications such as Swype. The notifications shade is better than ever and provides more details about missed calls, messages, and alerts. Even better, you can interact with those messages directly from the shade itself.

Photosphere builds on the panoramic camera option by allowing you to take a 360-degree image of wherever you are. You can easily share it to Google Maps or your social networks, so anyone can quickly see the entire view — not just a snippet of wherever you are. It works by stitching together various aspects of an image into one complete photograph, sort of like Microsoft’s Photosynth. The camera interface is completely redesigned, as well. With one long tap, you can swipe to turn the flash on or off or change any of the other camera options. This alleviates the need to dig through menus.

Barnes & Noble introduced multi-user support on its Android-based Nook HD, but now it’s a default part of Android 4.2. That means your entire family can share a single tablet and each member can have a different home screen complete with different apps, widgets, and multimedia. Dad can have his home screen focused around sports, while little Susan can have hers plastered with magazines, games and more.

Typically, your home screen has been a desolate wasteland unless you have a third party UI installed, but that’s all changed in Android 4.2. Daydream allows you to customize your lock screen with news headlines, photos, and other information. I think this breathes life into an otherwise boring experience, and is an excellent new addition.

Google Now alerts you of the day’s weather as soon as you wake up in the morning and, if you have a package being delivered, it will find the information in your inbox and keep you up to date on its status. It also provides new information on movies nearby, great spots for taking photos and more. Google Search is also now “easier than ever” for finding information about sports teams, pop culture or anything you throw at it.

These software features may be great, but how can you use it?

For now, you can buy one of Google’s new products, including the Nexus 10 tablet (Samsung’s device with a 10.1-inch super high resolution display), the updated Nexus 7 tablets that are now available in 16GB ($199) and 32GB ($249) flavors, or the brand new Nexus 4 from LG.

Unlike earlier Nexus devices, however, the Nexus 4 doesn’t support the fastest networks in the United States. Instead, you’re locked down to HSPA+ networks, which aren’t as fast as the 4G LTE options from Sprint, Verizon or AT&T. It does, however, pack a powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor from Qualcomm, up to 16GB of storage, an amazingly sharp IPS screen, and NFC. It’s also quite affordable for an unlocked phone and starts at just $299 without a contract.

I’ll have more time with Google’s new Nexus devices in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates on how I feel about them. Google’s brand new Android 4.2 operating system is the best version yet, however, so expect plenty of exciting product announcements.

Photo by Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

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