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July 25, 2013

Android 4.3: Jelly Bean Improvements

After a long wait, Google finally released Android 4.3 yesterday. It's a minor update that has more new APIs and improvements for the existing features than exciting new features.

The third and final Jelly Bean installment brings support for virtual surround sound, OpenGL ES 3.0, wireless display, Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low-Energy), Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 (displays song metadata), restricted profiles, WiFi location detection even when WiFi is disabled. There's also a new tab for disabled apps in the settings and the phone app suggests numbers and names when you enable "Dial pad autocomplete".

"Restricted profiles enable parental controls, so certain family members are prevented from accessing mature content. Likewise, retail stores can use tablets to show off product information, and shops can use tablets as point of sale systems," explains Google. Restricted profiles let you limit access to apps and content.

Many Android devices already support Bluetooth 4.0, but now there's native Android support. Bluetooth 4.0 is great for low-power devices. "Android-powered Bluetooth Smart Ready devices running the latest OS will be compatible with virtually any Bluetooth enabled product — from the keyboards or headphones they already own, to the latest generation of power-efficient Bluetooth Smart appcessories (accessories + companion apps) like Fitbit or the Pebble watch," informs More smart accessories will be able to connect to Android devices, Google Glass will have a better battery life when it will be released, smart watches will have to be recharged less often and there's a long list of medical and fitness devices that become smarter: thermometers, heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, pedometers, weight scales and more.

OpenGL ES 3.0 is the latest version of the popular 3D graphics API that enhances the rendering pipeline to accelerate more advanced visual effects, has better support for textures and texture compression. The specs were published last year and Qualcomm's latest Adreno GPUs already support it. You can find them in devices like HTC One, Galaxy S4, Nexus 4 and the latest Nexus 7. ARM's Mali T604 also supports it and you can find it in Nexus 10. The native OpenGL ES 3.0 will mean that you'll be able to play the latest games and see all the enhancements.

The first device that ships with Android 4.3 is the new Nexus 7. All the Nexus devices that were updated to Android 4.2 will be updated to Android 4.3: Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, the original Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. You'll probably wait for the OTA updates, but Google also provides the firmware here. Galaxy Nexus is the first Nexus device that gets 3 significant Android updates.

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