Google announces Android 4.3, the latest incremental Jelly Bean update

After weeks of leaksother leaks, and false starts, Google finally unveiled Android 4.3 at this morning's breakfast event with Android and Chrome head Sundar Pichai. Still dubbed Jelly Bean, this update follows in the footsteps of versions 4.1 and 4.2: it introduces a couple of major features and a handful of smaller ones without drastically altering the Android experience introduced back in version 4.0.
Heading the charge is official support for Bluetooth Low Energy, part of the now-supported Bluetooth 4.0 specification. Android OEMs have long been able to add Bluetooth 4.0 support to their own Android builds for their phones, but this is the first time that support has been incorporated into the core of Android. This means Nexus devices that receive the Android 4.3 update and have capable hardware will finally be able to support Bluetooth 4.0, and OEMs using Android will have to do less work to offer the feature in their own devices.
The new operating system will also feature multi-user restricted profiles. This will let users control access to contents and apps per user—so parents, for example, can control which applications their kids can access. When accessed from restricted profiles, applications behave differently. On stage, Hugo Barra demonstrated this by showing a puzzle game whose in-app purchase functionality was automatically disabled when it was accessed on the kids' restricted profile.
Additionally, the new operating system supports the OpenGL ES 3.0 extensions, up from the previous OpenGL ES 2.0. Barra mentioned that Android would be the first mobile platform to officially support the new API extensions.
ROM leaks for devices like the Nexus 4 and Google Play edition S 4 have given us additional insight into minor improvements like those made to the phone dialer, which can now auto-complete numbers from your contacts list. There's reportedly a full emoji keyboard, a must for when your thoughts and feelings are more easily expressed by tiny pictures than words. Other early reports have also mentioned improved performance and boosted active and standby battery life, though we'll have to test this ourselves to be sure.
Android 4.2's camera interface has been swapped out for a new version, identical to what we've seen in Google Play edition phones like the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One. Where Android 4.2 arranged its camera settings in a circle, Android 4.3 arranges them in an arc that you navigate by dragging your finger through it. Assuming it doesn't make any changes to the version from the Google Play phones, this new interface is more of a step sideways than an upgrade from the old one. It doesn't introduce new features or even make the old ones much easier to find; it simply changes how those items are presented.
Enlarge / The stock camera on the Nexus 4 arranges its settings around a circle.
Andrew Cunningham
Enlarge / The Google Play edition phones (and now, Android 4.3) arrange them in an arc that you navigate by dragging your finger.
Andrew Cunningham
Google's Nexus devices will be the first to receive the update, with the new Google Play edition phones reportedly following close behind, as Samsung and HTC make the necessary tweaks to their respective kernels. The Nexus 4, Tegra 3-based Nexus 7, the Nexus 10, and the Galaxy Nexus will be updated first, beginning today. Older devices, like the Motorola Xoom and Nexus S, were both dropped in the Android 4.2 update, so users with older devices won't see these improvements without help from Android's hacker community.
We'll be giving Android 4.3 a thorough review in the coming days. In the meantime, users and developers can get some more in-depth information from Google's Android 4.3 pages here and here.
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