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AH Primetime: How Android 4.3 Leads to Key Lime Pie

August 21, 2013 - Written By Nick Sutrich

This year at Google I/O, nearly everyone in the tech community was certain that Google would announce Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.  When we first got rumors and hintings at Android 4.3 Jelly Bean being the next version of Android instead of Key Lime Pie, people started scratching their heads wondering what Google would do with another incremental update.  Much as Android 2.3 Gingerbread was a fairly incremental update with seemingly little in terms of surface changes, it’s mainly the under-the-hood changes that we’re focusing on here.  There are quite a few exciting things here even though they might not initially look it, and they give us a great look at what Google is probably going to be doing with Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.

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First up is multi-user switching, which has been improved since it’s introduction in Android 4.2.  Multi-user switching is still only available for tablets, although there’s certainly plenty of options out there if you really want it on your phone.  Multi-user switching was improved in quite a few ways, most immediately apparent is the speed at which you can switch profiles now.  To initiate this, you drag down the notification bar, and on the quick settings panel click your user profile name on the top left.  You’re then presented with any Google accounts that you have added to the phone, and clicking any one of the accounts gives you a completely different feel to the device within seconds.  This is considerably faster than even most Windows desktops where user switching has traditionally been most common.

 

Another big deal, especially for parents, is the ability to set restrictions on app usage and content viewing.  In the example of a family, the parents can have their own profiles, and each child can have his or her own, with the proper restrictions put in place.  This makes it easy for the whole family to share the same tablet, and it’s clearly where Google is moving with Key Lime Pie.  Android has long been considered the new Windows replacement, and that only becomes more obvious when you look at products like Acer’s $400 Android-powered PC and the many other products like this being introduced to the market.

 

When Google introduced the new Nexus 7, one of the highlights was the it supports virtual surround sound, something that was introduced with Android 4.3.  Virtual surround sound gives users a whole new experience when it comes to multimedia consumption and gaming on their devices, and it’s just one more thing to add to the pile of awesome little ideas introduced in Android 4.3.  We expect this might even move on to more full-fledged surround sound support in future versions of Key Lime Pie, especially since Google is trying to take over the living room as well.

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We’ve also seen an upgrade in gaming performance and features with Android 4.3, where full OpenGL ES 3.0 support was announced.  This is a significant upgrade to the back-end graphics rendering engine within Android, and brings 3D rendering features up to par with the latest consoles.  While we’re not going to be seeing PS4 or Xbox One graphics just yet on our tablets or phones, you better believe that’s going to be coming in the next few years.  At the rate these devices are advancing, with octo-core processors and insanely fast RAM, you know the next feature set upgrade will be bringing even better graphics for our games.  We’ve also seen Google recently add XXXHDPI support into Android, which adds native support for 4K displays.  Couple this with the launch of Google Play Games last month and we can see where this is heading.  Google wants your living room and your handheld devices to be powered by Android, and they are making significant strides with Android 4.3, and soon Key Lime Pie, to do so.

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Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is also a new feature on the back-end of Android 4.3.  This allows content providers like movie and music studios to securely deliver their paid content without having to fret over piracy.  While DRM can be the bane of existence for many PC users out there, when it’s done right no one seems to mind it.  This fills the need for more security within Android that content providers have been begging for, and might just help root users get around the age-old problem of having to hack Netflix and other apps just to use them.  Don’t necessarily count your chickens before they hatch with this one, but it’s yet another layer of multimedia protection and availability that Google is adding in Android.

Among the addition of more secure content delivery via DRM, Google has fixed many security vulnerabilities in Android with Android 4.3.  The introduction of SELinux in Android 4.3, Google has added additional security layers to protect android users.  Read up on our SELinux article for more information than I can present here.  What this all means is that Google is continuing to build a framework for the most secure operating system around, and Key Lime Pie will only improve that further.

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Bluetooth has evolved very quickly over the years, and we’ve gone from simple Bluetooth headsets to fitness bands, smartwatches and other wirelessly connected accessories over the years.  Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy support has finally been officially added to Android, and is something that has been lacking for years since the iPhone 4S started using it in 2011.  Up until now there were a range of Bluetooth enabled products that Android users could not use unless their device supported a proprietary version of Bluetooth 4.0 as many of Samsung or HTC devices do.  This obviously caused problems in compatibility, but has thankfully been fixed.  Most devices already have the hardware to support Bluetooth 4.0, and now that there’s official support in Android for the specification we will definitely be seeing more products add official Android support.  We expect Google to continue to advance on the Bluetooth and wireless connectivity front with Key Lime Pie, and maybe even integrate new things with other wireless technologies like NFC and WiFi-Direct.

 

Google’s camera has come a long way over the years, and while it’s definitely better than previous versions, it still has a long way to go when comparing it to OEMs like Samsung and HTC.  Google fixed a lot of little issues, like the ring navigation and broken rotation in the Android 4.2 camera, and introduced some improvements as well.  Google also improved the accuracy and speed in which PhotoSpheres are taken, which is one of the biggest features of Google’s camera in the first place.  Google will likely introduce more features to their camera UI in Key Lime Pie, and hopefully fill that massive feature gap between Google’s own camera and other camera UIs out there.

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Last but not least is the user interface, which hasn’t seen any substantial change at all in Android 4.3.  Curiously Android 2.3 added quite a few interface improvements, even though it was considered a very small incremental update.  We’ve seen no such changes in Android 4.3, and while most of Google’s apps have been updated this far to reflect their unique card-based UI and slide-out menus, the overall Android interface hasn’t been changed much since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was introduced at the end of 2011.  We’re expecting some major updates with Key Lime Pie, and more user customization as well.  Custom ROMs have had basic theming support forever now with the introduction of the T-Mobile theme engine over 3 years ago.  Yes, that’s the same T-Mobile that’s been trying to convince you to switch to them all year now.  It’s highly unlikely that Google will integrate such a thing into Key Lime Pie, but any kind of basic theming support by Google is more than welcome.

What would you like to see in Key Lime Pie?  Is there something about Android’s interface that bugs you and can be significantly improved, or would you be content with more minor tweaks and improvements?  Let us know in the comments!