Android 4.3 — a dull improvement, but an improvement nonetheless


Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) launched today, alongside the new Nexus 7. Sadly, the latter is a much more interesting announcement — anyone expecting any major upgrades to the Android OS will be rather disappointed. Given the dramatic overhaul Apple gave iOS this summer with version 7, today’s announcement was pretty snooze-worthy — though many (myself included) would argue that Android is less in need of a UI overhaul than Apple’s somewhat aged OS.

Instead, 4.3 offers minor improvements to core parts of the OS — think of it as paving the way for a bigger overhaul in the future. What’s new? Bluetooth Smart technology is now baked in at OS level, which enables low energy Bluetooth — such as that used in Fitbit’s Flex activity band — which should enable longer-lasting Bluetooth devices. Graphics should also be boosted system-wide, both within apps and in animations, as support for OpenGL ES 3.0 is also included — Unity showed a demo of 3D objects casting shadows upon themselves and copious amounts of lens flare to demonstrate the new capabilities. There’s also a restricted profile feature — think Kid’s Corner on Windows Phone 8 — which allows parents to control what their children can view and access, with apps responding differently based on which user is accessing them, such as blocking in-app purchases for young hands.

The most noteworthy feature, though — and it’s not difficult to be noteworthy with this dreary bunch — is 1080p streaming in the Netflix app, something neither Apple nor Windows Phone can lay claim to. Ready to take advantage of the Nexus 7‘s 1080p screen, it’s enabled via a new set of DRM APIs which make the most of HD content, and should make spur-of-the-moment Netflix sessions even more enjoyable.

Android 4.3 will ship on the new Nexus 7, available on the 30, and will be available on the first-gen Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus via an over-the-air update today. Try not to get too excited.

Metro Weekly

Rhuaridh Marr is one of Metro Weekly's contributing editors and covers cars, technology, gaming and world news. He is usually found with a game controller in one hand and a smartphone in the other and can be reached at

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