[Review] Android 4.2 keyboard and camera updates

Two of the many cool new features that have been leaked out in advance of the general release of Android 4.2 are the keyboard typing and input system, as well as the new camera software.  Both of these features are touched upon in the video provided by the Verge in an exclusive sneak peak (check it out here) but after getting both of these updated to my Galaxy Nexus, I wanted to give a quick review of someone who has some hands on time with both these updates.

First – the keyboard.  The new “gesture typing” as its called is very similar to some 3rd party software options currently available, but is Google’s take on it.  Instead of typing the individual keys for each word, you slide your finger across the keyboard to each letter in turn, and the software predicts which word it was that you actually meant.  The prediction “hovers” over your finger as you gesture, allowing you to see if you’re on track or way off base.  It also has the ability to learn slang or colloquialisms, and you can still type letter by letter if you wish as well.  As someone who is a very quick type by letter person, I figured I would have a bit of a challenge making this switch.  It turns out the predictive text is pretty smart, the gestures are pretty quick, and the learning curve wasn’t as steep as I thought.  All in all, a solid improvement over the original.

Second up – the camera software.  As most people who own a Galaxy Nexus can attest to, the camera was a bit of a letdown considering the other fantastic (at the time) tech that went into it.  It is a bit puzzling as to why this might be, since the camera and software for the Galaxy S2 and S3 are both superior to the Galaxy Nexus, and all are made by Samsung.  Regardless, any and all updates in this area are welcome.  The new camera has a more clutter free approach, with the removal of most of the on-screen features and the previous large grey bar at the bottom of the screen.  They’ve been moved to a unique “quick settings” menu that is accessed through a long press anywhere on the camera screen.  A circle target will appear, and sliding your finger in a specific direction will grant access to one of the sub-menus that contains these features.

The newest innovation brought to the camera is most likely to be the most popular one as well…the Photo Sphere.  Using some of the same tech that was first featured in Google’s Street View in Maps, the Sphere takes multiple pictures and stitches them together in a 3D whole that is really pretty slick.  While the system dumped camera files aren’t a perfect fit for the Galaxy Nexus until Android 4.2 is officially released, my initial impressions are that this is going to be a home run for Android enthusiasts.

All in all, I think these changes are things that most people will enjoy, and those lucky Nexus 4 users will get to see them a few days before the rest of the world.  The camera changes are probably the most significant, but the keyboard refresh is a nice touch as well.  If you have a stock Android phone or a custom ROM, be on the lookout for these changes to be coming very soon.     

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