While Google's big press event scheduled for today in New York may have been canceled, the company still decided to move forward with a slew of announcements via blog post. Among them was the release of Android 4.2, an updated version of Jelly Bean to come preinstalled on the new line of Nexus devices.
Swype fans will be pleased to hear that Android 4.2 includes a keyboard that lets users input text via gliding gestures. Not only that, it offers predictions based on common strings of word combinations for "smarter" typing. While the news is certainly good for users who get a significantly improved input interface, it could be harmful to a company like SwiftKey, which just announced its own glide-supporting, predictive keyboard for Android.
Also part of 4.2 is a 360-degree panoramic photo feature called Photo Sphere. While third-party apps for panoramic photos have existed on Google Play for quite some time, this updated version of Google's baked-in panorama mode is unique in its ability to stitch together shots in all directions, vertically, and horizontally.
Tablet users get a little something extra as well, as the tablet-optimized version of Android 4.2 adds support for multiple users. Users get their own home screens, backgrounds, widgets, apps, and so on, and it's easy to switch between accounts right from the lock screen. Because tablets are often shared among family members, this feature could give Android devices a huge leg up over the iPad, which can only support and sync to a single user account.
Perhaps the sexiest feature to come with 4.2 is support for Miracast, an AirPlay-like protocol that allows users to wirelessly stream both audio and video directly from mobile device to television set, without having to go through a wireless network. Developed by the not-for-profit Wi-Fi Alliance, Miracast has tremendous potential, as it has garnered support from both LG and Samsung, with both companies already incorporating the technology into select devices.
Lastly, Android 4.2 brings with it the newest version of Google Now, which has added a handful of useful "cards" to its fast-growing collection. Now, the service can automatically notify you of flight information, restaurant reservations, hotel confirmations, and shipping details, all before you even ask.