Why Android 4.2.2 is an important update

With Google's IO conference just around the corner, the updates in this week's Android 4.2.2 release probably could have waited for Key Lime Pie. But Android 4.2.2 is an important step for Android development.

Google released Android 4.2.2 for the Nexus 4, 7 and 10 this week. Some devices have already received over-the-air updates. Compared to Android 4.2.1, is there really anything important in this incremental release? With Google’s annual developer’s conference Google IO scheduled just 82 days from now, when Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie is anticipated to be announced, why would Google interrupt its course for an incremental release? Who should care?

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While owners of other Android devices who don’t get this update won’t feel slighted, developers extending Android’s reach into entertainment, peer-to-peer networking, and better spectrum utilization will care about this release. Though this release has many nice features, like download status notifications and improved quick settings, most of these features could wait for the Key Lime Pie update.

Google’s Nexus-branded products and Motorola Mobility-branded products are being used to advance the Android community and lead innovation by demonstrating new software and hardware features. This provides a large platform for advanced development testing in anticipation of the adoption of these features. These communications-related improvements in Android 4.2.2 are intended to enable the progress of a set of innovators whose project timeline can’t wait for the next release. 

Android 4.2.2 enables developers who are building the next family hearth in the rapidly evolving and intensely competitive smart TV market. Samsung, LG, Sony and other smart TV manufacturers are working feverishly to avoid becoming just display companies whose products can’t compete with devices that stream content. Also competing is Apple’s Airplay, which lets iOS and Leopard users stream high-definition (HD) audio and video content to HDTVs connected with Apple TV. Intel, with its wireless display standard WiDi, does the same for certain processors and some new LG and Toshiba HDTV models or any HDTV with a WiDi adapter.

Android's open approach to streaming HD content to HDTVs incorporates the WiFi Alliance’s Miracast standard, which is fully compatible with Intel’s WiDi. Android 4.2.2 includes a stable Miracast feature that enables users to stream HD content from a smartphone or tablet on a HDTV equipped with an adapter. This is an important development for both the Android enthusiast and the Android entertainment developer. But, for the time being, it is just an appealing idea, another step toward the wonderful future in which TV and movies and other content can be selected from Hulu or Netflix smartphone apps and streamed to a large HDTV, for lean-back consumption by the entire family.

Android 4.2.2 includes enhancements and stability to WiFi Direct, an open source peer-to-peer WiFi project that enables direct communication between WiFi devices intended to let smart connected devices communicate directly with one another. Like Miracast, WiFi Direct eliminates a router to establish and control the communication. Tablets, smartphones, cameras, printers, PCs, and gaming devices that support WiFi Direct can communicate with one another, and developers of cool apps such as Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) can be deployed on unrooted Android 4.2.2 devices that support WiFi Direct.

Faster captive portal detection is included with this Android version. On one hand, this feature just reduces the time and frustration of agreeing to terms and conditions just to connect to a WiFi network. This is not only important to help data-hungry users avoid surcharges for 3G and 4G data plan usage above carrier limits, but also for the spectrum-limited mobile carriers. Mobile carriers are increasingly switching from 3G and 4G to WiFi wherever possible, using advanced technology from Devicescape. Devicescape has woven millions of amenity WiFi networks into a single virtual network. Its sophisticated captive portal detection and navigation software automatically and seamlessly switches mobile devices from 3G and 4G data communications to local free WiFi. This frees up carrier data transmission bandwidth. Faster captive portal detection means quicker handoffs to WiFi networks and better 3G and 4G utilization.

Android 4.2.2 is not a critical update for many smartphone and tablet owners. For the time being, it’s just for Nexus smartphones and tablets, and will debut as an update to newer mobile devices from companies such as Samsung, Sony and LG that also have a stake in the HDTV business and want a consistent consumer experience using branded mobile devices and HDTVs. In time, these important features will be insulated from the general Android user’s experience with intuitive apps.

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