The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

Nov 26, 2012

So, a while ago, I complained that Android 4.2, a new version of Jelly Bean, was really not needed at this point. And in a proud moment for punditry, I’m right. This is a version of Android that seems designed solely to hype up the Nexus 4 and 10 with new features, and for current devices, it really isn’t ready.

There’s new issues with the OS. There was the much-publicized December bug in the People app (still not fixed). There’s some curious design choices: the new clock font with different bolding for the hours and minutes display seems like a questionable decision after the original Jelly Bean clock worked as such an understated design, the new one sticks out like a sore thumb. That, and the new lockscreen widgets, while handy, are just not visually appealing. The new split dropdown notification bar is problematic: it’s just not a good thing on the Nexus 7, where now I have to drag down from the left side of the top of the screen to get my actual notifications, and the right side for settings. That status bar in portrait is too thin to actually do anything. Android Police has a great rundown of all the other issues that have been popping up.

Of course, a lot of this stands out because usually, Android updates have been a good thing, often making the device they’re installed on quite better, thanks to new optimizations along with the new features. But this update feels like it wasn’t quite ready for prime time, that Google wanted to release an udpate along with the Nexus 4 so that they could tout new features on the phone, and it just wound up not really being ready for the Nexus 7 in particular.

Compare this to iOS: a major OS upgrade has at times spelled doom for older devices (the iPhone 3G was not meant to have iOS 4 despite it actually being released for the platform) but lately, updates have had minor effects on devices, beyond the usual quibbles about battery life that usually come along with it. But the new feature usually outweigh any of the complaints that come along.

But the funny thing is that Google actually benefits a bit from getting to see how it’s performing in the real world: considering how long it takes for updates to circulate out amongst the manufacturers’ phones. So, in a way, this gives Google a chance to actually fix these problems before they hit mainstream consumers. After all, Jelly Bean 4.1 only just hit the Galaxy S III when 4.2 came out.

As well, this was a minor update, not a major one. But still, 4.0 to 4.1 was not the kind of overhaul that ICS was and it was still an improvement. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road, a reminder that while Android is generally getting smoother and better to use, there will be bumps in the road.

But these bumps need to be smoothed out, as the Nexus 7 was one of the more impressive Android devices out there because it was so smooth, and 4.2 has hurt that. Google needs to sort this out soon, especially as these are their flagship devices, the ones that guide Android as a whole.