First we saw it on the Samsung Galaxy S4, now Android 4.3 has emerged on a Nexus 4 handset, sporting the exact same build as the one previously leaked for the S4. Following a system dump and a lot of analysis, we think we have the full changelog for the next major build of our favourite open source OS.
On the surface there isn’t much to look at on the 4.3 build that we haven’t already seen in 4.2.2; there are no great consumer facing changes, which will be a disappointment for some. But under the hood, there are some serious tweaks.
The most prominent feature has been discussed for months now, which is the implementation of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This is exactly what it sounds like – more energy efficient Bluetooth, which means when you pair the phone with your much talked about Google Smartwatch, it won’t cost you huge chunks of battery life. Also now Android supports transmitting song metadata via Bluetooth, which means your car radio will finally be able to show you song titles whilst you’re streaming. OpenGL ES 3.0 support is also included.
Another nice new feature is the always on location services via WiFi, which if enabled scans for networks using a special low power mode, thereby giving you more accurate location data without causing extra battery drain.
We’re also seeing a notification history, which is hidden in the settings. This will no doubt be useful on the odd occasion when you’ve dismissed something without reading it. Of course the 4.3 camera app is present, which we first saw on the 4.2.2 versions of the GE HTC One and S4. One interesting thing to note is that reorienting the device whilst in the camera app results in the icons switching to their sides now instead of a full redraw of the app, which makes for a much smoother experience. You can also now take photos using the volume buttons.
A massive increase in the sensitivity of the touch screen is also reported, which is another welcome change, making gesture typing much easier amongst other things. Combined with smoother animations the whole device feels much closer in terms of “smoothness” and responsiveness to Windows Phone and iOS, although still not quite there.
Google Keep is now a system app, and as it’s by far the nicest note taking app I’ve used, I personally welcome that particular change. The dialer is slightly different, and it now allows you to add pauses before dialing, along with a few other minor changes. There’s also a whole bunch of new developer options for the devs out there, particularly in relation to optimising apps for a 60fps frame rate.
Lastly we’ve heard anecdotal reports of better battery life as well, but this won’t be confirmed for a day or two.
So all in all, a huge number of under the hood refinements, in what is Android’s best build yet. If you’re a lucky Nexus 4 owner and feel like taking the plunge before 4.3 is presumably released officially next week, check out this thread on Reddit which nicely pulls together all the various downloads. If you do flash 4.3, let us know your findings.