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Summary:

On Tuesday, Google announced Android 4.1.2 for the Android Open Source Project, which brings home screen rotation to Android devices. Third-party apps have supported this feature in the past, but Google needed to add it and avoid new users from having a bad experience.

Nexus 7 home screen in landscape

Google announced Android 4.1.2 on Tuesday, a software update that adds a key feature to devices running the Jelly Bean software: home screen rotation support. Prior to this update, all Android 4.1 devices use portrait mode for the home screens, even when the smartphone or tablet is in landscape mode, making for a disjointed experience.

The software update was first announced by Jean-Baptiste M. Queru, technical lead of Google’s Android Open Source Project in a Google Group dedicated to Android software builds. JR Raphael from ComputerWorld noted the communication on Google+ before any details were actually provided. Now we know that, at a minimum, the software update enables landscape home screen support and auto-rotation of the home screens. A full change log isn’t yet available, so it’s possible that Google has added other features, although as a “point” release to Android 4.1, I wouldn’t expect radical changes.

Once devices receive the update, there won’t be a need for third-party screen rotation apps. That’s a big plus from an end-user experience. As good as these apps are — until now, I’ve used Ultimate Rotation Control on my Nexus 7, which worked great — someone new to Android wouldn’t likely know about them. Instead, they’d be left wondering why the home screen doesn’t automatically rotate when switching from portrait to landscape and have a sub-par user experience.

Google is commenting on which devices will get Android 4.1.2 and when, but that’s largely outside of its control with the exception of Nexus branded devices. Carriers and handset makers will have to integrate the new features and push them to end users. The GSM Galaxy Nexus phone and Nexus 7 tablet, however, are likely to see the update pushed over the air soon. EE Times already has the software installed as well as images of the home screen in landscape mode.

  1. mmmmm not true, I’ve had homescreen rotation on a smartphone since I think Gingerbread (usually using CyanogenMod but the point is that it was already possible)

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    1. Kevin C. Tofel Tuesday, October 9, 2012

      Sure it was possible, but not out of the box, which is how most people first use their device. ;)

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    2. If you read the whole article he says that third part applications already made this possible. The author of your ROM probably just included it.

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    3. Android 4.1 was the First of Android to not have it, but Google re-Added it to Android 4.1.2

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  2. Timothy Q. Oliver Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    My Samsung Galaxy 10.1 running ICS does homescreen rotation by default. I didn’t realize that not all tablet devices do this. Congratulations!

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    1. It’s something new with Jelly Bean. The Nexus 7 won’t rotate (until the update is applied, that is), and the stock phone UI has never rotated, which is obnoxious at best.

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  3. Sad that less than 7% of devices are running ICS let alone JB. Im an android fan however Their updates to phones are a joke.

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    1. Kevin C. Tofel Tuesday, October 9, 2012

      Curious where you got the < 7% figure from, Cory. According to the latest Android Device Targeting dashboard, 23.7% of all devices hitting Google Play recently were running ICS. Another 1.8% were running JB.

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  4. My Asus TF700 Infinity had home screen rotation out of the box. My only other experience with Android was Cyanogenmod on a Firesale HP Touchpad, and it also had auto screen rotation.

    Based on this article, I’m guessing that it wasn’t native to Android but was something that was added either by the manufacturer (ASUS) or by the CyanogenMod developers.

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    1. >> Based on this article, I’m guessing that it wasn’t native to Android but was something that was added either by the manufacturer (ASUS) or by the CyanogenMod developers.

      Exactly. Despite having been coded into many past Android releases, system-wide 360º rotation was not enabled by Google. That’s why it was easy for OEM manufacturers and independent devs to offer it in their custom ROMs and/or proprietary UI overlays

      It’s not the first time we’ve seen Google choosing to conceal core functionalities in Android, whether as ‘experimental’ or for reasons unknown. Another famous example is pinch/zoom gestures, which @2010 were found only on a few Android devices.

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  5. Yeah no landscape homepage is a joke.

    Heck it took Apple 2 years after the iPhone was released just to get cut and paste and SMS support on their iOS products. Talk about pain ….

    Been using a RIM Playbook for over a year now and it keeps getting better and faster with every OS upgrade. Plus I can side load 100’s of native Android apps from .bak format and I have always on free internet access and HDMI out with dual cameras, and twice the storage for the same price as a Nexus 7.

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    1. SMS has been there since day one with iOS 1.0…. perhaps you’re confusing it with the free apple service called iMessages. Cut&paste in iOS came out June 2009 with iOS 3.0. PalmOS was the only other serious smartphone platform at that time that had cut&paste, unless you consider cupcake (android 1.5) which launched a little over a month before iOS 3.0.

      Regarding screen rotation on iPad, it has supported screen rotation natively since day one, home screen or otherwise.

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      1. hundoman:
        >> Heck it took Apple 2 years … just to get … SMS support on their iOS products.

        Dave:
        >> SMS has been there since day one with iOS 1.0…. perhaps you’re confusing it with the free apple service called iMessages.

        More likely, he meant MMS. That popular feature — along with cut/paste — really was missing on iOS for a long, long time.

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  6. My Motorola Xoom wifi has landscape rotation on stock 4.1.1 ;).

    So far we just know that 4.1.2 adds the landscape homescreen for the Nexus 7. It is still to be seen if it will come to the Galaxy Nexus.

    (Currently the Galaxy Nexus’ homescreen will only rotate into landscape when it is docked.)

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  7. This rotation feature makes android 4.1.2 so awesome …!!

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  8. Seems like Google seriously wants to built its own series of Android OS for each added feature. The frequency of update is quite overwhelming for users. No wonder there will be one day when it will launch an update at the end of each month with an addition of a single new feature.

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  9. Paulus Marthanto Thursday, October 11, 2012

    this update works better with all nexus version, because nexus came without any customization from other vendor…

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  10. I installed this update now, but no landscape mode on home screen of my Samsung Galaxy Nexus

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    1. Don’t have a GSM Galaxy Nexus for testing, but I suggest you check your settings.

      Could be this 4.1.2 update has re-set your rotation control to the default position….and for most Android devices, the default is ‘off’.

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      1. Yep – need to go to Settings / Accessibility where Auto-Rotate screen is defaulted to “off”.

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