Now that more Androids run on the Jelly Bean version than any other, it appears Google is ready to improve the software. Over the past few weeks builds of Android 4.3 have appeared for Google Experience and Nexus devices, indicating that an update is on the horizon. The leaks also coincide nicely with a planned Google press event on July 24.
So what’s expected in Android 4.3? Most of the changes won’t be seen directly because the leaked software doesn’t show any changes to the Android user interface. Instead, basic improvements to how Android works are on tap. The software will now support Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy devices such as wearable wireless health monitors or smartwatches. And a new feature that turns Wi-Fi on temporarily to assist in with location-based services is also part of the upgrade.
Why no major changes? With Android 4.0 and up, Google appears happy with the user interface itself; it’s a big step up from the old Android 2.3 version for sure. Handset makers and carriers haven’t yet pushed Jelly Bean to some devices as well. By slowing the pace of change, Google is allowing more phones and tablets to get caught up with a common interface. And the company is improving the experience through additional services that developers can take advantage of without users needing to update their software.
A video of what appears to be a refreshed prototype model surfaced this week showing a 7-inch slate with quad-core processor, dual speakers and the addition of a rear camera. Inventory systems from at least one retailer shows a price of $269 for 32 GB model with a likely 16 GB expected to sell at $229. Few other specifications are known, but at those prices, I’d expect the display have a higher resolution over last year’s model.
While waiting for a new Nexus 7, I took Samsung’s 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 3 for a spin this week. Overall, it’s not a bad tablet, but it left me wanting more, especially since the $399 price tag buys a much better Samsung-built Nexus 10 tablet. I felt let down by the 1280 x 800 resolution and the signs of occasional lag. Samsung uses an Intel Atom chip inside and I suspect the software isn’t fully optimized for this hardware. If you want a tablet that uses Samsung’s TouchWiz software and is lighter than the Nexus 10, then the new Galaxy Tab 3 is worth the look. If it were my money, I’d spend the $399 on a Nexus 10 that’s more capable, has a higher resolution display and will get immediate software updates directly from Google.