Android 4.1.2 brings home screen rotation to devices

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.

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