[Back-Dated from other Blog] 2012 Year in Review


This article was originally published by the same author (Matt de Neef) on Dec 31, 2012. 

As most of us student people have rounded off another eventful year at high school, university, or college, and look forward to the next stages in our life, it’s worth throwing a glance over our (relieved) shoulders to reminisce. We’ll think about the fact that Andy Student Handbook fired up the blog late this year, but also about the great ‘el Goog churning out another incarnation of its global-domination OS, in Android. The next in its tasty dessert-flavoured line of software to grace our devices, Jelly Bean, has generally been what this year’s software outlook has been about.


Let’s rewind a moment, because in all honesty us students, as well as most of the ecosystem, still own phones with the older Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (or earlier—gasp!) running on it. For the lucky ones to be blanketed by HTC, Samsung, Sony or LG’s update policy, you’ll see Jelly Bean official either very soon or early next year, a New Year’s resolution which we hope the devs can keep. (I’ve been lucky as an HTC One S owner to get Jelly Bean, I’ll look at some new goodness in it later)

Us cheapskate Android users who just don’t care for or are stuck with a phone not getting official updates, generally turn to XDA where a massive selection of ROMs running Jelly Bean (and running it better than some official releases, mind you) adorn the forums, run by the devs that literally keep the smiles on our faces and the [Project] Butter on our devices. (Note to everyone, donate these guys a beer or a coffee or something more, they deserve a 2013 where they’ll be motivated to keep devvin!) We’d definitely recommend the CyanogenMod project for their unbelievably customizable ROMs and official and unofficial builds making their home on almost every device’s forum page in XDA. Check your device’s page or head on over to the official CM site to see if there’s a CM10 (Jelly Bean  4.1; or CM10.1 Jelly Bean 4.2) build available for you to spend your uni/college/school break flashing to your phone, and yes, we know you want to!

The software world wasn’t giving up that easily before the new year, and Google threw in another surprise late this year when the new Nexus 4 phone, and 7 and 10 tablets were released, bringing in tow with it more goodness in Android 4.2. Don’t worry, we’re not gonna scare you with the letter K just yet, it was an incremental Jelly Bean release.

So there was plenty to talk about this year, and I’ll take the liberty to skim over some features Jelly Bean brought to the 4 to 6 inch as well as the 7 to 10 inch screens we love to look at daily.

Project Butter


Yeah it’s odd that it’s not dessert-y in any way, and it sounds like it might grease your phone so you drop it, but no worries, the only greasing it does is to internals. The biggest feature coming to JB is its ability to transform the UI into a silky smooth experience with iOS and Windows Phone-like transitions by using something they enjoy calling “vsync buffering” and “CPU-timing”. Now quite honestly not many will care about what happens underneath, but what I can say from experience is that after a few days of use, the interface is so silky smooth you just want to swipe the home screens all day. I mean, we know Android is complex but that’s why it suffers on our devices. So after these implementations, the UI doesn’t stutter at all. It’s just THAT good, 60 frames per second versus 30 really does make a difference, and make you feel good about yourself.

Enhanced Notifications


Expand that please!
Something us Android enthusiasts have always reckoned we’re cool at is managing notifications. Jelly Bean takes what we’ve got, and puts it on steroids. Now when you get a SMS or Gmail or a similar app, a two-finger horizontal swipe lets you expand the notification so you can read the ENTIRE message without opening the app. Other apps support cool goodies like responding to calls, sharing, and stuff you generally want to do quickly without wasting precious time opening the app then running the command.

Google Now

Some handy cards they are!
Now. Listen up. Just try long pressing your device’s home button, I dare you. Then ask what the weather’s like. Or maybe not, sometimes it’s already there. Along with nearby photo spots, traffic predictions to drive home or to work, plus when the next game of your favourite team is. Yeah, that’s the power of Google Now. This killer app preinstalled on all JB phones acts like Siri, just faster, and more accurate, in fact, creepily so. Eventually is starts figuring out what you enjoy doing and when you’re doing stuff, and recommends things based on it. Go to a movie on Thursdays? It’ll know that, and find the latest genres you like. GNow is still a work in progress and keeps getting better. The voice search is accurate but knowing what to tell it to get personalized “cards” isn’t easy, plus it often misinterprets your request and just does a web search. Something to impress your friends, and fairly useful, but we’ll probably have to wait till 2013 for it to be truly indispensable.

Apps and Extras

Google’s in-house brew of apps that make us students happy got some tweaking with the JB update as well. Gmail got pinch to zoom in the message view, (AT LAST!!)  YouTube got smarter, Google Search jumped on the Google Now bandwagon, Chrome got some buttery goodness, and…hold on, the People app FINALLY has full-res pictures for each contact. Finally, something you all might like is the resizeable widgets option which lets you make widgets smaller and bigger and, I can report, also works fine with HTC Sense 4+ on HTC Sense Jelly Bean releases.

Nerdgasm, I mean, Nexus 4
As for hardware, dual and quad core devices were all the rage this year, I mean lets be honest, it’s a dream of most of you loyal ASH readers [as well as the team] (can someone say nerdgasm?) to own a quad-core phone with 2GB RAM right? That’s what we saw this year with the astounding LG Nexus 4, which knocked the spec-socks off most of what’s in the market at the moment.

2012 wasn’t what we’d call shattering for hardware, more along the lines of improvements, but Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Samsung’s Exynos as well as some other ARM chipmakers’ products really did push the limits of what we can do on a phone.  

The beginning of the year saw HTC’s One series, with the X and S sporting quad and dual-core CPUs to bring to market, and as the year progressed we saw the Samsung Galaxy SIII rip up the market with its massive 4.8 inch 720p screen and quad core CPU.  It blazed ahead till late this year when the aforementioned Nexus 4 pitched up. Made by LG (okay I know, you’re wondering how smart that was) this phone has yet to make an impression, not being out all that long, but 2013 will tell. Tablets roared out of the aisles too, but probably the only one worth talking about was Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, which brought tablet performance to quad core and prices down to $199. Please, tell me you had one in your stocking?

Too much happened this year which defined the Android ecosystem, hopefully the most of which I looked at now, but its 2013 which holds excitement, both for the devices we have now (can somebody say ROM flashing??) and the marvels that’ll roll from our big manufacturers in the months to come. From myself, Matt, and the ASH team, a prosperous 2013, and we’ll see you again next year!