Android Jelly Bean 4.2, initially shipped on the Nexus 7, provides a great new tablet experience that outshines previous versions of Android. It even impressed our resident Apple fan. If you have a Nexus 7, Nexus 10, or another tablet running the latest version of Android, be sure to read these Jelly Bean tips to make full use of your tablet.
The most impressive feature in Jelly Bean is probably Google Now. Google Now is smart enough to provide context-sensitive information when you need it, whether it’s commute information, package tracking, or the weather. It’s a worthy competitor to Siri that does things Siri doesn’t even try to do.
Some of these features are only available on Android 4.2, while most are also available on Android 4.1. Both are named Jelly Bean.
Google Now provides information that Google thinks may be useful to you. For example, if you have a flight today and received a confirmation email in your Gmail account, Google will display information about your flight. If you’re travelling, Google Now will display information relevant to travelers such as the exchange rate. If Google Now has learned your commute, it will display the route you need to get home, the time it will take to get there, and information about traffic you’ll encounter on the way.
To access Google Now, touch the home button at the bottom of your tablet and swipe up.
From the Google Now screen, you can say Google to start a search. (You can also tap the microphone icon on the search widget at the top of your default home screen to access this feature.) If you ask a question that Google’s knowledge graph understands, Google will display smart answers.
Google Now also responds to some voice commands, so you can say “Google set an alarm for 7am” and your tablet will set an alarm for 7am. Note that you can only initiate voice searches by saying Google at the Google Now screen.
Gesture Typing [Android 4.2]
On Android 4.2’s default keyboard, you can drag your finger over letters to type words, just as the popular Swype keyboard for Android allows. For example, to type the word make, you’d touch m, drag your finger to a, drag your finger to k, drag it to e, and then release. You can then start typing a new word without even pressing space. It sounds a bit weird, but it can be very quick to type with once you’re used to it. It also allows you to type with one hand — ideal if you’re holding the tablet in the other hand. Unlike with Swype, the keyboard will display a guess of the word while you’re dragging your finger.
Quick Settings [Android 4.2]
To access a quick settings menu and easily configure Wi-Fi, brightness, Bluetooth, alarms, and other commonly used settings, drag down from the upper-right corner of the screen, above the clock. This feature is only found in Android 4.2, so you won’t see it if you’re using Android 4.1. (On an Android 4.2 phone, you’d drag down from the top of the screen with two fingers to access this menu.)
Multiple User Accounts [Android 4.2]
Android 4.2 allows you to create multiple user accounts on tablets. This is particularly ideal if you’re sharing a tablet between multiple people in your household. Every user has their own apps and app settings, just like using separate user accounts on a computer. To add additional user accounts, tap the Users option on the Settings screen and use the Add User button.
Easily Manage Apps
If you want to uninstall an app or view its information screen, you don’t have to dig through the apps list in the Settings screen. Instead, locate the app in your app drawer and long-press it. You’ll see two buttons at the top of your screen – App Info and Uninstall. Drop it on Uninstall to uninstall it, or drop it on App Info to view its info screen.
From the app’s information screen, you can disable notifications to prevent a noisy app from cluttering your notification tray with notifications you don’t want to see.
Offline Voice Typing [Android 4.2]
Android 4.2 allows you to enter text by tapping the microphone on the keyboard and speaking it aloud. This previously only worked while online – on Jelly Bean, you can now use voice recognition offline.
To enable this, open the Settings screen and tap Language & input. Tap the settings button to the right of Google voice typing, tap Download offline speech recognition, and download the languages you want to use offline.
Designate Wi-Fi as Mobile Data
If you’re tethering your tablet to a smartphone or using a mobile hotspot, your tablet will think it’s a normal Wi-Fi network. You can tell Android that the Wi-Fi network is a mobile data network to have Android ease up on the data it uses, potentially saving you money if you have a limited data plan.
To do so, open the Settings screen, tap Data usage, tap the menu button at the top-right corner of the window, tap Mobile hotspots, and put a checkmark next to each Wi-Fi network that’s actually a mobile hotspot.
Manage Multitasking Menu
The multitasking button allows you to switch between your recently used apps. They’re sorted in the order you used them. If this list becomes cluttered, you can remove apps from the list by touching them and dragging them to the left or right.
If you store sensitive data on your tablet and you’re worried about it falling into the wrong hands, you can encrypt your tablet’s storage to prevent other people from accessing it without your password. To do so, tap Security on the settings screen and tap Encrypt tablet.
Easily Create Folders
To easily create a folder containing multiple app icons on your home screen, drag and drop the icons onto each other. Android will automatically contain a folder, which you can open by tapping. These folders can also be placed into the dock on the bottom of your home screen.
If you have a Nexus 7, be sure to check out our list of awesome tablet-optimized apps for the Nexus 7.
Do you have any other useful tips to share for your Nexus 7, Nexus 10, or other Jelly Bean tablets? Leave a comment and share them!