We're back! A new version of Android is out, and that means a new round of GTKAs. If you somehow haven't heard of GTKA, the recipe is fairly simple: make before and after comparisons whenever there's an Android OS update, and point out all the differences. It's fun, it's interesting, and you just might learn something. Today's target is the system-wide stuff: The Notification Panel, Home Screen, Recent Apps, etc. Let's get to it!

Notification Panel

wm_2012-11-07 18.03.22wm_2012-11-07-18.03

Like always, the old thing, Android 4.1.2 in this case, is on the left, and the new thing, Android 4.2, is on the right. Starting at the top, we see the date has been rearranged, and, for some reason, abbreviated. The day of the week is down to 3 letters, the year has been cut, and everything is down to one line. It's odd that there are abbreviations when there doesn't need to be. I think the old, 2 line date layout looked way better.

Say goodbye to your muscle memory. 4.2 sports a right-aligned "Quick Settings" button, which steals the spot formerly reserved for the "clear all" button. The settings button is completely gone; it's been relegated to the Quick Settings page, which means getting to the settings has increased from 1 tap to 2.

4.1 just had a blue line at the bottom of the notification shade; 4.2 added a chunky, gray, "handle" around the line, which better communicates that you can interact with it.


I know we've covered it to death, but, for the sake of completeness, here's what the Quick Settings panel looks like (both of these pictures are 4.2). The giant picture of my face will switch users on a tablet, but on a phone it just brings up a contact card. Multi-user isn't available on phones. Most of these buttons are not toggles, they are just settings shortcuts. The one neat thing is that the icons all reflect the status of the option, so brightness, for example, will have an "A" in the middle of the sun is auto brightness is on.

One thing you might not know, and a change from 4.1, is that the date and time in quick settings and the notification panel is now a button. Tapping on it will bring you to the Date & Time settings.

App Drawer

wm_2012-11-09 12.25.11wm_2012-11-09 12.25.14

The app drawer has an extra column of apps now. I'm not sure if this is a general 4.2 change, or just for the Nexus 4, which has 48 horizontal pixels more than the Galaxy Nexus. This is really disruptive for the first few days, I couldn't find anything, but after that you get used to it.

wm_2012-11-09 14.35.49wm_2012-11-09 14.35.56wm_2012-11-09 14.35.45wm_2012-11-09 14.35.52

Uninstalling an app from the app drawer is now much nicer. 4.1 gave a full screen popup at the end of an uninstall. Like I previously complained about, having a half popup, half full screen interface is weird, and the weirdness is further compounded by the general emptiness of the "finished" screen. 4.2 does away with the full screen dialog and just has a small toast notification that says "Uninstall finished." This is much less annoying and makes the system seem faster.


wm_2012-11-09 14.11.08wm_2012-11-09 14.11.10

In the category of "Obscure sections of Android that only Ron will check," we have the wallpaper screen. 4.1 has a "Wallpapers" heading, 4.2 does not. I'm proud of this one.

Recent Apps

wm_2012-11-09 12.44.06wm_2012-11-09 12.44.02

At first glance, not much has changed with Recent Apps, but we're not about first glances here at GTKA. Can you spot all the differences? The status bar is now visible and completely useable while in Recent Apps, and the background is now your desktop wallpaper, instead of the app you're currently in. The behavior has changed, too. The old version would not list your currently open app in the app list, but the new one does. Chrome was open in both of these when I hit the Recent Apps button.

The thing you won't see in these screenshot is the sweet new animation that happens when you hit the Recent Apps button. The currently open app shrinks down into its designated square. Here's the normal speed and slowed down version of that:

4.1's recent app list would only do a fade-in, this is much snazzier.

Sideloading & App Info

wm_2012-11-10 14.14.30wm_2012-11-10 14.14.28

The sideload dialog has gotten a bit of a sprucing up. Permissions are now categorized, each category gets a nice little icon next to it, and everything is nicely separated with thin divider lines. 4.2 also shows much more permissions than 4.1, before it would never tell you about things like "vibration control," more info is always good.

The buttons now force you to look at the permissions, too. If everything doesn't fit on the screen, the install button changes to "Next" and will scroll the screen down. It will do this multiple times if the list of permissions is long enough. When you hit the bottom it changes to the familiar "Install" button. The permissions display on the bottom of App Info looks like this, too.

2012-11-17 23.34.372012-11-17 23.34.43wm_2012-11-17 13.43.54wm_2012-11-17 13.44.00

When replacing an existing app, you get this new dialog on the right, which points filters permissions into "new" and "all." They also dumped the "Replace App?" popup and merged it into the permissions screen.

I also really like the new, yellow, "This may cost you money" warning in the right picture.

wm_2012-11-14 21.25.01wm_2012-11-14 21.22.44

One last thing. In App Info , you can now disable a system app without having to uninstall updates first! The button alignment leaves something to be desired, but this is really handy.

That's it for now! We'll be back with more GTKA goodness later. Next up we're tackling the Gallery.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.facebook.com/ostrowski.m Michał Ostrowski

    Will you also point out the differences in the hybrid tablet mode?

  • http://twitter.com/Kourou59 Guillaume

    love these, keep 'em coming :)

  • http://www.nonsensebb.com/ Dextro

    The reason why google changed the date layout on the notification shade is due to internationalization on smaller screens. Here's today's date on a Portuguese 4.1.2 Nexus S: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6ji5wlmmtg6udty/2012-11-19_22.22.32.png

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      Dead link, dude :( File has been deleted or removed.

    • Chester Moy

      Then, it makes even less sense to put it all on one line. ??:(??

      • ReasonableBloke

        They abbreviated the date and only use the last two number of the year, it's much shorter even on a single line.

    • and

      Still no reason to change it for English though.

  • Neolawliet

    I think the uninstall change was featured with 4.1.2. I have this on my Nexus 7 running on CM10.

  • FrD

    The Galaxy Nexus doesn't has the extra column of icons in the App Drawer, great article!

  • Drayon

    The new recent apps menu looks sweet on the phone, but I wonder what the implentation will be for tablets.

    • BrianLipp

      its the same as it is on phones

      • Drayon

        Ah ok thanks.
        Not sure if I like it or not because on phones almost the whole screen is used.
        While tablets only use 1/4 of the screen for the apps list.
        But on the other hand it is consistent and might make transitions a bit less chopy.

      • http://ubuntu-su.blogspot.com/ Kleverson Royther

        Landscape Recent Apps is horrible... I guess Duarte forgot about this.
        The squares take about 1/4 to 1/5 of the screen and are arranged horizontally...
        I have tested it on the Nexus 7 and, for my eyes' sake, I always prefered to turn it back to portrait...

        • Justin Swanson

          I wish it would keep the rows but scroll vertically instead of horizontally... (when in landscape)

  • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

    Great as always!
    This is the added value of Android Police - unique articles and topics, not only copying (quoting) other websites on what's going on.

  • Laurence

    I'm surprised you didn't mention the fact that the icons in the dock in the launcher are smaller. That was the very first thing I noticed when I got the update.

    • z1

      Also, if you try to drag an application onto a full dock, it says "No more room on the hotseat." I can't remember if this was in 4.1, but I don't ever remember seeing it, so can somebody check whether that was a change?

      • Gilles

        On 4.1 you just can't place the application. It says nothing.

        • ReasonableBloke

          I have 4.1.1 and it does say that.

  • Tardersause

    There is a bug report for the new and uglier date layout. Star the issue if you prefer the old layout.


  • Michele Pizzini

    Does anybody know what the "Wi-Fi optimization" feature actually does? You can find it under the Advanced settings of Wi-Fi and I'm pretty sure it came out with the latest update


    On the app management screen, if you tap "Disable", you will be warned about data being deleted and other apps misbehaving, like before. But now, after tapping OK, it will show the "Replace with factory version?" screen, which then must be confirmed. I have tested this, and it definitely replaces Google Play Magazines with the factory version. Also, I can confirm that the Galaxy Nexus still has the 4-column layout on 4.2 - The difference seems to be the extra pixels in width on the Nexus 4.

    • Yuku Sugianto

      Yes, I confirm this. So it's still not possible to disable a built-in app without uninstalling updates. -- And it's still not possible to disable installed apps, although that seem to be useful sometimes.

  • adi19956

    I honestly think the Matias Duarte and his team read these and use them as a guide

    • Dalbir_Singh

      I would too. They're great.

    • GazaIan

      Matias Duarte had actually read and commented on (via G+) one of these types of articles.

  • NoUsernamesFree

    The fact there's even a line stating "Obscure sections of Android that only Ron will check" shows how far above and beyond you go with these reviews! Thanks Ron.

  • Patrick

    Does any one know is 4.2 available for the galaxy s3 . Sorry if this is a stupid question. Thanks

    • IncCo

      Nope definitely not out yet. First up is 4.1.2, coming soon..

  • http://twitter.com/MattLavieri Matt

    "One thing you might not know, and a change from 4.1, is that the date and time in quick settings and the notification panel is now a button. Tapping on it will bring you to the Date & Time settings." Is available in 4.1 Time opens clock and date open calendar

    • Carl S


      • Andrew Morales

        I don't know if it works completely stock, but in CM10 this does in fact work.

        • coversnails

          Its a recently introduced feature in CM10, not present in stock 4.1

    • lbrfabio

      are you taking about galaxy nexus or nexus 4? because on my nexus 7 it doesn't work with 4.2. (strange)

      • Mark

        Pressing the time or date on my nexus 7 (4.2) has no effect as well. Also the notification bar seems to be working differently to everyone else. Pulling down the left side opens the usual notifications, pulling down the right side opens the new quick settings. Using two fingers makes no difference. I'm finding this very irritating as I have to remember to reach across the screen to access my notifications. I still can't get used to it.

  • coversnails

    The new screen for installing side loaded apps would get pretty tiresome if you were doing a batch install of apps using the free version of Titanium Backup. Would be a lot of extra clicking of the next button or scrolling down the permissions list.

    A good reason to splash out for the pro license though.

  • Davy Jones

    That permission screen looks a lot not nicer then the text list from
    before and also a lot easier to understand. Makes me think they should
    use that in the play store for all apps. It might even help casual users
    understand permissions better.The play store could really use a design makeover anyway.

  • daniel sutton

    While the minimizing multitasking animation looks great, its functionally annoying; it merely means that now I never, ever select the nearest and first app in the stack whereas in the past I almost always did. It is pretty and means that the first app in the stack, the most valuable real estate, of recent apps serves no purpose whatsoever

    • coversnails

      I appreciate the current app being in the multitasking menu because it means it can be closed without having to first go to the home screen or adifferent app and then bringing up the multitasking menu. Obviously you shshouldn't need to close an app with the way Android handles memory and suchlike, but I like being able to swipe to close apps that may be misbehaving or running sluggishly.

      • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

        Ummm... swiping an app out of the 'recent apps' list doesn't close it. It only removes it from recent apps list. The app is still running, until you open another app and RAM gets full. So, I'm with Daniel on this one. It's like Alt+Tab got busted. :(

  • Sootie

    On last thing?

    Always good Ron keep them coming

  • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

    So the quick settings aren't toggle buttons but shortcuts to settings pages for those things...?? Let's see... when was the last time I got so disappointed...? Can't remember.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      a few of them are, like Airplane Mode, but yeah, I don't see why they'd do that.

    • setspeed

      It defies belief that the Android team would do this - CM has done this properly for literally years, so have multiple OEMs. It's like someone from the iOS design team snuck in and made it for them.

      • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

        Yea. What's the point of having shortcuts and not actual toggles in the statusbar. I could already create shortcuts in homescreen by placing the settings widget on screen and selecting 'sound' or 'screen' etc from the list. Tap it and launch those settings. No need to pull down the statusbar and tap again to open 'quick' settings.

        So, using quick settings requires 3 steps.
        Using settings widget on homescreen - 1 step.

        Which one is 'quick'?

  • techgeeky

    Few improvements will be appreciated:

    1- Numerical percentage of the battery in the status bar

    2- 5 apps in a row in the home screen just like the apps drawer

    3- "close all" option in the multi tasking window to close all apps with one click

    Thanks Ron

  • DeadSOL

    Ah, I can't wait for the next one! Great article as always, Ron! :D

  • Weirdedout

    Can we ask Google about the day of the week issue? It's weirding me out. Seriously, can we get that fixed?

  • Cro0707

    My Samsung Galaxy Nexus app drawer has four columns. It seams that five columns is for Nexus 4 only.

  • D4niel

    "The settings button is completely gone; it's been relegated to the Quick Settings page, which means getting to the settings has increased from 1 tap to 2."

    You can still get to the settings in one tap. Rather than pulling down the notification tray with 1 finger, use 2. This will take you immediately to the quick settings menu.

    • Joe Ewbank

      This is good to know, but it's seriously not intuitive. Nor, as far as I can tell, advertised.

  • Snakebites

    Not sure if anyone noticed, but in the 4.2 notification shade picture, more text is shown in the notification than in the 4.1.2 pic

  • MikeCiggy

    Definitely not liking the date. Great review and break down of the new stuff coming to a Galaxy Nexus in my pocket SOON. I'm hoping Cyanogenmod can enable multi-user on the phone just so it's there. Then they can trash their profiles and use the native user system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Just wanna throw this out there, coming from 4.0.4 on the Galaxy Note 1, I just love this operating system and the phone (Nexus 4) so much. Sure there are things to nitpick about, but I just can't get enough of this thing.

  • internettoughguy

    I just wanted to say thank you for doing something unique. There are some other websites (and even some authors on this site) that are just not worth reading because they either rehash the same stuff as every other site or they are just filled with opinion (as an aside in case certain writers are reading this: opinions are for forums where there is dialogue, not specialized articles; editorials went the way of the dodo along with print newspapers where people couldn't instantly respond). This is news, this is online journalism. Thank you for doing it and keep it up.

  • Matthew Fry

    The quick settings button on the notification drawer is not on the N10

  • santiagof4

    With only 5 min with 4.2 I can tell this changes:

    - The rotation in the camera app, now the whole image rotate making it slower (REALLY BAD).
    - The font is bolder (not sure about this).
    - With no screen lock, now I cannot activate the phone with the volume rocker.

  • SoWhy

    Actually, iirc 4.1 and previous versions did tell you about vibration control, it was just grouped under "Hardware Controls"

  • Jean

    Galaxy nexus has 4 and not 5 columns as you thought.

  • Andrew Sutherland

    quick grep of the source and i found the date change was to mirror the new lockscreen see:
    commit 5fb18aa57541710597ccef39423b255017e2915e
    Copy date format style from keyguard.

  • Anand

    5 column apps sucks, thank goodness I have got GNex which only has 4 :)

  • Jesus Urrabieta

    Nice article. Can't wait for the next...

  • GNEX User

    Great review.. eagerly waiting for the next edition. I have to say the notification quick setting option is implemented really poorly. Especially when they had so many great apps in the market for inspiration. Lot many of those options should have been a toggle rather than just a shortcut. Shortcut could have been a long press or double click option. I am holding on to my beloved Power Toggles app as of now. Also, I feel the whole 4.2 OS is a few milliseconds slower than 4.1.2. Is it just me??

  • dimitris

    +Ron Amadeo you missed a spot go to system/storage/then you can see not only apps but cache etc defore cache was avaible :) chreeers xxxxx)

  • Rina

    Hey, completely new to roms etc but have a couple of queries. Pls bear with me. What do I have to do/install to get a notification status bar that toggles, so can easily toggle data etc on and off. like on Miui? Also the same applies to closing all notifcations in one click without having to click on each one and then go back. Furthermore, I really loved the miui themes but have not seen similar on CM10 for Samsung Galaxy S on 4.1.2. Please advise. Cheers. Ri

  • Jonathan Zacharias

    This is a very cool detailed discussion of what is to come. I cannot wait to take advantage of all these tools on http://www.payanywhere.com

  • Kim Pettifer-Bellamy

    hi, is there any hope that the quick settings on the notification bar will go back to the 4.1 way (where the settings are displayed and dont have to click on the tab that replaces the clear all button)