Handheld Devices

After the latest Android 4.3 leak, here's what we know

Leaks about the upcoming Android 4.3 release don't seem to bother Google, given that one of its employees just sold a Nexus 4 phone with the unreleased operating system installed.

San Francisco Bay Area resident Jeff Williams, who supposedly bought the phone from a Googler on Craigslist, was kind enough to share the system files with the world. It seems like a sign that an official release of Android 4.3 is imminent, especially with a Google event scheduled for next week.

What do we actually know about Android 4.3? Not much, at least in terms of major features. Going only by what we've seen, Android 4.3 looks like a minor update focused on under-the-hood improvements and subtle interface tweaks. Here's a rundown of what the leaks shown so far:

Location-based battery improvements: As Android Police has noted, Android 4.3 may contain new power settings that keep Wi-Fi scanning turned on at all times, even when Wi-Fi is off. While this sounds like a potential battery killer, it could help save power for location-based apps, because they'll be able to rely on Wi-Fi triangulation instead of the more power-hungry GPS to figure out where you are. This could be a big part of Google's plan to offer more power-efficient location tools to app developers.

Bluetooth LE and AVRCP 1.3: Bluetooth Low Energy is a way for phones to connect with other devices, such as fitness bands and smartwatches, without sapping lots of power. Although some Android phones support Bluetooth LE already, support in stock Android will be important for Google's Nexus devices--especially if Google plans to build its own smartwatch. As for AVRCP 1.3, it's a way for connected audio devices, such as car speakers, to display song information when connected via Bluetooth.

Improved camera app: The Google Play Edition HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 both include a new camera app, with controls that are closer to the bottom of the screen instead of dead-center in the focus area. It's a minor tweak, but one that should help people who snap photos with just one hand. The photo editor includes some new filters as well. It's no surprise that this improved camera app is on the way to Android 4.3.

Notification mystery features: Another bit of detective work by Android Police turned up signs of new notification features in Android 4.3. You might be able to view your entire notification history from within third-party apps, or you could potentially customize the notification bar in the same way you can install a custom home screen in Android. At the moment, however, this is all just speculation.

Minor tweaks: Right now, the hackers at XDA-Developers are digging through the leak in a hunt for other changes. The stuff they've discovered so far includes nature-themed emojis, auto-complete in the dialer (a feature already found on many non-stock Android phones), and lots of bug fixes. There's talk of new widgets and a modified Roboto font, but no specifics.

All in all, these are small changes, but they still make for an important update that will help Android become a cleaner operating system. And there's always a chance Google has more in store. We'll probably find out all the details on July 24, when Google is expected to announce a new Nexus 7 tablet.

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