Apple’s iOS may be the king of mobile business software and Windows 8 the apprentice, but Google also has some handy business features coming to phone and tablet users with the recent launch of the Android 4.2 operating system for mobile.
Here’s a breakdown of six of the best business features coming soon to smartphones and tablets (such as Google’s own Nexus 10 available starting November 13) running the latest iteration of Android (still codenamed ‘Jelly Bean’):
Multiple user accounts begins the era of tablet sharing
The newfound ability to create multiple user accounts on the same tablet is potentially huge news for businesses, not least those SMBs trying to mobilize their workforce without spending a whole heap of cash.
The multi-user support gives each tablet user their own section for saving apps and data, and also allows you to customize your home screen and associated widgets. Even more impressive is that other users won’t have to download an app if it has already been downloaded by another user.
Another feature for parents lets them control their child’s activity on their Android device, with an important PIN in place to block children downloading or buying censored content. Note: this feature is only for Android tablets.
Wirelessly beam videos and audio to the boardroom TV
By supporting ‘Miracast’, the industry standard WiFi (also known as Wi-Fi Direct or WiDi) for sharing between devices, Android 4.2 tablets will support wireless streaming of audio and video to TV sets.
Why is this important for business? This feature could certainly come in useful for field workers or sales staff looking to show photographic evidence and content or customer responses to colleagues from their phone/tablet to the TV in the boardroom.
Gesture-based keyboard is for faster and accurate typing
In developing Android 4.2 Google has clearly taken not of what virtual keyboard specialists Swype and SwiftKey have been doing to optimize typing.
The resulting Gesture Typing on Android 4.2 bears very similar resemblance to Swype (as seen on many of the Samsung devices), with the ability for your keyboard to guess what you want to type.
All you have to do is “glide your finger over the letters you want to type”, and let the system then adds spaces and get moving with text predicting.
This feature could certainly turn out to be a time saver for busy workers writing reports, emails or compiling data while commuting, particularly when it comes to commonly used terms that the system will be better at predicting.
Photo Sphere: Panoramic photos for field workers
With Photo Sphere, Google is taking direct aim at Apple and the panorama functionality on the iPhone 5 on iOS 6, as well as copying the same feature offered by many of the top cameras out on the market.
This may be aimed more towards snap-happy consumers than business workers, but don’t expect that to stop field workers from using Photo Sphere to capture evidence and other useful snaps for their reports.
Expanded notifications get you working quickly
On the face of it, Google adding subtle improvements to notifications with Android 4.2 doesn’t sound like a big deal. Yet it could become a really useful tool for business people and professionals looking to complete tasks more quickly.
The expanded notifications bar lets you take actions directly from the home page, so you can, for example, email everyone who’s due to attend an event in your calendar.
Bigger Google Now becomes your personal assistant
Google Now is a card-like system for serving up content based on what Google thinks you will like.
With Android 4.2, Google has made some improvements, adding the ability for cards to appear showing hotel reservations, flight information and shipping details for packages, with some of this data able to be pulled in from Gmail.
Google says that you can currently choose from 20 Google Now cards, with many more on the way.