Google's new Galaxy S4 and HTC One "Google Play Edition" phones goon sale today — and in an unexpected twist, the devices are giving us a glimpse at some subtle changes that appear to be on the way to Android.
I've been using both phones for about a day now. While both phones are running Android 4.2.2 — the most current version of the operating system and the same version that's on devices like the Nexus 4 — they're using a slightly newer build that shows off some small but noticeable differences.
Here are some things that have caught my eye so far:
A new Camera app interface
In place of the circular series of options that appears when you touch your finger to an open area in the current stock Android Camera app, the new Google Play Edition devices utilize an updated semicircle design — a curved line that appears above your finger with five options.
The options, in order, are toggling HDR mode, adjusting the exposure, accessing more options, adjusting the flash mode, and switching between the front and rear camera.
When you move your finger over "More Options," a new semicircle appears slightly higher up on the screen with five new choices: toggling whether location data is stored with images, activating a countdown timer, adjusting the image size, adjusting the white balance, and selecting a scene mode. Most subsequent options appear in similar semicircle UIs instead of more traditional pop-up menus; the exception, curiously, is "Picture Size," which still uses a pop-up menu (and kind of sticks out like a sore thumb as a result).
The bottom-of-screen buttons have also been repositioned to sit closer to the shutter icon instead of being justified at the far left and right edges of the phone. And the bottom-right button now shows more information, such as your current location and scene mode setting.
It's worth noting that the functionality here is no different from what we've seen before — the scene modes, for example, are exactly the same as they are on the Nexus 4 — it's just the interface that's been updated.
A slightly tweaked app drawer design
The app drawer on both Google Play Edition devices has been scaled down; it now has four icons in each row instead of five, as is the case on the Nexus 4. This makes for a less dense and more spaced-out appearance.
UPDATE: As evidenced by the Galaxy Nexus, this may actually be a result of the devices' display dimensions rather than any change to the OS itself.
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