Samsung Galaxy S4 and Android 4.3: Small changes, but good signs

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We’ve now received word that both Samsung and HTC are testing Android 4.3 for their Google Play edition devices. While we wait for an official 4.3 announcement from Google, lets take a look at what is reportedly a leaked build for the Galaxy S4 Google Play edition.

Last week it was reported that a leaked build of Android 4.3 was available for the Galaxy S4 GPe. The Android community is no stranger to fakes with a version number difference and nothing else onboard, but a closer look at this build revealed that there’s some new things going on under the hood. I installed this leaked build on a Samsung Galaxy S4 and decided to take a look for ourselves.

For a leaked build, there are very few differences on the surface. In fact, it looks like Google’s release for Android 4.3 is going to be all about polish, enabling better features for developers, and allowing tools to make some of the Play services that were announced at Google I/O work more efficiently.

The first thing I noticed was the WiFi, where there is now an additional option to continue scanning for WiFi even when the radio is set in the off position. The only reason to do something like that would be to make Google’s new Maps APIs work as advertised, which is to say they will be more accurate and more energy efficient.

Android 4.3 has been long-rumored to include support for the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy profile. In fact the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are some of the first phones to officially support it without Google’s help. One of the big downsides to the Google Play edition versions of these phones was the lack of Bluetooth 4.0 LE, since it was not currently a part of the Android Open Source Project. This 4.3 ROM includes the LE profile, and works just as well as the Samsung made LE profile in our tests with Google Glass.

Finally, there’s some enhanced developer-only features. Profile GPU rendering includes several new features now, as well as new tools for WebView and for non-rectangular clipping. These features won’t mean much to the average user, but the new ability to revoke authorization from applications that use USB debugging will make more technical users happy. This gives you the ability to remove authorization when connected through the Android Debug Bridge, which is commonly used by developers and enthusiasts alike to push apps and files to Android hardware over USB.

This is most likely not the full list of features Google is bringing to the table with Android 4.3. There’s no mention of what stage in the process this ROM was leaked at, and we won’t know for sure until Google officially announces the new version. Based on what we have here, though, it looks like Google’s next version is going to be all about making what is under the hood of Android much more efficient.

Now read: The HTC One Google Play edition is great, but is it an upgrade?

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