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Google starts rolling out Android 4.2 to select devices

But if it's not a Nexus, you're out of luck

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Even though the entire worldwide stock of Google's latest Nexus 4 smartphone reportedly sold out in minutes, Android fans may not have to wait for a resupply from LG's factory to get their hands on the newest version of the Chocolate Factory's mobile OS.

The Nexus 4 and its cousin the Nexus 10 are the first devices to ship with Android 4.2, the latest, incremental update to the "Jelly Bean" edition of the OS. But according to reports, Google has already begun making Android 4.2 available as an over-the-air (OTA) update to owners of certain older Nexus devices, too.

Specifically, both the Nexus 7 fondleslab and the Galaxy Nexus phone are said to be getting the upgrade, starting on Tuesday.

As has been the case with previous OS updates, however, only owners of the GSM/HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus can join the party for now. Those with the CDMA version from US carriers Sprint or Verizon will have to wait, and no one knows for how long.

Owners of the Nexus S handset and the Motorola Xoom tablet are in for an even bigger disappointment, however. Although Google has made previous OS updates available for those devices, it won't be doing so for Android 4.2.

Still, being stuck at Android 4.1.2 isn't such a terrible fate. By the Chocolate Factory's own admission, the new version is really only an incremental update – which is why it launched under the Jelly Bean moniker rather than taking a new codename, such as the oft-rumored "Key Lime Pie."

Android 4.2 does offer some performance and security enhancements, however, including better GPU acceleration and new anti-malware capabilities. It also brings a few interesting new features, such as multi-user support, more interactive screensavers and lock screens, and support for external displays.

A full rundown of the improvements is available at Google's Android developer site – to say nothing of the Android 4.2 SDK, which went live on Tuesday.

As part of its latest developer-tools bundle, Google has also made available factory firmware images for all of the Nexus devices that support Android 4.2. Advanced Android users who don't want to wait for an OTA update can use these images to upgrade their devices manually – but trying it without knowing what you're doing can easily lead to disaster, so don't say we didn't warn you.

Honestly, most people really will want to wait for the OTA update, even though doing so can admittedly be an aggravating experience. Although the Android 4.2 rollout began on Tuesday, some devices may not get the update for days or even months – as evidenced by your Reg hack's own Galaxy Nexus, which only received the Android 4.1.2 update this morning.

Still, Nexus device owners should be thankful they bought Google's kit, because there's no word on which handsets from other vendors will get the Android 4.2 update, let alone when.

According to Google's latest Android statistics, more than half of all Android devices in active use are still running version 2.3, code named "Gingerbread." Android 4.0, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich," has managed to edge into second place, with 25.8 per cent of the total. But Jelly Bean still only accounts for 2.7 per cent of the devices in use.

In other words, for the vast majority of Android fans, the easiest way to get a device running Android 4.2 is still to get on Google's waiting list for the Nexus 4. ®

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