Inside Android 4.2: Notifications and quick settings

Finally, Google has added quick settings to the notification pulldown in Android 4.2. That's a feature many have wanted in stock Android since, well, forever. Enthusiast ROMs have added them. The manufacturers have added them. You can download apps that add them. And now, Google's added them in the latest version of Jelly Bean.

Only, Google did it different. Whereas quick settings generally serve as toggles in the notification pulldown, Google's gone a different route. Crazy, or crazy like a fox? Let's take a look.

Read our complete Nexus 4 review!

The gist is this: Pull down the notification bar, and you see your notifications, just like always. Only, where there used to be a Settings button is now ... something else. The icon shows a person, with five thumbnails below and to the right of it. It's actually a preview of what's to come.

Press that button, and the notifications section flips over to the quick settings. (And the icon in the top right of the screen switches from the quick settings icon back to a notification icon.) The settings listed are:

  • Your Google+ profile: If you're signed in to Google+, your name and profile picture will appear. Tap it, and you're asked if you want to view your Google+ profile. (Not sure why I'd ever want to get to my G+ profile that quickly, but chances are Google will tweak that at some point.)
  • Brightness: Tap this, and you get a little popup that lets you adjust the display brightness. This is different (and better) than the full-screen brightness notification. I use this a lot already.
  • Settings: Ah, there it is. A shortcut to the full settings menu.
  • Wifi: Shows the network you're own. Tap, and it takes you to the Wifi settings.
  • Mobile data: Shows which carrier you're on, and signal strength (in bars).
  • Battery: There's a visual indicator and percentage remaining. (Numbers FTW!) Tap and you get the battery section in the settings menu.
  • Airplane mode: Shuts off the radios for when you're on an airplane. (Or if you want to pretend you're on an airplane.)
  • Bluetooth: Takes you to the Bluetooth settings menu. (The quick setting will show on if on, off if off.)
  • Wireless Display: Available in the quick settings when enabled in the display settings. 

One finger for notifications, two for settings

Here's the really cool part -- Google's given a way to quickly access the quick settings side for of the pulldown. Here's how it works.

  • Pull down from the top of the screen with one finger and you get the notifications area.
  • Pull down with two fingers and you immediately get the quick settings.

Presumably this will work just fine on all smartphones. (The worrier in us, however, is slightly concerned about strange touch panels behaving weirdly, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.) In practice, we got the hang on the two-finger swipe just fine, though we're not quite at 100 percent in practice. Most of the time it works, sometimes it doesn't. Chalk that up to prerelease software, perhaps, or (more likely) operator error.

Oh, and one thing we'd like to see added -- when you've got the quick settings open, you can't pull down from the top to get notifications. You'll have to press the button in the upper right to flip back over. That's not so fun (or quick) if you're holding your phone in your left hand.

Quick settings and tablets

Things are pretty much the same on tablets in Android 4.2. You have the same quick setting buttons -- with auto rotate swapped in here for the cellular connection button. (Presumably the mobile network button will remain on any tablet that has a data connection.)

The other difference for tablets is in how you access the notifications and quick settings pulldowns. You still drag from the top of the display (in either portrait or landscape orientation). But notifications are on the left, and quick settings are on the right. There's no one- or two-finger swiping. (And you can't full both down at the same time. We've 'shopped that picture for sake of example.)

It's  not yet known if applications will be able to add items to the notification menu, or how they'd be able to do that without breaking the iconography. As of now, there's no way to add or remove settings.

Be that as it may, quick settings are a welcome addition in Android 4.2, and Google's implemented them in a smart manner.

More on Android 4.2


Phil Nickinson
  • Quit teasing and gimme! :D
    Phil, is the Nexus 4 review almost ready? Never mind, take your time. I've skimmed through a couple of them on other sites but I value AC's review more.
  • +1. I value AC's a lot more becaue they always keep it real in the review. They list all pros and all the cons as well so that we, as the consumer can make the best decision. Instead of spoon feeding us Bull about how good a phone is. Take your time Phil :-)
  • Excellent.article.Phil....when is it likely OneX and S3 or newer Premium devices will see it released by AT&T?
  • Don't count on ANYTHING Jelly Bean (4.1 or 4.2) before 2013.
  • Just so you know the Sprint Galaxy S3 is getting Jelly Bean right now.
  • 100% agree with you.
  • Excellent.article.Phil....when is it likely OneX and S3 or newer Premium devices will see it released by AT&T?
  • AHHH I just wished they added a 4G toggle
  • Me too. I actually tried to make one, but it's a hack basically. Really would enjoy a toggle.
  • Hopefully you can add/remove toggles like in cyanogenmod.
  • I fully agree, I still do not understand why they can not add simple toggles to the radio settings to switch between 3G and 4G on most phones. If I can change it in the settings with about four or five gestures, why cant a toggle do it in one?
  • +1.. 4G and volume control. Wouldn't be such an issue if notification volume were tied to ringer volume by default.
  • But the N4 doesn't have 4G LTE. Google should have added volume control and GPS as well at least... there's still so much empty space left. Also tapping your profile picture should also bring up a dialogue box to give you quick access to post on Google+. Why just give you a link to your G+ profile instead of taking you straight there? C'mon Google. Sigh...
  • Yeah and no GPS toggle.
  • Phil, Can you confirm if Miracast works? In The Verge's visit to Google, Miracast was used in the demo. However, all other subsequent reviews by various tech sites seem to skip over Miracast, or just make a simple one line mention. Not only that, the Wireless Display quick settings icon does not seem to appear in most of their screenshots (including AC's). IMO, Miracast has to be the most important feature to hit Android.
  • Damn that's a sexy picture, Phil.
  • I still do not understand why won't google show the numerical percentage of remaning battery in the status bar Onther thing, I wish they would give the option for you to pull down the notification bar in the lock screen if you have password/pattern ... lock I can see new notification quickly and if i wanna acces one of them, that is when i should enter the password
  • I love the idea of the 1 finger, 2 finger thing! And it is great they are FINALLY adding this functionality. But the huge, "squares" I am not impressed with. What, are we now going to try copying the "tile" stuff from MS-Windows RT??
  • The design looks nice, but why add the extra clicks? Why can't you toggle Wifi/bluetooth from the quick settings menu?
  • It looks like there's a blank spot in there, so Google should add something else in before launch, whether it's customizable (my preference) or they just add another setting.
  • I must admit, I'm a little disappointed they are shortcuts and not toggles. I don't need to go into the actual settings 90% of the time, I just want to toggle Bluetooth or Wifi. Once you're set up with a network or paired to a BT device, there's little reason to go into settings. Simply turning either protocol on will connect to the relevant device automatically. Imo, tapping should toggle, long presses should take you to the settings. I'll be sticking to custom ROMs when it comes to 4.2. I'd rather have pull-tap than pull-tap-tap-home (or multiple back taps). 4.2 contains some really inefficient usability decisions.
  • +1
  • I use H D widgets for my toggles
  • But with the QuickSettings on my HTC Evo3D, I no longer need to waste screen space on toggle widgets. I agree that the fact that they are not toggles is disappointing.
  • Use your two middle fingers instead of the pointer and middle finger and you get much better results and accuracy.
  • +1
    Yeah my fourth finger is closer in length to my middle finger than my second so easier to keep them even for the two finger scroll... lol.
  • There is no auto-rotate setting on the phone? Why on earth not! I love having the auto-rotate on my Nexus 7 tablet in the notification area in 4.1.2, but it isn't on my phone in 4.1.2 and now not even in 4.2. Ugh! Why not?! I keep auto-rotation off, except for a few odd times that I want it to rotate on my phone. Why can't it be there on both devices. Hopefully 4.2.1 will allow customization of the options in this area.
  • I totally agree with you. It's so sad that auto rotate is missing in nexus 4. This could be very handful even with a phone, especially when you are reading something in your bed.
  • I'm not a big fan of the swiping with different numbers of fingers resulting in different menus. I'm pretty sure I'll end up on the wrong menu too often. I actually like Motorola's approach better, where swipe to the left = quick settings. In response to post above mine - I was playing with the much-maligned TouchWiz in the store and it had that auto-rotate setting nicely accessible. I'm not convinced Google has a better idea with this than some of the custom OEM versions.
  • For those complaining about 4G toggle. Remember this is 4.2 were talking about. None of the devices getting 4.2 straight away has 4G capabilities. T-Mobile may/will advertise the Nexus 4 as 4G but we all know better, or do we?
  • im sure the Galaxy Nexus will get 4.2 pretty soon, and that has lte.
  • Did the GN ever have a 4G LTE toggle though?
  • Look, I get it. Most people want toggles, be it a 4G toggle, wifi toggle, auto rotate toggle, etc. Google didn't design it in this version. It doesn't mean they won't consider it in the next update. As far as VZW GN getting 4.2, I think that will come in Q1 2013.
  • Don't you think Google is planning on releasing this OS on a few phones before they come out with yet another version?
  • No because people who care about the os are smart enough to put a ROM on their phone instead of sitting there with there thumb up their ass waiting for a carrier to update their shitty skinned phone, or you buy a nexus and stop bitching to Google about something they have nothing to do with like horrid bloated touch wiz and sense
  • nice insult.
  • I think Motorola's new version has the best settings, tbh. Sheesh, I'm almost talking myself into get a Droid RAZR MAXX HD instead of waiting for the DNA.
  • I'll stick with Widgetsoid where I decide what is in the drop down menu.
  • This quick settings is a huge disappointment. No gps icon, and it appears that even for wifi, it just takes you to the wifi menu. It should actually turn things on and off, and there should be more options, like gps. Very disappointing that Google didn't get this one right, especially with so many great samples already available for Google to have compared too.
  • The whole ui on on the tablet is leveling up to the hand held ui. We Get everything centralised and offering a more familiar layout when putting the phone down and picking up a tablet regardless of being 7 inch or 10 inch. But then again we've got this left / right principle of old going on with the the notifications and the quick settings. So I'm going to stick my head out a bit here and disagree with most people by saying this was not a good decision and somebody in the design department goofed up with that.
  • Great feature! Now if only AT&T would release their 4.1 update for the S3 so we can get 4.2 already! :/
  • Root you're phone and put it on yourself genius
  • Oh, save your sarcasm for something else, mister-GENIUS. I'd just prefer getting the official update, thanks very much.
  • Can't they understand that we don't need new ways to get to the settings? Is it really that difficult to understand that users wanted something, so we don't have to get into settings to switch things?? Use two fingers to pull down and click to get to settings again? What was wrong with setting button we already have?? I am getting very annoyed this time.
  • The Google+ profile picture takes the place of multi-user support that will be built into tablets running 4.2. I'm guessing Google just wanted to have something there on phones also to make the UI consistent.
  • That looks like absolute crap. There is more than enough room to make the buttons smaller and put them above the normal notifications like any custom rom. Hopefully they keep there old toggles and don't use these. So far 4.2 only seems to be adding stuff no one wants.
  • I liked the 76% remaining after 7 hours of what I assume is regular use since the screen was the main power hog.
  • "You" do now want does not translate to "everyone" does not want. It would still be nice if we can change the size of the toggle though.
  • They aren't toggles??? That's so disappointing. Cmon Google, you can do better than that. Too bad there isn't a GPS icon tho...
  • I really don't know if I'm going with Padfone 2 or a Nexus 4 and 10 combo. I love the idea of keep my files on a single place and the dictionary widget from Padfone 2 looks so nice.
  • Well I guess you are one of the four people getting a pad fone instead of the nexus 4...hmmm what should I do spend 300 on something great or 800 on some gimmicky crap that will never have Dev support or decent roms
  • Actually Phil never once said that they weren't toggles. He only tapped one (Brightness) which WAS a toggle in the form of a widget. It looks like a hybrid menu of sorts things like battery take you to the settings menu while something like BT or airplane mode tapping it toggles it on or off. So Phil? are any of them toggles? or are they all just shortcuts to the corresponding settings menu like people are suggesting? Hopefully not the latter.
  • Yes he did say they aren't toggles but actually bring you to the settings.. Or rather, he wrote it in the article but didn't say it in the video.
  • I hope there are toggles as well because that looks like it takes longer to turn on wifi and bluetooth. The only thing making me want to get this phone now is the price.
  • Excellent Post...newer Premium devices will see it released by AT&T?
    and I Wish 4G Toggle...
  • Well on my Nexus 7 its actually one finger swipe down on the left part of the screen gives notification menu, one finger right part of the screen gives toggles....
  • Free is great... and lord knows my lenovo suffered dearly with my kids beating it up.. would love to uograde it now ...