provided details Tuesday about an upcoming maintenance update that will be given to Android 4.1 Jellybean devices. Once installed, devices running Android 4.1.2 will have rotating home screens. This is a bigger deal than it might seem.
To-date, the vast majority of Android devices do not have auto-rotating home screens. This means when the device is turned sideways, the home screen retains its orientation. In other words, the content on the screen is sideways, just like the phone.
The only devices that allow the home screen to change orientation are a handful of smartphones with slide-out QWERTY keyboards. To be clear, these devices don't offer auto-rotation, either. Sliding the keyboard open or closed forces the screen to rotate from portrait to landscape orientation.
[ What is the status of the various versions of Google's operarting system? Read Ice Cream Sandwich Continues To Gain Android Share. ]
Third-party companies have offered apps through the Google Play Store to resolve this issue. For example, Ultimate Rotation Control is a popular app with Nexus 7 owners that gives them much greater control over how the home screen is used. Some of these apps are free, some are not. Either way, it's a pain in the neck to have to use them at all.
With Android 4.1.2, when the device is tipped, the icons and other on-screen content will rotate so that it appears upright no matter which orientation the device is held.
Nexus devices will be the first to see the 4.1.2 update, which means the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus are on deck to receive the feature when it is pushed out. Queru didn't say when the update would be provided, though it should be delivered soon.
Home screen rotation has been one of my biggest gripes with Android devices, especially on the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has a 16:10 aspect ratio. It can be great for some video and other content, but only select apps will allow you to rotate the device sideways to watch the content on the entire display. This will change that.
Other elements of the 4.1.2 update resolve bugs and other performance issues in Jellybean.
I would not expect this change to filter down to devices running older versions of Android.