Folks, it looks like all the speculation can finally be put to rest as Google has officially taken the wraps off Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. One of the features that Google was aiming for was a smooth and buttery experience, which was why they embarked on what they called “Project Butter”. Their goal was to create a UI experience and improve Android’s frame rate and make it more consistent, thus getting rid of lag and stutter that some users have noticed on their Android mobile phones. It will be applied throughout the whole phone, apps and all and will be constantly updated and improved upon. In fact it’s so fast that Google claims Jelly Bean will be able to predict where your finger will be before you touch the screen! For the more tech savvy, they have basically bumped Android’s FPS up to 60 thanks to the VSync process and triple buffering. Certainly not new in the PC world, but it is most definitely a welcome addition for Android.
Offline Voice Typing, auto-resized widgets and improved camera features
Apart from the now speedier build of Android, Google has introduced several new features, such as widgets that can resize itself around app icons on the home screen, thus saving users the trouble of having to move the icons around themselves, and even offline typing! For those wondering what that is, it basically allows Android users to crank out messages via their voice even though they might not have an internet connection. It will originally be launched for US English but Google will expand to other languages and dialects in good time. Google has also added more language support and will see the addition of 18 new languages, such as Persian, Hindi and Thai.
Other features include an improved camera that allows for a faster viewing and allows for the viewing of both photos and videos within the same frame. The photos can also be shared via an upgraded version of Android Beam. This allows Android phones with NFC capabilities to share photos with each other simply by tapping against each other. It will also pair with Bluetooth headsets/speakers simply by tapping on them, which Google claims will only take a second to pair. It certainly sounds pretty convenient!
Updated notification system and improved search
Next up is an updated notification system. Keeping to the tradition of the old notification design, Google has made some tweaks that makes the notification more handy. For example missed calls can be replied to simply by expanding on the missed call notification and placing a call directly from the notification drawer. This is opposed to the old system which launches the Phone app and having to make the call from there. A couple of steps less means a more efficient system, and that we can appreciate. Quick responses have also been pre-programmed, allowing users to fire off a quick reply for those times when they might not be so free to type out a more personalized one. Also the good news for Google+ users is that Google+ notifications will appear in the notification drawer and you will be able to +1 or share the post without having to launch the app itself.
Given that Google’s core competency is its search feature, we guess it was only natural that Android 4.1 Jelly Bean would improve on it. Search results are now returned in a “card” format, which we have to say looks pretty slick. Google has also improved Voice Search, recognizing natural voice better and will speak the search results back to you in a pretty “normal” voice, as opposed to the more robotic sounding ones that we have heard n the past. Users will be able to perform search queries, i.e. Who is the Prime Minister of Japan, to definitions, such as The definition of robot. It seems like Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S Voice and LG’s Quick Voice might have found themselves a worthy competitor, even though it only offers searches for now.
Introducing Google Now
Last but not least is Google Now. This is a feature that will make your smartphone “smarter” but offering you information based on your browsing history, calendar appointments and will even learn your schedules and patterns. For example when your phone has learned that you normally take the bus to work, it will inform you when to leave, when the bus will arrive and how long it will take, all in an effort to prevent you from being late (you will no longer have an excuse for tardiness!). Like we said earlier, it will also remember your search history, so a previous search for a flight will enable Google Now to “remember” it, thus notifying you as the flight’s time approaches.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean will be available for select devices – Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and the Motorola Xoom starting mid-July, but the SDK itself will be offered to developers starting today.