Although the arrival of the statue did give it away before the event, Google has now announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and it dedicated a portion of the Google I/O keynote presentation to detailing the changes made in this latest version of its mobile OS.
Anyone expecting huge alterations will be disappointed, as this is a relatively light update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. But while the new features may not be numerous, there are several which could greatly improve the Android experience.
Perhaps the most interesting is Project Butter. This is Google’s attempt to make the OS smoother and more responsive. Introduced by the company’s engineering director, Dave Burke, he claims it has made Jelly Bean the “fastest and smoothest version of Android yet”. By increasing the frame rate to 60fps and keeping it consistent across the system, transitions between apps and screens, page scrolling and even apps will benefit.
The next change is to the home screen, which dynamically adjusts the size of widgets to fit properly, or by shifting other icons around. Apps that are no longer needed can be swiped off the screen to delete them, speeding up the old process.
Notifications have also been improved, and now include many functions relevant to them, for example a missed call has the option to call back, and calendar entries can be responded to without visiting the app. It’s not just standard apps either, as Foursquare check-ins can be liked and commented on, and Google+ photo shares can be viewed full screen too.
One of the few completely new features is Google Now, which is part of Google Search. By using your location, previous searches, your calendar and various other factors, your phone will begin to help coordinate your life. This can be anything from showing you places of interest when you’re out and about, to recommending you leave for work as the traffic is getting worse. There’s no setup, as its knowledge comes from your previous actions, and it’s accessed using either the search box or by swiping up on the screen.
Search has been given a redesigned UI, and vastly improved voice recognition where answers are read back to you. Search results are displayed on cards for easier reading, and these can be swiped aside to show standard web results.
Other features include photo and video sharing using NFC and Android Beam, a quick-review gallery for new photos in the Camera app, offline voice typing and revised predictive text, where a pop-up lets you select your next word from a list instead of typing it.
So when can you expect to get 4.1 Jelly Bean on your phone? If you own a Galaxy Nexus, a Mototola Xoom tablet and the Nexus S, then it’s coming as an over-the-air update in July.
Everyone else, well, there’s no news whatsoever. But, did you really expect there to be?