After my lengthy rant on the often unspoken side of Android, Google unveiled the most beautiful, sleek and praise-worthy version of its famed flagship mobile operating system, Android, the Android 4.1 codenamed Jelly Bean. This has set the tech world on fire as the developments of the Google I/O conference this year are slowly being digested. Premiering on the flagship Nexus devices and the Motorola Xoom tablet, Jelly Bean is actually the first sign board from the Droid world that clearly states “Our Time Has Come”. Let’s look at what is in the jelly and the beans.
On the Android website, Google states that Android 4.1, Jelly Bean “is the fastest and smoothest version of Android yet.” This is a line that has been repeated over and over by various tech analysts and bloggers worldwide and attendees of the I/O conference who got to play with Galaxy Nexus devices preloaded with the OS first hand. From a simple point of view, Jelly Bean is actually an upgrade of the previous version of Android OS, Android 4.0 codenamed Ice Scream Sandwich. Why? As we will see in due course, ICS already packed most of the features and was already a great Android version. Google just went and made it smoother and faster. Besides, the UI is just the same.
There’s plenty in the new Android OS.
Yes the whole thing just had to be named after a food or dessert of sorts as is the tradition of Google when it comes to Android. The main aim was to make “buttery graphics and silky transitions”. The processing framework of Android was reworked and given a major facelift in order to improve responsiveness, make the OS smooth and enable flawless execution of animations. Google points out that now “moving between home screens and switching between apps is effortless” comparing the whole process to be like turning pages in a book. At least the lag issue I ranted about was addressed here. Zero lag when launching apps means its now a breeze multitasking on Android, switching from one app to another. Just what the Android fanboys were asking for.
Android users can now take it easy knowing that they will not have to install third party applications in order to have beautiful camera functionality since the camera has been given a facelift in Jelly Bean. Every time one takes a photo, new animations occur. After taking a couple of shots one can simply swipe the camera screen away in order to bring up the ”camera roll” and view images stored in their gallery. (This is a big departure from the various Android OS currently in the market which don’t have the option and the only way one can view the camera roll is by closing the camera app and opening their photo gallery, quite a tedious and lengthy process).
The unveiling of Google Now is so far the most highlighted occurrence in that I/O summit. Google Now is simply awesome and I can’t wait to use it. Google Now uses one’s search history in order to pull up information that the system thinks is okay. It will learn with time your preferences and present them to you when you tap Google Now. It will display cards for your local weather, the traffic situation on your most frequented routes, your next appointment, flights available and their take-off and landing times if necessary, sports updates from your favourite EPL team (Manchester United J) and many more.
Asking a question will prompt the system to bring up a card with an answer. Actually this is an upgraded Voice Actions, the search app that is installed in other versions of Android. Here it is polished and improved as it brings up near-accurate and very accurate information. In addition, it even allows offline access. It has always been boring wanting to use Voice Actions to say check something up or write a quick text when you are not connected to the internet. This has now been taken care of.
Home Screen Widgets
That annoying message, “There’s no more space on this screen” will now be a thing of the past. The widgets on Jelly Bean will now not only be resizable to any extent but will actually be able to push other widgets on the screen in order to fit instead of giving you that boring notification. They will even be able to fit on top of existing widgets before you decide where to place them. Any apps on the home screen will automatically be adjusted to display next or around the existing widgets on the home screen.
Beam has been in existence on Android for a while now and is a major feature of high end devices running ICS but was taken to a whole new level by the Samsung Galaxy S III which brought S Beam. Jelly bean too takes Beam to another level. It has been upgraded. Android Beam allows users to share photos by tapping their phones together using NFC (near-field communication) technology. Currently, ICS has limited ability to share data through NFC.
Beam also works with another feature that has been baked into Jelly Bean, a tap-to-air feature for Bluetooth + NFC enabled speakers (just tap your hone to an equipped speaker and your tunes will start streaming. How cool!)
The keyboard is more polished too. Predictive text input has been enhanced and if what many analysts say of it is anything to go by then you will never need Swype keyboard of Swift Key X keyboard to replace the stock keyboard. Jelly Bean’s stock keyboard has finally made the one piece that I quickly replaced with ease upon restoring my phone to factory settings, the keyboard, to be adorable and appreciated.
Google says this of the keyboards capabilities: The language model in Jelly Bean adapts over time, and the keyboard even guesses what the next word will be before you’ve started typing it.
Text-to-speech, TTS, now works even without an active data connection. The Android dictionaries have also been upped.
Even after Apple resorted to using its own maps app, Google Maps is just getting better and better. In Jelly bean, it has been added some functionality, the ability for users to be able to save the maps for offline viewing. This is handy. When travelling to places where network connectivity is a problem, one can simply save the maps for offline use. Maps has however been accused of not having the ability to save maps for a larger area like a whole country as it can only save maps for a smaller area.
Whether the average Android user will get to use Jelly Bean soon or the usual lengthy update process that rarely ever happens will finally be talked of in good light, only time will tell. For now I can only hope that the hacker community keeps the Jelly Bean goodies keep coming since it is the only way that the often neglected masses can keep up with the fast paced Android OS updates.
Photos courtesy: Android.com