Google has just announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at Google I/O 2012. As the version number suggests, Jelly Bean marks an incremental update to Ice Cream Sandwich, but it includes a lot of new end-user features.
Jelly Bean features a number of UI enhancements that Google calls “Project Butter”. Project Butter aims to make Android a faster, more responsive operating system by introducing features like triple buffering in graphics to ensure smooth animations. Google demoed these new enhancements by comparing two Galaxy Nexus devices side-by-side; one running ICS, the other running Jelly Bean. The Jelly Bean device displayed animations much quicker and smoother than the ICS phone.
Jelly Bean is bringing some changes to home screen icons and widgets. Widgets will now automatically resize to fit the available space on a home screen. In addition, app shortcuts will automatically reflow to fit around a widget. The Notification Shade has also seen some updates; it’s got a sleek new design, and now features “expandable, actionable notifications”. Users will be able to expand notifications with a two-finger pinch gesture to see additional details, and some notifications will allow an action to be taken such as calling back a missed call, or quick replying to a group email.
Google has also transformed the Google Search experience on Android, and they’ve made it a lot like Siri. Using the Voice Search button, users can now ask questions like “Who is the President of China?” or “What is a robot” and Google Search will respond with a Siri-like card interface, and “she” will even respond vocally.
Some new features are coming to text-input as well. The Android dictionaries are now “more accurate and more relevant” according to Google. Even more editing: Google has managed to “shrink down” the voice recognition technology that runs on their cloud servers to fit on the phone itself, allowing for Offline Voice Typing.
Google has also introduced a new personal organizer called Google Now, which can be accessed with a quick swipe-up from the bottom of the screen. Through daily use of your phone, Google Now learns where you live, your daily commute, your favourite sports teams, even when and where you go to the gym. Now then displays “Cards” populated with useful information tailored for you, and these cards will change throughout the day; traffic information for your commute to work will be displayed in the morning, while information about your favourite restaurant may appear around lunch time. It is a very unique feature, though some may find the automatic information collection a bit creepy.
Jelly Bean is rolling out OTA to Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom, and Nexus S starting in mid-July. The Jelly Bean SDK launches for Developers today. Google is also releasing the Android Platform Developer Kit for OEM’s, to make it easier for them to port new versions of Android to their hardware. The Android PDK will be available to OEM’s 2-3 months before the public launch of all future Android versions.
Check out Google’s Android website for the full rundown on Jelly Bean!