Google unveiled the next version of its mobile OS, Android 4.1, codenamed “Jelly Bean”. Since this version of Android was confirmed to not be 5.0, no extensive changes were expected in this release. However Google did take a huge stride in improving the overall Android experience with this release. Jelly Bean builds on the strengths of the ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) and takes them to the next level.
Google also announced a number of features that will be useful for the users as well as the app developers. Read on to know what Jelly Bean Android 4.1 has to offer.
Jelly Bean Android 4.1 Features
Smooth Buttery UI
Even the most die hard Android fan will have to agree that user experience with the Android UI was inconsistent, even laggy perhaps, when compared to the smoothness of iOS. The UI improved by leaps and bounds with ICS but wasn’t quite there yet.
With ‘Project Butter’ Google has shown that it takes user feedback seriously and is determined to improve the Android UI. Jelly Bean is a huge stride in that direction.
Android “Jelly Bean” is optimized to deliver Android’s best performance on your device. It extends the vsync timing across all drawing and animation and has triple buffering for graphics to make up for a consistent and “buttery” smooth UI. This is further improved by synchronizing touch that anticipates your next touch and provided a CPU input boost at the next touch to make sure that there is no latency.
For the developers, the new tool called Systrace collects data directly from the Linux kernel and produces an overall picture of system activities. The data is represented as a group of vertically stacked time series graphs, useful to identify any rendering problems as well as other issues.
Expandable, Actionable Notifications
Android notifications have always been awesome. Jelly Bean brings richer notifications that can be expanded or collapsed with a simple gesture. You can perform actions on the notifications right from there or long-press the notification for further options. What’s more, notifications now support new types of content, including photos and have configurable priority.
For the developers, three templated notification styles are available or they can create their own notification styles up to 256 dp in height.
Resizable App Widgets
Widgets are a popular and unique feature of Android. How often have you been bugged by the message “Not enough room”, when you try to add a widget to a screen? No more! Jelly Bean brings resizable widgets that automatically resizes to the space available on the screen. The widget content refreshes as the size changes according to the widget size and could display larger, richer graphics or additional functionality or options.
Developers still have a control over the maximum and minimum sizes. They can supply separate landscape and portrait layouts for the widgets. The system manages the size when the screen orientation changes.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of Jelly Bean. Expanding upon the features of Google Voice Actions Google Now brings to you exactly what you need to know, right when you need it.
Google Now works on a system of “cards,” based on what “Now” learns from your actions on the smartphone. It learns what you want and goes one step ahead to keep it ready for you whenever you need it. Travelling to office? Google Now gives you traffic updates and best route to get there. Hungry? The best restaurants are already listed. Not just that, even the best dishes in that place are there for you to choose. Missing a match that you so wanted to see? Google Now has the score updates for you.
Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you will get what you need, right away.
New Keyboard With Offline Voice Input
Jelly Bean comes with a new intuitive, text-prediction keyboard. Though I don’t expect it to be as good at prediction as SwiftKey in this release, it is sure to improve in future versions. Who knows, soon SwiftKey may have some serious competition from the stock Android keyboard.
Google already managed to do something awesome with voice input. With Jelly Bean, voice input now works offline. You can type with you voice whether you have a data connection or not.
The camera on Android devices improved a lot with the zero shutter lag introduced by ICS. There are a few tweaks for this app in Jelly Bean for the picture review. Now you can just swipe on the camera screen to view the latest snap that you have taken. Pinch the screen to bring up a film strip UI that makes it easy to browse the gallery quickly.
Swiping away on any image deletes it but you can always hit undo to restore the image to its rightful place in your picture gallery.
Android Beam has been a feature of Android since ICS but its uses have been pretty limited. Google has given it a push in the right direction in Jelly Bean.
In Android 4.1, Android Beam makes it easier to share images, videos, or any other content by leveraging Bluetooth for the data transfer. Tap your Android device with another compatible device to pair them. Android Beam then hands over from NFC to Bluetooth, making it really easy to manage the transfer of a file from one device to another.
Language Support and Accessibility
Android 4.1 now supports bi-directional text, opening the doors for the apps to be made available in Hebrew and Arabic. Support for many other languages is planned. To improve accessibility to blind users, a new ‘Gesture Mode’ will be available under Accessibility. There is even support offered for blind users to input Braille data via USB or Bluetooth-connected devices.
Google has taken up arms against the rampant piracy of Android apps with the introduction of Jelly Bean. Starting with Android 4.1, Google Play will help protect application assets by encrypting all paid apps with a device-specific key before they are delivered and stored on a device. This is sure to bring up a cheer from the Android developer community.
Higher Resolution Contact Photos
With Android 4.1, you can store contact photos that are as large as 720 x 720, making contacts even richer and more personal. Apps can store and retrieve contact photos at that size or use any other size needed.
Smart App Updates
Till now, app update meant that the whole app apk had to be downloaded again. No more. Google Play now delivers only the bits that have changed to devices, rather than the entire APK. This makes the updates much light-weight in most cases, so they are faster to download, save the device’s battery, and conserve bandwidth usage on users’ mobile data plan.
Google Play Store Updates
New content is now available on the Play store. You can buy movies, magazines or even your favorite TV series right from the Play store.
App management is made easier by the ability to update or uninstall apps from your device right from the web interface.
The last couple of features noted above are for the overall Android ecosystem rather than specific Jelly Bean features. Even then, Jelly Bean brings significant improvement to the performance and user interface of Android devices. Instead of stuffing in new features into the OS, Google has chosen to streamline the already beautiful UI introduced by ICS and work on its core features to build a more smooth and powerful mobile OS.
For the users, I think “Google Now” is the most significant feature. It has tremendous potential and Google has to deliver on it as it competes with Apple which already offers similar features. Besides this, app encryption is a necessary feature that developers were long waiting for. Perhaps this will help stop piracy bleeding the developers dry.
With Jelly Bean, Google has streamlined Android 4.0. Now, I think the stage is set for a major update in the next release. What do you think? But lets not get ahead of ourselves. For now, we are just curious what will be the name of the next release. K…. something. Any guesses? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Android Developers