Faster ways to search content on the Internet, share photos between two phones and more has been promised as a part of the next version of Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices.
Android 4.1 is nicknamed Jelly Bean, following Google Inc.’s tradition of likening its updates to a delectable treat. Google previewed the new version Wednesday at a conference in San Francisco for computer programmers.
1. Google Now
One of the new features in Android will be Google Now, which is supposed to get you the right information at the right time automatically, if you activate the feature. If you say “traffic,” for example, it will look at your usual commute to work and show you alternative routes if there’s a lot of traffic. It will tell you the scores of your favorite sports teams automatically, and it will keep you up to date on the status of your flights if you’re traveling.
Google said the Google Now feature will get smarter as you use it more. The feature represents Google’s response to Siri, the popular virtual assistant on Apple’s iPhone.
2. Offline voice typing
Android has long included voice dictation feature but with Jelly Bean, Google has taken it even further and it no longer needs network connection to work. Yes, that means offline voice typing. The company’s engineers have shrunk the voice recognition engine significantly to make it fit in a phone, unlike earlier when the whole processing used to take place of Google servers.
Offline voice typing will be initially available in English (US), but the company plans to add more languages very soon. The new Android version also promises a smarter keyboard, with a feature for predicting your next word before you type.
3. Expandable notifications
Notifications have long been an integral part of the Android experience and with Jelly Bean they are getting even better. Android apps can now display larger, richer notifications to users that can be expanded and collapsed with a pinch. Notifications support new types of content, including photos, have configurable priority and can even include multiple actions.
4. Improvements to Android Beam
Jelly Bean will also come with the ability to share photos by tapping two phones together, using an emerging wireless technology called near-field communications. The current version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, has limited ability to share data through NFC. Samsung Electronic Co.’s new Galaxy S III phone has a feature for sharing photos and video by tapping, but it works only with other S III phones.
5. Project Butter: Faster, smoother, more responsive
Apart from all the new features, Google has also improved on the overall user interface in Android 4.1. It is now much smoother, responsive and fluid. The company has improved the system frame rate and made it consistent at 60fps.
Scrolling, paging and animations, all are now butter smooth, thus the name Project Butter. Google has also enhanced the touch experience in Jelly Bean with touch input boost. So, as soon as a user touches the display, the full CPU power gets to work, thus reducing any lag in processing.
Jelly Bean will be available in mid-July. Some devices like the Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S, will get it automatically as an over-the-air update. Google’s new tablet computer, the Nexus 7, will also come with Jelly Bean