Google announced the next version of its Android operating system today, version 4.1, and as expected, it’s called Jelly Bean. What do we like best about what Google has in store for us? Glad you asked! Let’s dive right in!
1. Faster, Smoother, More Responsive
I hear people complain that Android is “laggy”. I don’t see that as much in my own experience, but Google doesn’t want to give users or critics reason to complain. To combat “lag” Google has been continuing their work on “Project Butter”.
I wrote about the details of Project Butter earlier, so without repeating myself I’ll sum up what Project Butter means for Android. This initiative brings massive improvements to the Android Operating System which make the entire OS faster, smoother, more responsive, and in some areas, even predictive of where you’re going to touch the screen next. All this combines to bring the “buttery smoothness” that we were promised when Ice Cream Sandwich was announced, plus so much more!
2. Offline Voice Input
I’ve been using my voice to dictate emails and respond to text messages since the feature was added to Android. I’m always amused by my friends’ expressions when I pick up my phone, press a button, and speak the contents of my message directly into my phone. It blows them away.
With the current version of Voice Input you already have true voice-dictation capabilities, but you have to be connected to the cloud to be able to use it (all the heavy-lifting and processing is done on Google servers in the could). With Jelly Bean you no longer need that wireless tether! Voice input is now available even when you’re offline!
3. Google Search
Search has been an integral part of Android since day one. Apple upped the ante in the search game when they released Siri. Google has doubled-down and (finally) has a viable answer to Siri, complete with natural voice input and spoken answers
Not only that, Google has revamped their search results interface, bringing relevant information right to the front, complete with pictures, source citations, and quite a bit more that will make searching fun, intuitive, relevant, and very helpful!
4. Expandable and Actionable Notifications
When you get a new email you’re made aware of its arrival in the notification bar. If you pull down the notification shade you can see a little bit of information about that email, but not much more. Jelly Bean expands these alerts to allow you to see more about the notification and gives you some interactions with the item right from the notification shade — no need to fire up the app!
Actionable notifications aren’t limited to email! Got an incoming call? You can answer, ignore, or hang up right from the shade. New picture shared with you? In addition to a full-bleed view of the image you can comment or re-share right from the shade. Listening to music? Album art and music controls can be accessed, again, right from the shade.
5. Automatically Resizable Widgets
One of the things that sets Android apart from other OSes are widgets. Widgets are getting bigger and more feature-filled all the time, but this means they’re taking up more space on the screen, and it’s harder to put them on screens that already have other icons and widgets on them. With Jelly Bean you can drop a widget on a screen and it will automatically re-size to fit the available space. Don’t want something on the screen? You can easily “flick” it away, just like flicking to dismiss notifications that we’ve seen in the past.
What about you?
What’s your favorite new or improved feature in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean? Let us know in the comments!