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Google reveal details of Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ at I/O

Chris Mayer
Jelly-Bean

Despite an early slip it was imminent, Google still managed to make their big Android announcement meaningful at their San Francisco developer conference

In the midst of typical Google bravado and showmanship (with
fawning journalists in tow) there were some pretty important
strides made by the company in regards to their Java-powered
smartphone platform, Android.

As expected, Google revealed more intricate details of their next
version, Android 4.1, codenamed ‘Jelly Bean’, after
last week’s spilling of the beans
. Now it appears 4.1 is
offering much more in terms of features, tightly packing many into
the jar. Amongst the newbies are a much more responsive UI,
instigated by “Project Butter” to make the Jelly Bean UI “buttery
smooth” – in other words, make it easier for the user’s fingers.
Slow scrolling is a massive bugbear with older Android versions and
the fact that Google are putting most precedence on this, is very
encouraging.

Also arriving is an enhanced interactive notification system,
despite already being the pick of the crop on mobile operating
systems. Notifications no longer are just texts, but now pictures,
lists and so on, and can also add action buttons to do things like
reply to an email without the need to open a separate app for it –
nice. The new API makes it possible for Android developers to
create richer notifications for apps, with some third-party apps
already using it, such as Spotify and Foursquare, shown off during
the Google I/O keynote.

Certainly the most interesting additions are better voice
transcription (with offline voice) and Google Now – seemingly in
direct competition to Apple’s Siri by providing the user what they
need to know with the mere mention of a word. Google claim that
Google can provide “today’s weather before you start your day, how
much traffic to expect before you leave for work, or your
favorite team
‘s score as they’re playing. There’s no
digging required: cards appear at the moment you need them
most.”

So, basically it’s Google’s own Siri then. The offline voice aspect
is a big deal: with voice recognition no longer requiring network
I/O, it should make it all incredibly responsive. But, it makes you
wonder why Siri doesn’t already offer this – maybe Apple decided it
wasn’t worth pursuing.

In terms of other developer tidbits, memory limits now apply to
widgets, which can be hosted in third party apps as well as working
in both portrait and landscape orientations. Better NDK support is
welcomed as it’s now possible to build and debug apps that have
native components, rather than having to do it separately for Java,
C++ etc. Google has also introduced anti-piracy measures, adding in
application encryption to make sure developers get the right sales,
and don’t get their work distributed illegally. All new APIs appear
in the Android Support Library as standard, meaning developers can
easily obtain them.

Aside from unveiling the contents of the Jelly Bean jar, Google
were also keen to talk numbers:

This year, we’re picking up right where we left off. More than
400 million Android devices have now been activated—up from 100
million last June. And twelve new Android devices are activated
every every second—that’s more than 1 million a day.

Staggering statistics for sure. Jelly Bean will build on top of
previous version Ice Cream Sandwich, to be intrinsically linked
with that version and to combat that age old fragmentation debate
slightly. Jelly Bean will ship in mid-July, as predicted, to Galaxy
Nexus, Nexus S, and Motorola Zoom devices, and a preview version of
Android 4.1 is available now. It will also be built into Nexus 7
tablets.

Will Jelly Bean be a greater success than Android 4.0? Time will
tell, but the signs show that Android isn’t showing any signs of
letting up just yet.

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