Android 4.1, Jelly Bean: The Lowdown
The latest news in recent weeks is that Google have now released the source code to Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, to developers. While the actual OS is only just being rolled out to a select few Nexus devices (with other devices having to wait much longer), the release of the source code means that developers can now begin to work on apps and features for the OS.
Jean-Baptiste Queru, an engineer at Google, announced in his forum post: “We recommend that you create new clients, even if you’re working in the master branch. It’ll make your clients smaller and faster to sync.”
Android Jelly Bean, which is officially version 4.1 of the OS, is being debuted on the Nexus 7 smartphone now, followed by updates being rolled out to the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus S and the Motorola Xoom. Of course, if you’re not a developer, the release of Google’s source code won’t interest you much, but you might want to know all about the features and apps that are going to appear on Jelly Bean. It feels like the excitement from Ice Cream Sandwich has only just died down, and so Android 4.1 has got some big shoes to fill.
Smoother Interface :
The big change that’s going to be seen in Android Jelly Bean is a new, smoother interface. Visually, the design of the OS shouldn’t be changing too much, but the flow and operation is supposed to be vastly improved. For a long time, a thorn in the side of Android users has been that while phones start off working quickly without problems, they can very soon become bogged down by notifications and tasks, which means that the interface display becomes choppy and lags. This isn’t generally a problem on either iOS or Windows Phone handsets.
Android’s answer to this is VSync and Triple Buffering. VSync – or Vertical Sync – synchronises whatever changes you make on the phone by refreshing the LCD screen. This means your phone isn’t backed up with a list of changes that need to be implemented; they happen straight away. Triple Buffering is an improvement upon Android’s old Double Buffering, which, in a very small nutshell, means that changes to graphics will be implemented much more quickly than previously, which should stop the ‘choppy’ interface problems.
Better Peformance :
Android Jelly Bean also includes improved power management – the CPU is turned up to full power when the screen is touched, and turned down a notch when the phone is inactive in order to improve battery life. Android is now noticeably faster at loading apps and switching between screens thanks to the new performance tweaks.
SEE ALSO: How To Make Free Calls With Android.
Improved Voice Features :
On top of this, there are some more general improvements made to the OS, including an improved search capability and a voice search tool comparable to Siri. This is being called ‘Google Voice’ at the moment, though the company don’t have an official name for it, and rumors say it may well prove to be tough competition for Apple’s Siri. Whether or not this is true, we’ll have to wait and see, but all in all, the improvements being offered in Android Jelly Bean look well worth getting your hands on.
The new voice features include greater understanding of natural language and are integrated with Google’s new Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph is a huge collection of data representing people, places and objects. Rather than simply trying to convert your speech into text and then matching that text with content online, Knowledge Graph understands that the thing you are referring to is an actual entity. For example, Google used to understand “Eiffel Tower” simply as two words which often appeared together, but now it understands that the Eiffel Tower is a metal structure in the French capital, and can return all sorts of facts relating to it, including its exact location, date of construction and height.
The improved voice features on Jelly Bean can be used for searching online or merely for searching through content stored on your phone. One major advantage that Google has here over its rival Siri is that it does not require an internet connection to interpret commands. Siri needs to send information back and forth across Wi-Fi or 3G even to perform offline tasks such as updating the calendar or setting an alarm. With Wi-Fi this is not so much of an issue, but for people who can only rely on 3G using Siri can end up being an expensive experience.
Other Improvements :
Apple famously introduced its own version of the scroll down notification system used by Android when it launched the iPhone 4S, and so Google has been pushed into making a number of improvements here. Notifications can now be expanded to provide more information and you can respond to them directly from the notification tray. Ice Cream Sandwich introduced resizable homescreen widgets, but now Jelly Bean can automatically resize widgets to make room for new widgets or shortcuts being placed on the home screen.
Android Jelly Bean is now rolling out to certain Nexus phones, and will shortly become available for the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X. Many phones have not yet received any confirmation of an update and older phones which have only just been updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, such as the Galaxy S2, will not receive an update at all. One way to avoid long delays in waiting for a new Android version is to buy a Nexus phone, as these can be updated almost as soon as a new version of Android is released.