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  (Source: U.S. Daily Review)
Android JB is faster, packed with new features; Galaxy Nexus is now very cheap off-contract

Google Inc. (GOOG) had a big day today announcing Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the successor release to Ice Cream Sandwich.  The new operating system build comes packing a plethora of new features and improvements, including adding some neat GUI animations that will be familiar to fans of the now-defunct webOS.

I. Smoother Performance

Google says that today 1 million Android devices (tablets, smartphones) are activated daily and there are 400 million Androids in the wild, figures which surely will stir some resentment at rival Apple, Inc. (AAPL).  

Hugo Barra, director of project management at Android, comments on the new operating system build, "Jelly Bean builds on what we created with Ice Cream Sandwich."

The improvements fall into two categories -- new features (including new UI gestures) -- and a performance overhaul, which makes the ICS GUI smoother and more responsive. 

Jelly Bean
[Image Source: YouTube]

Core to Jelly Bean is Project Butter.  The goal of Project Butter is to make Android's UI animations feel more smooth. (Smooth like butter, get it? Har har!)  The graphics pipeline is now triple buffered and uses vertical sync (vsync), features which combine to give silkier graphics.  

Jelly Bean Project Butter
Project Butter: Making your Android smoother [Image Source: YouTube]

This should give Google a nice boost, which it needs to compete with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) silky Windows Phone GUI (as Google mentioned in its keynote the brain's visual cortex can pick up on delays of as little as 10 ms, so that lag in older Android builds isn't your imagination).

Project Butter also improves touch by incorporating new algorithms that predict where your finger will be as it moves across the touch screen.  Google also realized that its power-saving technique of downclocking the CPU adversely affected UI transition and touch, so it now upclocks whenever your navigating the GUI.

II. New Features

But making the GUI smoother wasn't the only goal with Jelly Bean.  A slew of new features also pop up in the release.  Hugo Barra remarks, "Jelly Bean is not only the fastest and smoothest, but we've made improvements throughout."

Here's a brief breakdown of the editions:

Widgets now can be manually resized, but also automatically resize to squeeze into allotted spaces.  This adds a nice counter to Apple's stackable icons.  You can also toss icons and apps off a home screen with a "familiar gesture" (aka the webOS up swipe -- thanks to Google's "swipe" of the webOS team from Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ)).

Predictive Keyboard
Dictionary has been refined, and word suggestions are now displayed above the keyboard similar to in Windows Phone.

Offline Voice Input
Google is the only one whose current OS build has this -- enough said. (Initial support is for English only.)

Offline voice
Offline voice typing is now supported for airplane mode. [Image Source: YouTube]

Expanded Language Support
18 new languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.

External brail input support, improved features for blind users.

There's now pinch support to go into film strip view for fast navigation of pictures and swipe responsiveness has been improved.  You can also now trash photos by swiping up, again similar to webOS.

JellyBean swipe photos
Swipe to delete and photo film-strip in JB [Image Source: YouTube]

Google Beam Improvements
Tap to pair Bluetooth devices (headsets, etc.), tap to share photos.

Notifications have received some serious TLC and now expand/contract.  They also include action links.  Quick responses to some common types of messages (e.g. meeting reminder) are pre-programmed.

Jelly Bean notifications
JB style notifications [Image Source: YouTube]

Knowledge Graph Search
Jelly Bean responds to questions "What is a robot?" in a way similar to Siri.  Except rather than just a voice response it includes pictures and text -- very slick.

Google Now
Google is tracking you (uh oh) and it learns how to optimize your workflow.  For example, by tracking your commute path to work, it can give you an estimate each morning of the expected commute time, and occasionally suggest you follow alternative routes if it detects traffic backups along your commute path.  

JellyBean Google Now
Google is watching you on your commute. [Image Source: YouTube]

It also keeps track of your search history to determine your favorite sports teams and other useful real-time information to present to you.  It even suggests the most popular entree at a restaurant you're at.

App Improvements 

(these improvements will also affect Gingerbread and ICS builds)

Apps are now encrypted, with paids apps being delivered with a device-specific key -- an important step forward to fight piracy.  Google is also offering a second kind of updates that only download changes, not the entire app.  These "delta updates" should be faster for customers.  Google says there are now 600K apps in its Play store.

Play Store

(These improvements are available today)

Movies are now available for purchase on play, and TV show seasons/episodes have been added.  Another new addition is magazines, which brings Play up to pace with Apple's iTunes (and sub-stores) offerings.

Play Store
The Play Store now has magazines. [Image Source: YouTube]

III. Availability

Jelly Bean will land via over the air updates starting in July.  The SDK is currently available.  Google also announced a Platform Development Kit to help component and device vendors port Android to their devices faster.

Google I/O conference attendies also get a newly announced Nexus Q streaming hub, a 7-inch Nexus tablet, and a Galaxy Nexus phone.  

Google I/O Freebies
[Image Source: YouTube]

That's enough to make non-developers pretty jealous...

IV. Galaxy Nexus Price Cut

... but, the bright size is that the Galaxy Nexus is now available for a shockingly affordable $349 USD off-contract.  The phone is the HSPA+ edition, so it lacks the LTE that some carrier-specific models like the Galaxy Nexus LTE on Verizon Wireless -- (the joint Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD) venture) -- has.

Galaxy Nexus Wide

With the price cut, the Galaxy Nexus should instantly become the handset to get for customers who despise signing long-term contracts, small as their numbers may be in the U.S.

Source: YouTube [Keynote]

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RE: If only it mattered....
By JasonMick on 6/27/2012 4:26:09 PM , Rating: 5
I think Tony is a bit worried. MS and Google have not only caught up, but both have well surpassed Apple.

This Jelly bean looks slick. Cant wait to try it.
It's natural that Tony would be on the defensive, given that how good Jelly Bean and Windows Phone 8 look and how demure/dated iOS 6 looks.

You can say iOS 6 is "simple". I use another word -- dated.

It just does not look good , is not keeping up feature wise. The only really good features like Siri, they bought from third parties to try to pull the wool over the mass's eyes and convince them it's worth upgrading.

I see the smartphone market as eventually devolving into a Windows Phone vs. Android battle, unless Apple has a miracle and finds itself another Steve Jobs.

Thanks to Jobs Apple had quite a compelling product in 2007. Today its product is anything but. Apple has totally lost its drive to push the envelope post-Jobs. The cult appeal can only hold so long -- iOS 6 is looking like an old race horse headed back to the stable for retirement.

RE: If only it mattered....
By One43637 on 6/27/2012 5:00:46 PM , Rating: 2
I've used the term old and lackluster to describe for IOS for 2+ years. Yet everyone keeps saying "it's simple and made for the non tech crowd..."

Yeah keep harping on that. Just like you they keep trying to hammer the optimal screen size being 3.5". Oh wait...

RE: If only it mattered....
By retrospooty on 6/27/2012 5:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
"Yet everyone keeps saying "it's simple and made for the non tech crowd..."

RIM kept saying that about their phones as well. Not working out too well for them... But, Apple does have the potential to catch back up.

RE: If only it mattered....
By One43637 on 6/27/2012 6:17:22 PM , Rating: 2
don't forget that RIM also chose not to put a real effort into the consumer market, thinking Enterprise was going to keep them afloat...

RE: If only it mattered....
By retrospooty on 6/27/2012 6:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
True, there are always reasons... but the point is you cant rest on your previous wins and expect to stay on top. You have to keep pushing or you get passed by fast.

RE: If only it mattered....
By One43637 on 6/27/2012 7:07:15 PM , Rating: 2
word to the big bird. Innovation and efficiency will keep you at the top.

RE: If only it mattered....
By impinchi on 6/29/2012 1:50:36 AM , Rating: 2
LMFAO! sorry i'm a long time reader but newly registered (again, i keep losing my darn pswrds!) so i can't plus 1 you on that. Retro, i almost cried :(

RE: If only it mattered....
By jimbojimbo on 6/28/2012 4:26:13 PM , Rating: 2
One of my biggest complaints about iOS was that you can customize the crap out of it but only after jailbreaking it. Without it it's like walking down a tunnel. I don't know how people can tolerate it.

RE: If only it mattered....
By retrospooty on 6/27/2012 5:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
"It's natural that Tony would be on the defensive, given that how good Jelly Bean and Windows Phone 8 look and how demure/dated iOS 6 looks."

Yup... kind of surprising, considering Apple is so big on "eye candy" and the visual aspect of things. They go to alot of effort to design good looking products, yet leave the OS in uggoville.

RE: If only it mattered....
By JasonMick on 6/27/2012 5:19:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yup... kind of surprising, considering Apple is so big on "eye candy" and the visual aspect of things. They go to alot of effort to design good looking products, yet leave the OS in uggoville.
Not as surprising to me, I guess.

Steve Jobs was the master of eye candy (or i-candy?), and the master is dead. Tim Cook just doesn't have the vision to continue to push a compelling product for decades to come.

RE: If only it mattered....
By hexxthalion on 6/28/2012 9:38:48 AM , Rating: 1
no. Cook was in charge for much longer, not just after Jobs' death. Tim Cook is master of operations, that's why he is CEO. For vision they have product team with Bob leading tech side of things and Jonny design.

RE: If only it mattered....
By theapparition on 6/28/2012 11:08:54 AM , Rating: 2
No worries.

Apple will just implement all the GUI elements from WinMo8 and ICS/JB. They'll introduce the stolen features in a media circus and claim some new marketing buzzword like "magical" or "revolutionary". Perhaps they'll even invent a new word like "magicalutionary".

While doing that, they'll try to patent the stolen features and then try to sue everyone who had it implemented before. All the while trolls like Tony will drink the Kool-aid and then evangelize why Apple is so superior.

RE: If only it mattered....
By corduroygt on 6/27/12, Rating: -1
RE: If only it mattered....
By impinchi on 6/29/2012 2:11:34 AM , Rating: 2
May I remind you that Windows did not have massive changes in its UI since windows 95

You goto be smoking your socks! have you used Vista\7? i think that qualifies as a pretty big GUI change from XP. and Metro is bascially a total overhaul....

I'm worried that WP 8 will outsell android, i'm a big fan of android. i'm not worried about both overtaking iOS, i think thats already happening...

RE: If only it mattered....
By corduroygt on 6/29/2012 7:42:28 PM , Rating: 1
XP Vista/7 all use the same structure, a start button and a taskbar. The icons are prettier but the structure is the same.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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