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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/Icons
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.

Accesibilty
External brail input support, improved features for blind users.

Camera
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
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: Offline Voice Input
By OoklaTheMok on 6/27/2012 4:38:13 PM , Rating: 1
A number of these updates to Android 4.1, err Jelly Bean, already exist in Windows Phone.

When Windows Phone first came out, it was harped on because it didn't have cut and paste out of the gate, but it was added shortly after. This was considered a significant issue and a deal breaker to some, so why don't we see the same outrage regarding Android's missing features/functionality? Why isn't everyone up in arms about the things Android doesn't have that WP and iOS do have?

I am a Windows Phone fan and I have used a couple Android devices, and they made me want to give up on life. <tap> <tap> <swipe> <slide> <tap> oh ok, I can now take a picture... or do whatever. When I connect to a public wifi access point that needs me to login on a web page, Windows Phone takes me to the login page. With Android, you spend a few minutes trying to figure out why your game or app can't connect to the internet even though it shows that you are connected to wifi. Eventually you open up your browser to give that a try and you get the wifi login page. WTH!!

I don't think Google needs to just focus on making Android animations silky smooth like Windows Phone, they need to remove all of the friction in the user experience like Windows Phone. With OEMs like Samsung and HTC, wanting to put their stamp on their devices, they just make the devices worse with their customizations. If I was Google, I would mandate that customizations should be able to be uninstalled or disabled without having to resort to a custom ROM.

</soapbox>


RE: Offline Voice Input
By One43637 on 6/27/2012 4:57:46 PM , Rating: 4
What kind of Android phone made you tap 3 times and slide just to take a photo?


RE: Offline Voice Input
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/27/2012 5:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What kind of Android phone made you tap 3 times and slide just to take a photo?
I think he probably has/had a Gingerbread device.

My old Evo wasn't quite THAT bad, but you had to click the icon (no hardware button), long-click the screen (to focus), then release to get it to take the picture. I suppose if you didn't have your camera app on one of your home screens, you'd have three clicks, so almost the scenario he described.

The hardware button makes photo-taking a much quicker experience in Windows Phone. Just click the hardware button twice, you have a picture -- can't get much easier.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By OoklaTheMok on 6/27/2012 7:42:27 PM , Rating: 1
I have used both Gingerbread and ICS


RE: Offline Voice Input
By impinchi on 6/29/2012 1:40:04 AM , Rating: 3
I have an HTC sensation, it came with gingerbread and since updated to ICS. My sister was used to the iphone but i convinced her to go HTC one X. I have to admit that the android GUI is a learning curve, and then having to relearn after ICS really annoyed me and my sis wasn't happy with her phone for the first week and a half. You have to learn the OS and then it becomes easier. Shes now very happy with her HTC one X

@Jas, yes - a hardware button is severely lacking on these two phones and makes me sad :( but i don't get annoyed with it (because i hold it right? :P) You can't just pickup a new OS and say its crap after ten minutes.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By jimbojimbo on 6/28/2012 4:00:51 PM , Rating: 2
Someone probably deleted his camera icon so he had to open up the app drawer and search for it. He's just too stupid to know how to add icons.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By B3an on 6/27/2012 5:15:27 PM , Rating: 2
I have a Galaxy S3 and i actually agree with you.

WP7.5 is great. And WP8 looks like a much superior OS. I'd love to have a phone and hardware like the S3, but instead runs WP8.

Also i think it's kind of sad that it's taken Google all this time to finally make Android smooth. The S3 is the only Android phone i've used that compares to WP7's smoothness. But look at the hardware required to do it.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By sprockkets on 6/27/2012 6:20:27 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Why isn't everyone up in arms about the things Android doesn't have that WP and iOS do have?


Have you seen the incessant b!thching about "lag"? Seriously.

quote:
I am a Windows Phone fan and I have used a couple Android devices, and they made me want to give up on life. <tap> <tap> <swipe> <slide> <tap> oh ok, I can now take a picture... or do whatever.


Power, slide camera to unlock ring, done. And this was there on HTC Sense before ICS. The Amaze from them also has a dedicated camera button.

quote:
When I connect to a public wifi access point that needs me to login on a web page, Windows Phone takes me to the login page. With Android, you spend a few minutes trying to figure out why your game or app can't connect to the internet even though it shows that you are connected to wifi.


Funny, my 3 year old HTC mytouch does that. You sure you aren't like talking out of your as?

quote:
I don't think Google needs to just focus on making Android animations silky smooth like Windows Phone, they need to remove all of the friction in the user experience like Windows Phone.


How about you actually *try* to use an android phone, then come back?

And to be fair to everyone, each platform has its stupid missing features. WP7 gets it worse for being so late to the game.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By OoklaTheMok on 6/27/12, Rating: 0
RE: Offline Voice Input
By sprockkets on 6/27/2012 9:28:37 PM , Rating: 3
Oh man, if you got the GTab 2 7" I'd understand. And you are right about it not being consistent, but that's half the fun!

Just be a bit more specific next time man.


RE: Offline Voice Input
By jimbojimbo on 6/28/2012 4:20:11 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Yes, I could have made a shortcut, but I am merely expressing that the default "out of the box" experience is cumbersome.

Unless they introduce a 20" tablet with a hundred icons they can't make everyone happy. However, adding an icon is quite simple so what's the complaint again?


RE: Offline Voice Input
By impinchi on 6/29/2012 1:44:55 AM , Rating: 2
lol. Like i said earlier, i agree. You have to use the OS and get used to it. and as for the ICS update for the sensation that did come with a camera icon on the home screen and the default lock screen. And yes the update did reset my entire desktop except my folders (wierd but OK)
HTC One X out of the box came with that by defualt too, lol @ my sis cos she didn't know what it was (sometimes i hate being the techy of the family!)


"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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