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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: Offline Voice Input
By OoklaTheMok on 6/27/2012 8:23:18 PM , Rating: 0
Have you seen the incessant b!thching about "lag"? Seriously.

Of course I have seen that, but no one is calling Android a failure because of it's miserable performance.

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.

The latest Android device I have used is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. There wasn't an unburdened way to get to the camera on the Galaxy Tab 2. Yes, I could have made a shortcut, but I am merely expressing that the default "out of the box" experience is cumbersome.

I was being over-the-top regarding the specific actions to get to the camera. The fact is that Android does not have a predictable user experience. Too many actions in Android have either unique or multiple interaction graphs and this leads to having to learn the various paths and decision points that you can encounter along the way to completing a task. Every decision point, every context shift, every "physical" interaction adds up to friction and it is a bad thing in UI design.

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

Maybe it worked on your device, but not on the Galaxy Tab 2, it's an ICS device. We would connect it to a public wifi AP, and there wouldn't be any notification about needing to login. Maybe it's a Tab 2 bug, but then that further solidifies the perceived issues around Android, where every device behaves uniquely.

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

I have, and ultimately it's not worth my time and effort to make it work the way it should out of the box. iOS is successful because when you get the device, the out of the box experience is successful. Windows Phone has successfully captured that same type of out of the box experience. Android needs to do that as well if it wants to maintain it's significant marketshare.

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
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!)

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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