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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: Excellent
By bug77 on 6/28/2012 11:03:35 AM , Rating: 2
I still don't get it. Cyanogen can upgrade phones they don't make and you're saying it's ok for manufacturers to not give a rat's ass?

RE: Excellent
By retrospooty on 6/28/2012 11:23:26 AM , Rating: 2
I am not saying its OK or not, I am just saying it is reality. Older Android 2.x phones are not getting upgrades. I see the business reasons behind it. Even with a well oiled OS, a ROM is still a lot of work. Thousands and thousands of man hours in programming and testing, as well as tech support - it all costs money. Of course cellular carriers and phone manufacturers dont want to spend alot of time and effort to upgrade old phones... Its costs a ton of money and the end result is that some amount of people will put off buying a new phone. For Apple, they have 1 model per year so it's not difficult. For Android makers, there are a ton of phones, so only the most recent models will get it.

So, my only point is its a choice. One of Android's disadvantages is that older phones don't get upgrades. You either have to live with the phone as you bought it (which must have met your needs, otherwise, why did you buy it?) or upgrade it yourself through 3rd party ROM, or dont buy Android.

RE: Excellent
By bug77 on 6/28/2012 1:09:06 PM , Rating: 2
Older Android 2.x phones are not getting upgrades. I see the business reasons behind it. Even with a well oiled OS, a ROM is still a lot of work.

Well, this is where I disagree. If manufacturers choose to install crapware on top of Android, they should be responsible for upgrading it as well. There's no way upgrading and testing 10-20 phones should take as long as developing a new version of Android. It's not like Google does no testing at all, leaving the whole thing to the manufacturers.
I have no opinion of the carriers, because I don't buy locked phones.

RE: Excellent
By retrospooty on 6/28/2012 1:55:45 PM , Rating: 2
"they should be responsible for upgrading it as well. "

It's alot of work, and has zero to do with apps/crapware. It takes alot, and I am not sure how they are "responsible" to upgrade your old phone. It would be nive, but they arent responsible to just do it.

You sound like you feel entitled to future OS upgrades... Maybe you should buy an iPhone.

RE: Excellent
By bug77 on 6/28/2012 2:36:58 PM , Rating: 1
If it's a lot of work, the manufacturers have only themselves to blame. I've written enough GUI-enabled apps that work across OSes that didn't exist when I've written them, so I'd know.

And of course I'm entitled, why else would they put the update button in there? Plus, what kind of message are they sending to the customer, not caring after they got the money? Anyway, I've learnt my lesson, next time I'll probably get a Nexus.

RE: Excellent
By Rukkian on 7/6/2012 10:25:25 AM , Rating: 2
Updates are just that, updates. If there is a bug, or security hole that is found, they will send updates. This does not mean you get the new os when it is released.

If you truly know a bunch about programming, then you would know that testing takes alot of time and money (salaries). If they offically release it, then they have to do training for all of the users that would have no clue (and no want to learn) a new os, and support for all of the issues.

Since they do not stop you from installing apps, if the new o/s broke an app you bought, who would you call - them, not the app maker.

There is no real reason to give new o/s updates to old phones. If they do, great, but imho, there is no obligation. I would much rather that once a new os is out and they are not officially releasing, they just allow you to open the bootloader (talking to you - Moto). This would allow the people that want to upgrade to do it on their own, cleanly, while those that couldn't care less (the majority) to be fine with what they have.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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