With our attention largely focused on the Asus Nexus 7 at this year’s Google I/O, the fact that Mountain View’s OS received an update in the form of Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) took somewhat of a back seat (er, in our heads, at least).
But while the numbering perhaps suggests a modest incremental update, Jelly Bean is chock-full of fancy new features. Gather round, my friends.
If some guy on the street comes up to you and says: “Hey brosef, what’s new with Jelly Bean?” here’s what you tell him. You say:
It’s faster and smoother
Jelly Bean is the fastest, smoothest, most responsive iteration of Android to date. And how does it achieve this? Google explains that Jelly Bean “boosts your device’s CPU instantly when you touch the screen, and turns it down when you don’t need it to improve battery life”. Intriguing.
With Jelly Bean, notifications are now expandable and actionable. For example, you can email the attendees at a meeting if you’re running late, and instantly return missed calls.
When placing widgets on your Jelly Bean home screen, other content automatically moves to make room. When widgets are too big, they’ll automatically resize. Mmm, automatic.
Filmstrip for photos
With Jelly Bean’s filmstrip view, you can easily see pictures you just took, and just as easily swipe to get rid of the ones you don’t want to keep.
Google promises that the Jelly Bean dictionaries are now “more accurate, more relevant”. Presumably that means they now contain “awesomesauce”.
Similarly, the keyboard adapts over time, and ultimately will be able to predict your next word before you’ve even started typing. So when you tap “totes”, the keyboard will realise you’re probably about to follow with “amazeballs”.
There’s also improved text-to-speech, and voice typing works even without a data connection.
Jelly Bean features a ‘Gesture Mode’ for blind users, and support for external Braille input and output devices via USB and Bluetooth. Nice.
Android Beam allows NFC-enabled Jelly Bean users to share junk with a simple tap. You can beam across photos, videos, contacts, URLs, YouTube videos, directions, and even apps.
There’s also faster pairing with Bluetooth devices that support Simple Secure Pairing, eliminating the need for syncing and searching.
The “best of Google”, Google Search, gets a fresh new look in Jelly Bean, using Knowledge Graph to show your results in a “richer” way. There’s also faster and “more natural” Voice Search.
Last, but not least, is Google Now. With a single swipe, Google Now will, for example, tell you how much traffic to expect on your way to work, and plan an alternative route if necessary.
Google Now will also tell you when the next trains are expected when you arrive at the station, keep you up to date if your favourite sports team is hitting balls around, and recommend dishes when you’re dining out.
Phones. Is there anything they can’t do?