The new version of Google's Android operating system is called Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It comes loaded with new features, including faster interface performance, a cleaner home screen and, what could be its killer app: Google Now.
The new interface is ultra fast. The refresh rate is much higher than the previous version, with a much better response time to your touch. Apparently, Google claims that its new software video architecture can save battery too, by predicting where you are going to tap next.
The entire Android interface now runs at 60 frames per second. Google ran a video on screen comparing Jelly Bean to Ice Cream Sandwich, the previous version of Android, and it makes the latter look like it is running in slow motion. We will have to try it, but it looks pretty impressive. In fact, Google is so excited about its smoothness that they call it Project Butter.
The home screen has been modified. It looks the same but it now helps the user to keep things organised. Now you can resize your widgets or move them around and everything on the screen will flow accordingly, keeping it all in order. In a way, the reordering is similar to Microsoft's Metro resizing on Windows Phone 8, without the tiling. Dismissing widgets is as easy as tossing them away.
There is a new offline voice typing engine, which will allow you to dictate without the need of a connection to the internet. It will be launched for US English only at the beginning.
There's a new camera application that allows you to manipulate your existing photos easily, as you take them. It's very easy to go back to a previous photo by swiping with your finger. Getting rid of a photo is also quite nice: it uses the same tossing them away swipe.
Google's added images and live updates, plus a lot more information, to notifications. They can also be expanded and collapsed with a two finger gesture. Android was the first phone OS to introduce notifications, and the new ones make Apple's look primitive now. They kind of remind me of Microsoft's live tiles.
The new search engine works like Siri, accepting questions in natural language and answering them. The voice sounds much better than Siri, however.
The result screen is pretty good: it gives you an answer for your question but, with a swipe of your finger to the right, you will see full Google search results too.
Google Now is going to be a killer feature. It gives your Android phone complete awareness of your whereabouts and keeps you updated about any information you may need at any point during the day. It's quite smart.
If you are on route on the tube, for example, it will tell you when the next train is coming. If you search for a flight, it will create a card that is constantly updated with flight information like gate number, delays, or boarding time. If you go to a restaurant, it will offer you recommendations from the menu. This seems similar to some of the things Siri does on iOS, but it looks more useful to me, as it seems to anticipate situations based on your whereabouts.
The card seems to be the metaphor for this app — as well as the search stuff. They are very clearly designed, with a good layout, images and typography.
This is great: when an app needs updating, it won't download the whole app anymore. It will only download the parts of the app package that have changed. This is great for users, as the updates will go faster and will use less bandwidth. Obviously, this will help people keep all their apps updated at all times.
It will be available in mid-July, with an over the air update for Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom, and Galaxy S.