Google Unveils the Faster and Feature-Packed Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)

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At Google I/0 2012, Google made its hotly anticipated announcement of Android 4.1, codenamed “Jelly Bean” (JB). With a faster and smoother user interface (UI), expanded notifications, and the ability to make Siri-like information requests top the list of new features, it offers plenty more, too.

The slicker UI is due to the work of a development team called Project Butter, said Dave Burke, Google’s engineering director, during a keynote speech.

Android Jelly BeanGoogle has done its best to prevent applications from interfering with UI processing. JB will also use triple buffering to make rendering, in operations such as animation, run more smoothly. Jelly Bean’s refresh rate will be consistent at 60 frames per second, according to Burke.

In some other key Jelly Bean capabilities, Google seems to be taking a cue from Apple’s competing iOS. For example, when you search Google, either by text or voice, you’ll now receive not just links but “knowledge graphs” which sum up what you’re trying to find out and provide you with an answer.

Google has also sped up Voice Search, and Voice Search will now speak back answers to you based on information in the knowledge graph.

Google gave several examples during the keynote of how this Siri-like capability will work. For instance, when asked, “How tall is the Space Needle,” the search engine replied, “Space Needle is 604 feet tall.” 

In the new expanded notifications, users will be able to respond to Gmails — as well as to Google+ and FourSquare posts — from directly within the notification window.

You’ll be able to expand all notifications with a simple two-finger gesture. Also in JB, you’ll also be able to call somebody back, and hang up, directly from your notifications.

Apple, too, has been expanding the notifications available in iOS. In iOS 6, for example, users will be able to “tap to post” to Facebook from the Notification Center.

Some of the other new features in Jelly Bean will include:

  • Camera enhancements such as faster scrolling and the ability to swipe photos to delete.
  • The ability to automatically resize widgets, flick apps and widgets from the screen, and use widgets to push other icons around.
  • An improved and expanded dictionary.
  • The ability of the OS to guess the next work you’re going to type.
  • Swype-inspired gestures that will let you enter text without using either the keyboard or your voice.

The Android 4.1 SDK is available now, and Jelly Bean is expected to be ready for release next month, coming first with the Google Nexus 7 tablet and the Motorola Xoom.

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