Google has caught the attention of the tech world at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. With some 1,000,000 people tuning in on Google’s livestream to find out what the search giant are bringing to the mobile space, the pressure is certainly on. In truth, it wasn’t much of a secret after this morning’s arrival at building 44 on the Google campus, but what has the company actually unveiled?
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is the newest iteration of Google’s increasingly popular mobile OS. The focus takes last year’s motto of “momentum, mobile and more” and runs with it to produce the most polished version of the OS yet. There are a host of improvements and new features, but we’re going to touch on the key additions.
A project looking into improving the user experience of Android, Butter aims to enhance the frame rate on the OS to run at a solid 60fps in an effort to provide a consistently smooth UI experience, something which it has previously fallen short of providing in comparison to the likes of iOS and Windows Phone.
Google has even gone as far as having Jelly Bean anticipate where users will touch on their device’s screen to help speed up UI responsiveness. ‘Touch input boost’ is an addition hardware modification which ramps up your device’s processor immediately when touch input occurs, negating UI lag.
Adaptive icons and widgets
Google has finally developed a way to allow widgets and apps to shift homescreens even when there isn’t available space on the pane. Users can now move widgets onto overcrowded homescreens and the apps surrounding them either move automatically to free homescreen space elsewhere or if the screen is packed they resize to fit, users can also quick swipe icons or widgets up to the top of the screen to remove them.
Keyboard & voice typing
Not only has the ICS keyboard been upgraded on Jelly Bean with better word prediction algorithms, but voice typing has shrunk down so that the cloud-based service can also run internally on a device without a live data connection. The demo’s on stage were certainly impressive but to begin with, this service will only be available in US English, expanding to support other languages as time goes on.
Speaking of languages, Android Jelly Bean will now support 18 new languages including the likes of Hindi and Thai. For disabled users, Google has also added enhanced gesture control to work in conjunction with voice commands and JB devices will even support third-party Braille input.
Last year the Android ICS camera UI showed off new native features such as panoramic sweep, this year it’s the viewing experience that Google has focused on. The native Android photo album now features improved image navigation which looked significantly faster when swiping between images during the keynote. There’s also a filmstrip view, which not only displays the previous and next images, but allows you to delete photos with a swipe up and undo such actions from an additional pop up tab.
In addition to sending items such as contact cards, Android Beam now accommodates media sharing in the form of photos and videos. In addition, there’s support for NFC-enabled headsets and speakers which can connect simply by tapping devices together.
The most recent developments with Notifications on ICS brought individual dismissal options and improved media controls for apps like the music player. Adding in-notification controls in Jelly Bean is a complete step up, with nearly every major app now featuring some level of new control from the pull-down Notifications panel and developers will be able to improve their own apps with APIs relating to this new functionality too.
We were shown demos such as calling back and then hanging up from a missed call all within the Notifications panel, as well as checking in on Foursquare and +1-ing a post from Google+. Some notifications are also expandable, allowing the user to further pull down or push up a notification for more or less additional information.
Search & Google Now
Aside from the frosted aesthetic of the new Jelly Bean Google search bar which we spotted recently, search on Google has received some notable improvements, predominantly in the form of Google Now. Alongside a naturally faster search experience, voice search provides a Siri style way of display information on cards which a user can interact with or simply discard by swiping away.
Google Now takes user behaviour and your search habits and distills these actions into predictions you may intend to do. Using previously gathered location data and calendar alerts may, for example, be used to predict your journey time and route to work, allowing for new hazards such as train delays. Initiating the service can be achieved by accessing the new Google search bar, or by swiping up from the bottom of your device’s display.
The last, but all important aspect to consider with the latest version of Android: Jelly Bean 4.1 is when will devices be able to download it. Google were kind enough to announce which special Google products will have the privilege of first access. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Nexus S and Motorola Xoom will be the first set of devices to receive the JB upgrade in mid-July with the newly announced Google Nexus 7 tablet running it from launch.