The new version of Google's Android operating system is called Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It's faster, has a cleaner home screen, a new camera app, much better notifications, and what could be a killer app: Google Now. This is what's new in Jelly Bean.
It helps you based on your location
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.
If you're at the train station, for example, it will tell you when the next train is coming. If you search for a flight, it will create a card that would be constantly updated with flight information like gate, delays or boarding time. If you go to a restaurant, it will offer you recommendations on 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 where you are. The cards are well designed with a nice layout, images and typography.
The apps update faster
This is great: when an app needs updating, it will only download the parts of the app package that has changed, rather than the whole app. This is great for users, as the updates will go faster and will use less bandwidth. In theory, this should encourage people to have all their apps up to date at all times.
It's faster than ever
The new interface is ultra fast. The refresh rate is much higher than the previous version of the Android operating system, with a much better response time to your touch. Apparently, Google claims that its new software video architecture can save battery by predicting where you are going to click next.
The entire Android interface -- apps included -- 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.
Your home screen looks better
The home screen has been modified. It looks the same for the most part, but it now helps you keep things organised. You can resize your widgets or move them around, and everything on the screen will flow accordingly. In a way, the re-ordering is similar to Microsoft's Metro resizing on Windows Phone 8, but without the tiling. Dismissing widgets is as easy as tossing them away.
You can type with your voice even while you are offline
There is a new offline voice-typing engine, which will allow you to dictate without an internet connection. It will only come with US English at launch, but other languages will follow.
It has a better camera app
There's a new camera application that allows you to review your existing photos easily, even as you are taking a new one, without having to change into a review mode: just look at any previous photo by swiping your finger to the right, moving the active camera view out of the way. It's a cute feature, but I don't think it's too useful. I don't see myself looking at my previous photos while taking a new one.
Getting rid of an existing photo in this mode is also quite simple: swipe it up to toss it away. Cute again, and fast. The only problem I can see with this is that it doesn't ask you to confirm.
Notifications are much better
They have added images and live updating to notifications. They can also expand and collapse with a two-finger gesture. Android was the first phone OS to introduce notifications, and now Jelly Bean's notifications make Apple's look almost primitive. They kind of remind me of Microsoft's live tiles.
The new search engine works like Siri
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 nice too: it gives you a card with the answer to your question, but with a swipe to the right, you will see full Google search results.
When is it coming out?
Jelly Bean will be available in mid-July, with an over-the-air update for Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S.