Google has announced Android 4.1 Jellybean today at Google I/O. The idea is to improve upon Ice Cream Sandwich by taking the initial framework and improving the smoothness and general responsiveness of the operating system. Many of the changes have been done under the surface — so there are only a few visual changes — but the overall experience within apps is something that Google has focused on. The new framework, called Project Butter, can be seen in the video below outperforming Ice Cream Sandwich by a large margin.
The company has also taken it upon itself to improve the homescreen experience, including the moving of widgets and icons across multiple screens — the whole experience is much, much more intuitive. Text input has been improved, too, which will predict the next word you want to use.
One of the best features that Google has announced is Google Now, a way for users to ascertain important information that they want to know based on previous search history. It’s a curator of your life based on calendar entires, contacts, and semantic searches from the web. For example, if you commute to work every day by using Navigation, Google Now will show you the best route to take based on the traffic history over time.
Google has overhauled the entire notification centre, allowing you to see full-sized photos from apps such as Google+, control music from TuneIn Radio or whatever other apps you use, or like a Foursquare checkin. You can use a two-finger gesture to expand notifications as they compress towards the top — in fact gestures are something that have been tightly integrated into Jellybean. You activate the Siri-like Google Now with a swipe from the bottom of the device.
There are now 600,000 apps on Google Play, with 1.5 billion downloads every month. Overall there have been 20 billion app downloads, and over 50% of revenue is now obtained through in-app purchases. Hopefully no more issues with licensing on Google Play, as the company is bringing per-app encryption with a device-specific key. That makes apps less likely to not start if you’re not online. Coming too are smart app updates, which mean APKs will be 1/3 smaller because only the part of the app that has been updated will be downloaded.
Google’s also touting a new Google Cloud Connectivity push notification system that will allow developers to plug into Google’s servers to bring instant notifications to more apps. This will allow Twitter apps, productivity suites and other software to alert you instantly on new events without having to build a server farm to support the heavy load. Pretty fantastic stuff.
Viewing and deleting photos just got dramatically simpler and faster, too, to go along with the speed improvements made to the camera in Ice Cream Sandwich. Like in HTC’s Sense UI you can pinch back on an image to activate a filmstrip-like view and swipe up or down to delete the photo. Of course you can undo the delete, bringing back that last photo from the dead.
Google has updated its Search interface to bring it more in line with the Knowledge Graph on the desktop, and they have also brought Voice Dictation and Maps offline, providing service when you have no service.
The update will be rolling out to users in July OTA for Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Motorola Xoom.
For all the information on Jellybean, check out Google’s new Android portal.