Smoother interface, and Google Now
It will come to no surprise to anyone that saw the new statue at Google HQ that the company was prepared to launch Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
While Android 4.0 was a relatively minor update to Android 3.0, bringing together the tablet and mobile versions of the operating system, Jelly Bean lets the company focus on adding new features and improving the OS.
For starters, Google has promised the OS will be smoother, faster and more fluid. In particular, it has updated the notification system, letting you email straight from a calendar reminder or redial from a missed call.
Predictive text has also had an overhaul, so it will now also predict the next word that you type. We’re eager to try this out, as it sounds like a recipe for even more outrageous entries on Damn You Autocorrect.
To keep up with the Apple’s voice technology in its iPhone 4S , Google has updated Jelly Bean’s voice control. There’ll be better voice typing and Voice Search can now respond to natural questions.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature is Google Now, a new service that’s designed to give you information as you need it. So, when you wake up you get the weather report and as you leave for work you get the latest traffic status. Google Now will also be able to tell you when the next trains are due, tell you about local restaurants and keep you up-to-date with your favourite sports team.
There’s not much more information beyond the short introduction video below, but it would make sense that Google Now will use a combination of location information and user preferences to choose what to show you.
All devices, regardless of the version of Android, will get an update to Google Play that will see the company compete with Apple on a more even basis. Movies will now be available for purchase, rather than just rent, and TV shows are being added to the mix.
Google has also worked with some big US publishers to populate its magazine store, giving Android users their own electronic newsstand.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean will be available with the launch of the Google Nexus 7 mid-July, and will be rolled out to the Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S around the same time. For handsets with other manufacturers, you’ll need to wait for information from them about upgrade plans.