Today at Google I/O, Google officially announced it's next version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean. The new mobile OS features improvements in speed and interface interaction, more fully-integrated apps, and some features reminiscent of Apple's recent iOS 6 announcement. The OS will debut as a mid-July over-the-air update for some of the newest Android phones, including the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, and Motorola Razr Maxx. The Jelly Bean SDK is now available for Android developers.
The first feature of Jellybean that was announced was "Project Butter." The project is the initiative Android developers to improve the speed and responsiveness of Android. Jelly Bean will have software that predicts where a user will be touching the screen when it refreshes, increasing the responsiveness of the OS. It will also increase the CPU output of a device when the touchscreen is interacted with. "We put a lot of effort into making the user interface fast, fluid and smooth," said Hugo Barra, Product Management Dirctor for Android.
The Android team at Google has also been working some on the homescreen interface. Android is, perhaps, most known for its widgets, and that functionality will get a bit of an upgrade in Jelly Bean. Widgets are now resizable, and will also automatically resize to fit into whatever place it is placed on a homescreen. The Android camera app is also getting a UI improvement, allowing for a quick review of photos with a simple swipe motion.
Text input has also gotten an upgrade in Jelly Bean. Google claims the keyboard is better at predicting text input, with a new algorithm that more accurately predicts what the next word typed will be. The OS also features support for new input languages, including Persian, Hindi, and Thai. In addition, the Google Speech Recognizer has been placed right in the OS, allowing offline voice transcription. Initially this feature will be released for U.S. English, and will roll out for other languages in the future.
Accessibility looks to have been a major focus for Jelly Bean development. The new OS will have a gesture mode for blind users that uses speech input in conjunction with the touch screen. In addition, Jelly Bean devices will have support for bluetooth braille devices.
Until recently, the notifications menu has been a feature that set Android apart from Apple's iOS. In an ironic twist, the Jelly Bean notification menu will feature some Apple-like features such as a callback feature. Also, Gmail inbox integration will allow users to see what new messages are without opening the Gmail app. For calendar events, users can now email all guests right from the notification. Greater social notification integration has been added so that users can +1 or share posts to circles, or comment and like posts for Foursquare from the notifications menu. With most notifications, users can now use a two finger geusture to expand them to a larger, more informative format.
Some more features reminiscent of iOS are the faster voice search and Google Now. Voice search is now quicker and provides instant answers, similar to Siri. Google Now is the new integrated scheduling application that runs in conjunction with Google Maps and Search. The software will help users keep track of their schedule, reminding them when they need to leave to arrive on time. It also takes into account traffic information, providing users with the quickest route to their destination. It also features public transit schedule integration, allowing users to take busses or trains to their destinations. For user who fly often, Google Now will provide terminal and delay information for flights. Google Now automatically detects when a user is traveling and provices translation and currency conversion info. All of the information is contextually provided by Google Now comes from the searches a user performs with his or her phone.