Google announces Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”: what you need to know

Today was the first day of Google I/O 2012, and with it came some awesome news. There’s the new Nexus 7 tablet, the quirky and expensive Nexus Q, and of course, the new Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” operating system that powers everything. But what’s so special about Jelly Bean, and what’s new?

Project Butter

Jelly Bean is the latest version of Android from Google. It’s designed to be even smoother, using techniques such as buffering and vsync to make everything consistently smooth and easy. It’s all part of “project butter”, made to make Android positively fun to use. It even predicts where you’ll place your finger so that it has maximally minimal response delay. It’s even more impressive in their demonstration videos.

Offline speech recognition

Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” includes offline speech recognition, so you no longer have to have a consistent connection to use the convenient feature. You can see a video of the speech recognition here, courtesy of Phandroid.

Better notifications

Have you ever opened your notifications and realized that you can’t see email threads, or call right from a missed call notification? Google has your back. In Android 4.1, notifications are interactive. They let you do things like call back, change songs, view album art, and all around make your life easier.

Google Now

This is it. This is the biggest feature that Android’s been missing. Now, you can do information searches with just your voice. You can look up people, places, factoids, and much more. The voice is actually quite impressive as well. Here’s a quick video Google put together showing off Google Now:

If you don’t get enough information from that quick search, you can just swipe away. You’ll get real search results allowing you to dive in to what you want. It’s positively amazing.

Want public transit info? Done. Want directions? Done. Traffic? Done. Sitting in a restaurant and don’t know what to order? Now will tell you what they’re best known for. It’s positively amazing, and a step above Siri.

Accessing Google Now is incredibly easy as well. Just tap the search box, or swipe up from the bottom of your screen from anywhere. It’s just all around very impressive.

Little things

Just like in Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, there are lots of little things that make the operating system better than before. If you’re dragging a widget from one screen to another and there’s not enough room, for example, it can automatically resize so there is room. There’s also enhanced Google+ integration, allowing users to share and +1 photos from just the notifications tray instead of having to open the entire application.

Android 4.1 is all around an awesome operating system, much better than the already great Ice Cream Sandwich.

Rolls out this July

With all of these improvements, you may be wondering when they’ll be appearing on your device. If you’ve got a Nexus S, a Galaxy Nexus, or the Motorola Xoom, it’ll start rolling out in mid-July, and if you’re running a custom ROM such as CyanogenMod or AOKP, you can expect it around that time too.

Android 4.1 is quite the improvement over an already great system, and it’s going to be great when it finally arrives.

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