Google Announces Android 4.1 'Jelly Bean'

The next major update for Android, due in Mid-July, will feature upgraded search, better responsiveness, and more.

During the keynote address at Google I/O 2012 in San Francisco, Google Announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the next update to its mobile operating system. As its version number suggests, Jelly Bean isn't a major overhaul for Android. Instead, it builds upon Android 4.0 (AKA Ice Cream Sandwich), and it's designed in part of make Android faster and more responsive.

One key change, known as Project Butter, improves the overall responsiveness of the operating system: Scrolling, swiping, and animations should all look smoother and more fluid in Jelly Bean than they did with Ice Cream Sandwich. The company also worked to improve how quickly Jelly Bean responds to touchscreen input.

Google also made some changes to the homescreen. With Jelly Bean, widgets will automatically resize to fit the available space on a particular screen. And it's now easier to move--or remove--items from individual homescreens, too. In addition,

Google improved the keyboard to do a better job at predicting what you're typing, which should help reduce auto-correct errors. Along those same lines, Jelly Bean's Voice Typing dictation feature works even if you aren't connected to the Internet (currently, you have to have an Internet connection to use this feature on Ice Cream Sandwich).

But perhaps the biggest addition to Jelly Bean are various improvements to the built-in search function. Search "cards" show search results to various queries in a more visual, easy-to-view way: Examples include cards that show the weather forecast, traffic, image search results, and answers to questions like "How much does the Earth weigh?". Google Now, another search-related addition, tries to give you "just the right information at just the right time," as Google's presenter put it. For instance, it'll show traffic conditions during your commute time; if you're at a subway station, it might show you a train schedule.

Other features include improvements to Google Beam (which lets you transfer data from one Android phone to another with just a tap), the camera app, notifications, and accessibility features.

Jelly Bean will come to the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S smartphones and the Xoom tablet in mid-July, but developers can download the app-development tools starting today from Google's Android developers site.

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