Event Coverage

Google I/O 2012: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Detailed

By Michael Low - 28 Jun 2012

Google I/O 2012: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Detailed

Jelly Bean, For Butter Or Worse

Well, Google has certainly pulled a fast one on us. With very little revealed about the Jelly Bean 4.1 update prior to the Google I/O event, we were expecting it to be pretty incremental in nature (blame it on the 4.x namesake). That doesn't seem to be the case, however - there are a couple of nifty features that will built upon what was introduced in the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) user experience.

Wait, that's not all.

While Android 4.0 focused strongly on unifying the tablet (Android 3.0 Honeycomb) and smartphone experience, Jellybean focuses on strengthening the user experience and usability on the user interface while leveraging on their existing database of information - the two-pronged strategy results in updates to its predictive typing, photo viewing/deleting, offline voice typing, voice search and Google Now. These updates will play a bigger role as Android devices hit 400 million activations today - a huge jump from 100 million last year -, averaging at about 1 million new activations per day and 12 per second. Without further ado, here are the updates that will be coming on Android 4.1, codenamed Jelly Bean:


Project Butter

Dave Burk, Android Engineering Director, Google, talks a little about "Project Butter" which is poised to make the Android experience smoother, more responsive and faster. In Jelly Bean, accuracy of touch will be ramped up as the OS will anticipate where your finger be. Power will be conserved, Dave explains: "We dial back the CPU which can cause lag...  interacting with the screen will now ram the CPU up." This buttery experience is sampled via a video filmed by a 300FPS high-speed camera that shows the difference between the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Some initial observations include higher frame rate and smoother animated transitions.

Enhanced Predictive Keyboard & Offline Voice Typing

A refined dictionary and an improved predictive keyboard will also speed up typing as well - with expanded language support including Persian, Hindi and Thai and Braille adapters, the keyboard looks set to improve the typing experience exponentially. Not only that, Jelly Bean will feature a new offline voice typing feature - you can type with your voice even without a working connection - and will be launching with US English first with more languages to follow up later. 



Android users will be extremely familiar with the notification experience on the operating system. Jelly Bean goes an extra step with this, adding a couple of touches that will make it easier for users to get to where they want and what they want to do in fewer steps. The notifications tray will spot a new look with more information and features; take for example, you will be able to call back or message straight from the notifications tray when there's a missed call. 

Users can also take a quick look at updates on apps without having to go into the apps - the information can be selectively viewed by opening and closing with a two-finger swipe.


Home Screen - Widgets and App Icons

Widget placement and removal will now be made much easier with the Jelly Bean update. The new OS will intelligently resize your widget if there's not enough space to contain it while shifting it to a new screen with more apps and lesser space. You no longer have to long-press your widget or icon to trash it - simply swipe the items off the home screen to get rid of it. Icons will also now auto-arrange themselves, adding another level of convenience to decorating your home screens.


Google Search with Voice

Harnessing the power of its existing Knowledge Graph - simply put, it is "a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world" -, Google Search will be much quicker, intuitive and fluid. Responses will be screened on answer cards - and this extends to their newly-introduced voice search assistant which is rather similar to Siri or Samsung's S-Voice. Simply ask Google a question (searching for images is also possible, as seen from above) and answer cards will also be shown. 

Camera Updates

To add on to Ice Cream Sandwich's fast image capture, Jelly Bean enhances the experience by making it much easier to view, delete and retrieve deleted photos. Previously on earlier Android builds, users have to move in and out of the Gallery app to view photos; on Android 4.1, you simply pinch while viewing photos to activate the film strip view feature. This will enable users to view your photo roll quickly by simply swiping left or right. Similarly, swipe up or down to delete your photos. Another good thing is these deletes can be easily undone, so there's no worries of accidentally deleting a precious shot with no chance of retrieval.

Google Now


With Jelly Bean, you get an entire new service called Google Now. Think of it as a personal assistant of sorts; the feature uses personal data in your smartphone and retrieves helpful and informative data to help you in your day-to-day life. This combination will aid you in different areas of your life - for e.g., it can provide public transit information when you are close to a station, update you on sports teams in real-time, study your commute habits and retrieve location data like restaurants and so forth. Check it out in the video below:


The Google Now extends its intelligence even to flight details - it will update flight details with terminal and gate information as you are about to board your flight. It doesn't just stop there - while in a foreign country, it will offer helpful information on currency exchange and so forth.

So how do you go about accessing this pretty intelligent and self-aware services? There are two ways to go about doing it - you either swipe up from the bottom of the screen or tap on Google's search box. Like Google search/Voice search, these information are presented in cards with relevant responses. By searching more and allowing it to collate more information about yourself, Google states that these cards will improve in personalization and accuracy in its responses. The search giant has also promised to include more types of cards in the future.


The OS update will be available in July with the developer SDK ready for download now at developer.android.com. The devices that will get OTA updates first in mid-July include GALAXY Nexus, Nexus S, and Motorola Xoom.