Google unveils Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean, extra Google Play features, and a new Nexus 7-inch tablet.
Google has unveiled its latest operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The latest OS follows 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and continues Google’s trend of naming Android operating systems after desserts and candy.
The new OS was just one of new releases discussed at Google’s I/O conference. Google’s first Nexus tablet, which is designed especially for Google Play, was also revealed. Changes to Android’s old marketplace app, and the design and pricing of the new tablet, put Google in direct competition with both Apple and Amazon, as well as smaller distributors like Barnes and Noble.
Taking a leaf out of Apple’s book, the new OS has its own version of Siri that takes voice requests and answers questions, in addition to a more intuitive interface, better search, and the arrival of Google Now.
Google Now is a new feature that provides customized information about a number of amenities, from local bars and restaurants, flight times, bus schedules, sporting events, and recommendations. It can also analyze your commuting route and, if available, suggest quicker alternatives.
With Jelly Bean, Google Play will also receive a significant update, with extra features for both developers and users. The former will now be able to charge using subscription billing, and paid apps will come with app encryption, reducing the risk of piracy. Users will be able to purchase TV shows and movies direct from their device (instead of the current rental-only system), as well as subscribe to magazines through the app.
The latest reveals about the new OS come after months of speculation surrounding developments in the company’s mobile arm. With previous Android OS releases, Google have partnered with a single smartphone maker to release a “Nexus” model. In the near future, however, the company are rumored to be planning to sell unlocked phones directly to consumers, which would allow users to select their own carrier, and use their own SIM cards.
The first device to run Jelly Bean, a 7-inch tablet from Asus, was showcased for the first time at Google’s conference. Bridging the gap between smartphones and existing tablet models, the Nexus 7 isn’t compromised by its size, and is still packed with features. With a 1280 x 800 display, a quad-core processor, and up to 10 hours of heavy usage time with each charge, the tablet provides competition for both alternative tablet models, and e-readers like the Kindle and Nook.
Speaking at the Google conference, Hugo Barra, director of product management with Android, raved about the latest release: “It’s the fastest version yet with a ton of improvements.” As well as discussing the improved text input, he revealed that the “keyboard learns intelligently over time.”
Jelly Bean will available as a wireless update for Galaxy Nexus, Xoom and Galaxy S from mid-July, however it will become available to developers from this Wednesday.