Although Google’s release of its new Android operating system Jelly Bean may have been upstaged by the announcements of sleeker, sexier new toys like the Nexus 7 and Google Glasses, thus far the 4.1 update has been getting a lot of praise from pundits in the tech world.
Android’s popularity has been growing at breakneck speeds over recent years, but its operating systems are often criticized for picking Apple’s pockets. With the release of Jelly Bean, Google is clearly trying to put some distance between itself and that unpleasant accusation. The first feature that’s likely to raise some eyebrows is Google Now, a personal assistant that draws on calendar, search history, location, et cetera, to determine what it thinks a user wants to know. According to Hugo Barra, director of project management, “Google Now gets you just the right information at just the right time, and all of it happens at the right time. Google Now figures out when you commute from home to work and back, tells you how long your commute usually takes, and gives you a faster route if there’s lot of traffic. On public transit, if you’re on the platform at a subway, Google tells you wen the next bus or train will arrive.”
A second feature incorporated into the 4.1 OS is Project Butter, which represents a major effort on Google’s part to address one of the main complaints about the performance of Android devices, namely the nagging problem of device lag. Project Butter allows the CPU and the graphics to run more smoothly, improving both the real and the perceived speed of the device, reducing it to a smooth 60 frames per second if the hardware on which it’s running is beefy enough.
Next week we’ll continue to take a look at Jelly Bean’s features, and consider the impact it is likely to have on the Android development community.