Last week Google held its annual Input/Output developers conference in San Francisco. On day one of the three day conference, Google introduced the latest update to its Android operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean has many small enhancements to make it better than its predecessor, Ice Cream Sandwich. The first is “project butter”, which Google claims will make your experience with Jelly Bean “buttery smooth”. This is undoubtedly a response to Android’s key criticism: that they are slower to respond to touch than the iPhone and Windows phones. Additionally, Android users will now have the ability to take advantage of voice dictation, even without a solid network connection. The new phones will also have a revamped mobile search experience with the introduction of “Google Now”, including a Siri-like voice search option. Other highlights include new audio features to improve accessibility for the visually impaired, the ability to “beam” photos and videos through near field communication, faster perusal of pictures and more opportunity to personalize your home screen and notifications.
While all of this is extremely interesting to consumers, I was curious what these announcements meant to our company. To find out more I reached out to some of Segue’s mobile application experts for their take on Jelly Bean, asking them how Jelly Bean would impact users of smartphones running Android, and how it might impact Android developers.
“Google puts a lot of time and effort trying to win the smartphone popularity contest. I think that Jelly Bean will give them a decent lead if people are actually looking at functionality. I do love the iPhone for one reason. Competition! Keeping up and ahead of The Joneses is what allows us consumers to have these great devices. Apple has great marketing, and their hardware is always top of the line. In my opinion this this is a huge obstacle for Google to overcome. For instance, if you ask people who or what Siri is, 9 out of 10 will instantly know you are talking about the iPhone voice assistant. However, what happens if you ask them what Voice Action is? Some might figure out that it is actions controlled by voice, but I bet the first thing that popped into your head wasn’t Android. Even though Google has had voice actions since Android 2.2, it was never marketed the way that Siri has been. Apple is great at making things fun and gimmicky—being able to ask silly questions to the iPhone and get a response was definitely a great move on their part. Jelly Bean has tightened up its voice action interface and most importantly brought offline dictation.This feature is a great addition to their arsenal.
Resizable widgets are a great addition, and I can see that this will be extremely popular. I for one am sick of seeing the error “there is no more room on this home screen”. While resizable widgets are a great new feature, I think the thing that should be emphasized is that android has these awesome widgets. I love my widgets and on the iPhone there is no such thing!
Faster Performance is something that iPhone users have been holding over Android head for years. “iPhone is just so fast, clean, and smooth” Android users can finally fight back with Jelly Bean. The faster performance that this update will provide has sped up menu navigation, animations, and the whole phone over all.
So to both Google and Apple I say “ Keep up the great work!”
— Jeremy Rochon, Director of IT
“For developers, the changes to the application programming interface (API) in 4.1 aren’t huge. This release is definitely more evolutionary for developers than revolutionary. The changes specific to Jelly Bean are:
- Systrace support in the Linux kernel underlying Android (and support for it in ADT20) will allow developers significantly improved insight into the performance of their applications.
- Low-level media codec access, allowing for improved audio and video applications.
- Bi-directional text support, allowing for enhanced internationalization.
- New API’s for accessibility services and networking.
- From Jelly Bean onward, paid app is in the Google Play store, will now be encrypted with a device specific key before being delivered to the device. They will remain encrypted on the device. This should significantly reduce piracy, as well as the ability of the hacking/modding community to make unauthorized changes to your application.
There is really no impact on “legacy” apps, as Google is very good about not removing existing API’s. Using new API’s on older devices is always a bit of a pain, but thanks to the open source community, libraries like ActionBarSherlock ease that pain significantly.”
— Mark Andrachek, Segue Senior Android Developer