Last week was an eventful one for all Android fans out there. Not only did Google unveil the much-rumored Nexus 7 tablet, it also released the “world’s first social media player” – the Nexus Q – and a new version of Android – Jelly Bean.
Jelly Bean, unlike Ice Cream Sandwich, is not a big update. It improves the under-pinning’s of Ice Cream Sandwich to make the UI more “butter”-y smooth, along with introducing some minor UI changes and most importantly the next form of Search, Google Now.
I have been using the preview build of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on my Galaxy Nexus for a little more than 72 hours now (Okay, probably more than that!), and here is what I think about it.
Apart from Google Now, Project Butter is definitely the highlight of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. So does it work? It definitely does.
I have always used a custom ROM on my Galaxy Nexus along with a tweaked performance-optimized kernel for that smooth, lag-free experience. Jelly Bean however takes smoothness to a different level all-together. Over the last four-five days, I have not encountered a single slow-down or lag, even after I loaded my Galaxy Nexus with more than 150+ apps.
All the usual places in Ice Cream Sandwich where there was always a slight lag including the Recent app menu, opening the call log, and swiping through the Widgets tab in the launcher have completely vanished in Jelly Bean. The Recents app menu, especially, opens up way faster than before and feels much more responsive. Even the stock launcher is now as fast, if not faster, as popular third party launchers like Apex or Nova.
Considering this is just the preview build of Jelly Bean, things are definitely going to get better in the final build. The argument that Android is not as smooth as iOS and Windows Phone and can never be so, is dead now. Android is now as smooth as iOS and Windows Phone in every aspect.
Oh! And the new Swiftkey like keyboard? It’s good but still no match for Swiftkey’s brilliant prediction system.
Updated Camera app and Notification Bar
If the new Camera app in Ice Cream Sandwich was a huge step-up compared to the Gingerbread one, the updated app in Jelly Bean absolutely nails the experience.
In Ice Cream Sandwich, browsing the pics you have already clicked from your phone using the Camera app was clunky and slow. The updated app fixes that issue and makes browsing through the pictures a breeze.
The new notification bar is definitely going to be appreciated by a lot of Android users. Google has once again proved that Android will always stay ahead of iOS and WP when it comes to the notification system of its mobile OS.
Up until now, I have not come across any third party app that takes advantage of the new notification bar, which is pretty much obvious. The ability to read a full SMS or see the header(s) of multiple emails right from the notification bar is really useful. As third party apps start taking advantage of this new feature, things are only going to get better.
I am not going to talk much about Google Now here because it really has not worked for me. Over the last few days, I have seen a lot of people telling how useful Google Now is, and how it automatically tells them the shortest route from their Home to Office or vice-versa.
I’m not sure what’s wrong but Google Now has not worked for me. It might be because it does not have much location data about me, since I have always had Google Latitude turned off and probably because I spend all my day in front of a computer, and the night sleeping. I am going to give Google Now at least a week from today so that it can collect relevant information about me, before calling it a success or failure.
Apart from the above said features, Jelly Bean packs in quite a lot of minor changes and UI updates that will be definitely appreciated by Android users. Google has made sure that with Jelly Bean, the growth of Android as a platform does not slow down. Now, if only the big-G could do something about the poor update schedule of non-Nexus Android devices.