The Google I/O developer conference started with the unveiling of the next version of Android, which promises to be faster, and include an improved voice-driven searching system.
Improvements to the User Interface
One of the teams at Google working on Android 4.1 was Project Butter, which is intended to make the user interface as smooth as butter, removing the lags that crop up. As much as possible, the new version will separate running applications from the process of providing the UI, so they don’t interfere with each other. The UI is also going to be heavily buffered.
On the right hardware, the UI will run at 60 fps.
The new OS version, code-named Jelly Bean, will make it easier to add application icons and widgets to homescreens. Icons will move out of the way of items that are being dragged and dropped, and widgets can automatically resize themselves.
New Notification System
Android 4.1 is going to have a much more interactive notification than its predecessor. For example, if someone is notified that a meeting is coming up soon, they can send other attendees a notification that they are going to be like without needing to open the calendar or email app.
This functionality will extend across a range of applications — users are also going to be able to respond to social-networking posts, emails, and more all from the notification window.
Better User Input
Google is adding Swype-like features tho Jelly Bean, so that text can be entered on the on-screen keyboard without the user having to lift up the finger.
Android 4.1 will have some of the features available in Apple’s Siri voice-control system. When users search for items (either by typing or with their voice) they will be shown cards that summarize the information they are looking for, rather than links to webpages.
In a feature that beats Siri, voice-recognition in Jelly Bean for things like voice-to-text will not require an Internet connection, but will happen locally.
Benefits for Software Developers
Google is making some changes that developers of third-party applications have been hoping for. One that will also benefit users is the ability to download incremental updates, so only the parts of an application that have changed will need to be downloaded, not the full application.
Also, third-party apps will be tied to the device they are downloaded onto, so pirates can’t strip them out and share them on the Internet.
Starting in July
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Nexus S, and Motorola Xoom will be the first devices to get Android OS 4.1 (Jelly Bean) starting in July. Availability for other phones and tablets was not announced today.
Looking ahead, Google has developed a tool to help device makers get new versions of the Android OS on their products. This is still in beta, but in the future will be released to companies three months before new versions of this operating system are announced to the public.