SOFTWARE HOUSE Google unveiled the latest version of its Android operating system (OS), known as Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, at its I/O Conference in San Francisco today.
While its name suggests it is little more than an incremental update, Jelly Bean brings a few new features to Android. Amongst these is smarter resizing of on-screen icons with automatic repositioning, along with a new virtual keypad that predicts what you're typing before you spell it out.
Jelly Bean also includes what Google has named "Project Butter", a new buffering system that boosts performance to offer "buttery smooth" video rendering.
Google also introduced another new feature called Google Now. Accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, this gives users information without having to ask for it. For example, if you have an appointment logged in your calendar, Google Now will tell you the easiest route and when the next bus will be arriving.
Android 4.1 also focuses on voice. As well as the news that its voice dictation now works offline, Google has enhanced Android's onboard voice search controls, enabling users to click on the microphone to ask a question before being told the response by a Siri-like voice.
Other new tweaks include an updated camera app with a new gallery view, improved animations and the ability to make a phone call from the notifications menu.
Google said Android 4.1 will be made available to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S over-the-air (OTA) from mid-July, while the SDK for developers is available from today.
What's more, Google announced that OEMs will get a hardware development kit months before a new operating system version is released, which means users can start to expect faster Android updates. µ
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