As expected, Google has yesterday announced at its IO conference in San Francisco the next version of Android - Jelly Bean, which will be Android 4.1. And while the .1 update doesn't sounds major, it is. Android 4.1 is the fastest and smoothest version of Android yet. Google made improvements throughout the platform and added great new features for users and developers. Android 4.1 is optimized to deliver Android's best performance and is designed for both - smartphones and tablets (unlike Android 3.x which was only designed for tablets). Based on Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean brings a new intuitive UI.
New APIs for accessibility services let users handle gestures and manage accessibility focus as the user moves through the on-screen elements and navigation buttons using accessibility gestures, accessories, and other input. Accessibility services can link their own tutorials into the Accessibility settings, to help users configure and use their services.
Apps that use standard View components inherit support for the new accessibility features automatically, without any changes in their code. Apps that use custom Views can use new accessibility node APIs to indicate the parts of the View that are of interest to accessibility services.
Android 4.1 supports bi-directional text in TextView and EditText elements. Apps can display text or handle text editing in left-to-right or right-to-left scripts and apps can make use of new Arabic and Hebrew locales and associated fonts.
Other types of new language support include:
- Additional Indic languages: Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam
- The new Emoji characters from Unicode version 6.0
- Better glyph support for Japanese users (renders Japanese-specific versions of glyphs when system language is set to Japanese)
- Arabic glyphs optimized for WebViews in addition to the Arabic glyphs for TextViews
- Vertical Text support in WebViews, including Ruby Text and additional Vertical Text glyphs
- Synthetic Bold is now available for all fonts that don't have dedicated bold glyphs
- User-installable keymaps
The platform now supports user-installable keyboard maps, such as for additional international keyboards and special layout types. By default, Android 4.1 includes 27 international keymaps for keyboards, including Dvorak. When users connect a keyboard, they can go to the Settings app and select one or more keymaps that they want to use for that keyboard. When typing, users can switch between keymaps using a shortcut (ctrl-space).
Expandable notifications display more types of content in notifications. Users can expand them with a simple gesture. Notifications have long been a unique and popular feature on Android. Android 4.1 brings a major update to the Android notifications framework. Apps can now display larger, richer notifications to users that can be expanded and collapsed with a pinch. Notifications support new types of content, including photos, have configurable priority, and can even include multiple actions.
Apps can add up to three actions to a notification, which are displayed below the notification content. The actions let the users respond directly to the information in the notification in alternative ways. such as by E-Mail or by phone call, without visiting the app. With expandable notifications, apps can give more information to the user, effortlessly and on demand. Users remain in control and can long-press any notification to get information about the sender and optionally disable further notifications from the app.
App Widgets can resize automatically to fit the home screen and load different content as their sizes change. Android 4.1 introduces improved App Widgets that can automatically resize, based on where the user drops them on the home screen, the size to which the user expands them, and the amount of room available on the home screen.
Android 4.1 makes it easier for users to find and install Live Wallpapers from apps that include them since it now shows the a preview of the Live Wallpaper. From the preview, users can directly load the Live Wallpaper.
With Android 4.1, users can store contact photos that are as large as 720 x 720, making contacts even richer and more personal. Apps can store and retrieve contact photos at that size or use any other size needed. The maximum photo size supported on specific devices may vary
Android 4.1 also comes with new types of connectivity. Android Beam is a popular NFC-based technology that lets users instantly share, just by touching two NFC-enabled phones together. In Android 4.1, Android Beam makes it easier to share images, videos or other payloads by leveraging Bluetooth for the data transfer. When the user triggers a transfer, Android Beam hands over from NFC to Bluetooth, making it really easy to manage the transfer of a file from one device to another.
Android 4.1 introduces support for multicast DNS-based service discovery, which lets applications find and connect to services offered by peer devices over WiFi networks - including mobile devices, printers, cameras, media players, and others. Developers can take advantage of WiFi network service discovery to build cross-platform or multiplayer games and application experiences.
Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich introduced support for WiFi Direct, a technology that lets apps discover and pair directly, over a high-bandwidth peer-to-peer connection. WiFi Direct is an ideal way to share media, photos, files and other types of data and sessions, even where there is no cell network or WiFi available. With Jelly Bean, Android takes WiFi Direct further, adding support for pre-associated service discovery. Pre-associated service discovery lets apps get more useful information from nearby devices about the services they support, before they attempt to connect. Apps can initiate discovery for a specific service and filter the list of discovered devices to those that actually support the target service or application. This means that an app could discover only devices that are "printers" or that have a specific game available, instead of discovering all nearby WiFi Direct devices. This greatly simplifies discovery and pairing for users and lets apps take advantage of WiFi Direct more effectively.
Android 4.1 helps apps manage data usage appropriately when the device is connected to a metered network, including tethering to a mobile hotspot. Apps can query whether the current network is metered before beginning a large download that might otherwise be relatively expensive to the user.
Android 4.1 provides low-level access to platform hardware and software codecs. Apps can query the system to discover what low-level media codecs are available on the device and then and use them in the ways they need.
USB audio output support allows hardware vendors to build hardware such as audio docks that interface with Android devices. This functionality is also exposed with the Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) to give all developers the chance to create their own hardware.
Android 4.1 supports multichannel audio on devices that have hardware multichannel audio out through the HDMI port. Multichannel audio delivers rich media experiences to users for applications such as games, music apps, and video players. For devices that do not have the supported hardware, Android automatically downmixes the audio to the number of channels that are supported by the device (usually stereo). Android 4.1 also adds built-in support for encoding/decoding AAC 5.1 audio.
In Android 4.1, the Android Browser and WebViews include these enhancements:
- Better HTML5 video user experience, including touch-to-play/pause and smooth transition from inline to full screen mode.
- Improved rendering speed and reduced memory usage for better scrolling and zooming performance.
- Improved HTML5/CSS3/Canvas animation performance.
- Improved text input.
- Support for the updated HTML5 Media Capture specification (the "capture" attribute on input type=file elements).
Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) is a service that lets developers send short message data to their users on Android devices, without needing a proprietary sync solution. GCM handles all the details of queuing messages and delivering them efficiently to the targeted Android devices. It supports message multicasting and can reach up to 1000 connected devices simultaneously with a single request. It also supports message payloads, which means that in addition to sending tickle messages to an app on the device, developers can send up to 4K of data.
Smart app updates is a new feature of Google Play that introduces a better way of delivering app updates to devices. When developers publish an update, Google Play now delivers only the bits that have changed to devices, rather than the entire APK. This makes the updates much lighter-weight in most cases, so they are faster to download, save the device's battery, and conserve bandwidth usage on users' mobile data plan. On average, a smart app update is about 1/3 the size of a full APK update.
Google Play services (coming soon) helps developers to integrate Google services such as authentication and Google+ into their apps delivered through Google Play. Google
That' just highlighting some of the changes in Android 4.1. There's a lot more for developers to build even richer apps for Jelly Bean.
The first devices to receive Jelly Bean will be the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Motorola Xoom tablet. They are expected to get it in mid-July. For the rest of the devices, users will have to wait for the manufacturer to roll out the update anytime later.
Cheers ~ Arne