Android 4.1 Jelly Bean official: offline voice dictation, smarter search, Siri-like voice recognition, actionable notifications


It’s no secret that most Android versions don’t really last that long, and that particular truth has been proven once again during Google’s I/O earlier today. The company has detailed quite a bit of improvement for the next version, named Jelly Bean (Android 4.1), so let’s get right to changes, shall we?

The company has labored to make the newest version the fastest and smoothest version of the OS, and have created Project Butter to do just that. The entire OS now merrily chugs away at 60 fps, and now supports triple buffering and runs the display, GPU and CPU in parallel which translates into a better, smoother experience when using a 4.1 powered device. Small improvements like the CPU ramping up the clock speed as soon as you touch the device contribute to a better, smoother user experience all around.

The homescreen has been tweaked as well, and users now don’t have to play hide and seek with their apps and widgets on their homescreen as Jelly Bean brings auto-resizing widgets to the fore. Simply drag and drop a widget into the home screen and all the icons, apps and other widgets conform around it. Widgets can also now be flicked off the screen with a simple swipe of the button – no need to root around for a recycling bin.

One fantastic addition now is offline voice input. Before it was only possible to do voice dictation when you had a data connection – that’s not the case now. You can now do accurate, voice dictation even when your device is in airplane mode – meaning no data connection – which increase the appeal of the dictation tool immensely.

Possibly the highlight of Jelly Bean is the new notification system. Instead of just alerting you of a system event – a text, Facebook message or email, for example – and launching the app, the notification system now allows you to answer notifications right from the window, saving you a lot of time and possibly battery life. You can send canned text messages or make up your own when someone texts you through the notification bar, comment or +1 on a Google+ post – all without opening the app involved.

There’s also better voice search in Jelly Bean, and the newly revamped app has a brand new UI and recognizes voice queries. Obvious comparisons to Siri can’t be avoided, of course, and from the presentation we saw during the event, we put the new voice search function at par or even slightly better than Siri.

Google’s new search function also takes cues from your previous searches, preferences and history with their service to tweak the results of your search, and is now smart enough to know where you are and take that information in context when answering queries – like the location of the nearest bus stop, the bus schedule, what time the next bus will arrive, etc.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean will roll out to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Xoom devices mid July.