Android has gone a long way since it was first introduced four years ago, and today, it’s the most popular operating system for mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and even some netbooks (called smartbooks). ARM processors have been getting more powerful every day, and with dual and quad cores on the market, Android can run pretty much any kind of applications you’ll ever need.
Furthermore, Intel is getting into the game with x86 processors, and they’ve also decided Android is a good choice for their new smartphones and tablets, so Android is definitely here to stay. As of version 2.3, Android has very good support for multiple cores, and the latest 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade brought a whole lot of new features and improvements, including the much awaited universal API that allows the OS to run on both tablets and smartphones with two slightly different UIs that are optimized for their respective screen sizes.
It will be a while before version 4.0 will be running on most Android smartphones on the market (especially since 2.3 is perfect for low-end models for now), but Google has already announced the next one in the series: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
So, what does the new version bring to the table?
Android 4.1 has quite a lot of things in tow – the situation looks a lot like the 2.2 – 2.3 update, when Gingerbread brought so many new things over 2.2 that people wondered why it wasn’t numbered version 3.0. Let’s take a look at the most important features.
A smoother and more responsive interface
Android developers have worked hard on improving the response time of the interface, and with 4.1 they hit the homerun – the interface is just as good or even better than that of the iPhone. Using a few smart tricks like touch prediction, 60 FPS interface, triple buffering, timed vsync and CPU input boost, the developers were able to make the best UI yet – a thing which they proudly demonstrated in the demo video where a RED camera shoots the interface in slow motion on a Nexus S with 4.1 installed, alongside an identical Nexus S with Android 4.0 – the difference is clear right away.
The notification system has also been improved – it’s now better, smarter and more detailed. The notifications have a new design, use a larger area and can give you more information about what exactly the app is doing. You can also take action for any notification right away, without opening the app’s main window – dismissing events, retweeting, posting on a wall, marking an item – everything can be done with just two taps.
Better, smarter widgets and icons
If you’re tired of having to move the icons and widgets around when making space for new ones, then you’ll love Jelly Bean – now, the widgets and icons move out of the way automatically when you’re trying to place a new widget. A small detail, but it’s very comfortable. You can also resize the widgets without them getting broken.
An improved keyboard
The keyboard has been slowly improving since 2.3, and even though we still don’t see BlindType anywhere (must’ve been a flop, but the demo worked so well!), the new default keyboard in Android 4.1 is better than ever at remembering the way you type and guessing the words you want to write before you even do it, thanks to content awareness.
More features for wireless connectivity
Android 4.1 has improved wireless connectivity capabilities – Google has added better support for NFC devices, which translates into the ability to easily pair and share files and media over Bluetooth. Jelly Bean is also better at detecting and pairing using WiFi Direct, which is the perfect way to transfer a lot of data between devices, including games.
A better browser
As you can see, Android 4.1 has plenty of new stuff to show off, and it will most likely become the new mainstay even after the next 2-3 versions are released. The new version takes advantage of everything in the book, and it’s pretty much the perfect mobile OS, at least for the moment – and we’re not even taking into account the separate apps/services like Google Now!