I think that Hugo was expecting a little more applause from those in attendance at the Google I/O keynote this morning when he introduced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but the crowd clearly wasn’t as enamored with the Bean as I was.
There were a lot of new features that were shown, but here were the five that stood out to me the most.
1. Google Now – Your phone, and Google by extension knows a lot about you. With Google Now, your Jelly Bean powered device is going to take what it knows about you and deliver the information that you need. Sometimes before you even realize that you need it.
Using a card like interface Google Now will notify you if your flight is delayed. Likewise, if there’s an accident on your normal route home that’s delaying traffic Google Now will not only notify you, it’ll suggest alternate routes for you to get home.
Google Now knows your favorite sports teams and will present you with score updates as they happen. It will detect that you are eating dinner in a certain restaurant and will make recommendations for you. It will even read your calendar and send you a reminder to leave based on your current location, travel distance and current traffic conditions.
Best of all, you don’t have to remember to set any of these things up, Google Now will do it for you automatically based on the information that you have on your device.
2. Voice Action – Got Siri? Good for you, Jelly Bean has on-board transcription and Siri doesn’t. The new Voice Actions in Jelly Bean work without a data connection, and will even make grammatical corrections to its transcription based on the context of the sentence that you feed it.
The real key to this is the offline ability to transcribe an email or text message to send when you have a data connection again. There is no longer a need to be tethered to your data plan to have your device transcribe your voice, and that is absolutely huge.
3. Notifications – Android Notifications are so great that other companies have tried to ape them in their latest OS versions, but they have all been left in the dust with the Jelly Bean update.
Notifications are now interactive, meanin
g if you are listening to a song in Pandora you’ll be able to give it a thumbs up or down right in the notification window. You’ll also see Google+ updates, and those with images will show the full bleed image right in the notification.
Miss a call? You’ll have the ability to call back or send a message to the caller from the bottom of the notification window, and Gmail threads will display inline.
4. Camera app – The new scrolling features in the camera app are a real step forward in Jelly Bean. Being able to instantly review the images that you’ve taken by scrolling from side to side is amazingly smooth. You can also take action on images like sharing or deleting.
If your camera sucks on your phone, this won’t make that better. It will make using it a much more pleasant experience.
5. Android Beam – Beam is a somewhat useful feature in ICS, but the Jelly Bean version is taking a huge step forward. You’ll soon have the ability to tap two Jelly Bean devices together and share images and videos between them. You’ll also be able to pair your Jelly Bean device with any NFC enabled Bluetooth accessory. Tap the phone to your headset or speakers and they are paired automatically.