Android Jelly Bean: Could Android 5.0 Be Released In Fall 2012?
Android users: We hope you've got some sort of sweet tooth, as a surprising rumor out of Taiwan claims that you might be following up that Ice Cream Sandwich you just finished with a big ol' Jelly Bean -- and sooner than you think.
Digitimes, a Taiwanese publication known best in America for its hit-and-miss Apple rumors and gossip from the Asian supply chain, has a report that Google is readying Android 5.0, codenamed "Jelly Bean", for a release as soon as Q2 2012, or April 2012.
Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich") became available in November 2011 and is hardly four months old, but Digitimes says that Google may be rushing Jelly Bean because, first, "the adoption of Android 4.0 has fallen short of original expectations," and, second, because Google wants to beat Microsoft's Windows 8 to market in order "to earn another chance to enter the notebook and netbook markets."
Adoption of Ice Cream Sandwich has indeed been slower than expected. Four months in, only one percent of Android devices are running Android 4.0, and many of the most popular phones from manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung are not even eligible for their updates. The Motorola Droid Razr, for example, was first released in November 2011 as a premium Motorola smartphone, yet Motorola does not even have a timetable for when the Droid Razr might receive Ice Cream Sandwich.
By launching another, even more improved version of Android, Google could motivate both developers and users to quickly and fully unite behind a single Android operating system; or it could, in the words of Boy Genius Report's Zach Epstein, "push fragmentation to new heights."
Google doesn't want more fragmentation; with Ice Cream Sandwich, an operating system optimized for both tablets and smartphones, the company was hoping for a unification of Android devices that has yet to occur.
As for beating Windows 8 to market, the Digitimes article mentions that Google wants to more highly optimize Android Jelly Bean for tablet computers, possibly to compete with the more touch-friendly Windows 8 that Microsoft has planned for 2012. From Digitimes:
Android 5.0 will be further optimized for tablet PCs, while Google will also integrate its Chrome system functions to push dual-operating system designs. Brand vendors can either choose to adopt only Android 5.0 or add Android 5.0 to Windows 8 devices with the ability to switch between the two OSes without the need to shut down the computer.
Through Android 5.0, Google also wishes to earn another chance to enter the notebook and netbook markets.
Windows 8 does not have a definite release date attached, though most pundits expect it to become available this fall (A developer's preview is already available) . Microsoft has shown off Windows 8 and its touchable, swipe-able interface several times; the new operating system has been optimized for tablets and touchscreen devices and takes many cues from Microsoft's critically hailed but commercially stalled Windows Phone OS.
If Google does announce Android Jelly Bean sooner than expected, Dan Rowinski of ReadWriteWeb points out that it would probably do so at its Google I/O Developer's Conference, where Ice Cream Sandwich was announced in 2011. Google I/O 2012 is currently scheduled for late June 2012 -- whether Andy Rubin and company actually unveil Jelly Bean in San Francisco remains to be seen.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
Ice Cream Sandwich's totally revamped interface places even more emphasis on Google's search bar and aims at making Android more user-friendly. Among the new features are a new typeface called "Roboto" with more rounded letters, as well as scrollable and re-sizable widgets. The snazzy UI also places more of an emphasis on finger gestures.
More Camera Features
What's different about camera functions in Android 4.0? A whole lot, starting with Instagram-esque photo-editing tools and deeper integration with social networks. <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">TechCrunch is gaga over the improvements</a>, lauding the "image stabilization, improved autofocus, and integration with other apps for sending photos or instant upload to Google+. Oh, and who could forget built-in face detection, panorama and time lapse modes, and on-the-fly photo retouching and enhancements." Like Apple's new iOS 5, Android users will also be able to access the camera right from the lock screen.
New Security Feature
Android 4.0 users can rest easy, knowing that their devices will feature the nifty Face Unlock, which scans the user's face before unlocking the gadget.
A data management tool will help the user understand the amount of data their favorite apps use. This tool will also let the user set data limits for herself, and it will send warnings to notify the user when her data use approaches those limits.
Not only will it look sleeker on handsets, Android's native browser will now place more emphasis on tabs and offline productivity. "Users can keep up to 16 tabs open, view a live preview of each and quickly switch between them," <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">explains By Genius Report</a>. "Tabs can be closed by flicking them off of the screen much like webOS or RIM's tablet OS. Google also automatically syncs bookmarks to your Android browser from Chrome, and users can save pages for offline reading."
More Robust Gmail
Gmail users, rejoice! Here's what's new with Google's celebrated email app, <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">according to TechCrunch</a>: "Gmail now supports two-line previews, and sports a new context-sensitive action bar at the bottom of the screen. Gesture support allows you to swipe left and right between emails." <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">Boy Genius Report notes</a> that Gmail will support offline search, too.
Improved Voice Dictation
Though it's no Siri, Google has upgraded its hands-free speech recognition feature, which lets users dictate text, send messages, open media files and more. <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/242139/apples_ios_5_vs_googles_android_40_ice_cream_sandwich.html" target="_hplink">Per PCWorld</a>: "ICS voice command software now has a hands free feature that lets you activate voice actions just by speaking to your phone instead of pressing a button." "play music, search the web, and dictate notes, SMS and email messages."
Google touts the security of its Android Beam wireless transfer system, which lets users share content between devices equipped with Near-Field Communication (aka NFC) technology. <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/18/google-announces-nfc-based-android-beam-for-sharing-between-phon/" target="_hplink">Engadget explains how the system will work</a>: Much like HP's ill-fated Touch-to-share functionality, it will let you simply tap two NFC-enabled devices together to share a piece of information. That will work with a range of apps and services in Android, including YouTube videos, contact information, maps, web pages" and more. While you can transfer content from apps, you can't transfer the apps themselves, but Engadget notes that Android Beam "links to apps in the Android Market.
Designed with an eye toward button-free Android handsets, version 4.0 of Google's operating system relies more on finger gestures and integrates navigation buttons and music controls into the user interface. The feature could lead to a new generation of sleeker devices with fewer hardware buttons. But will these virtual buttons get in user's way? <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/18/a-quick-ice-cream-sandwich-feature-rundown/" target="_hplink">TechCrunch says no</a>: "[T]hey smartly disappear when viewing video or in widescreen mode."
"The notification window is now slightly translucent with a glowing dot when you pull it downward," <a href="http://thisismynext.com/2011/10/18/exclusive-matias-duarte-ice-cream-sandwich-galaxy-nexus/" target="_hplink">according to This Is My Next</a>. "Notifications can be swiped away one at a time, mirroring webOS 3.0 behavior. You can access your notifications on the lock screen if you're not using a passcode, and you can jump quickly to your settings through the window shade."
Universal Android OS
Version 4.0 will work on any Android device, be it tablet or smartphone. "Ice Cream Sandwich is the OS that's supposed to put a damper on all that fragmentation talk," <a href="http://venturebeat.com/2011/10/18/ice-cream-sandwich-debut/" target="_hplink">writes VentureBeat</a>. "[T]he 2.X OS for phones and the 3.X OS for tablets will give way to the 4.X OS for all Android devices."
ICS bakes deeper social integration into many apps. Perhaps the most social is the "People" app. <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/18/google-unveils-android-4-0-ice-cream-sandwich-for-smartphones-tablets/" target="_hplink">BGR writes</a> that this new app "pulls in contact information and photos from social networks for your whole address book. Whenever a contact updates his or her info, it is also automatically updated on your phone."