- Ease of use No comments
- Speed No comments
- Configurability No comments
- Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) No comments
- Openness No comments
Enjoy the review!
Ease of Use:
Veteran Android users will feel right at home here, with an even more refined experience over past versions of Android. Although I still believe iOS is currently the go-to mobile OS for simplicity, after an hour or so of puttering around in Jelly Bean you will know where everything is.
Jelly Bean absolutely screams on the GSM-unlocked Galaxy Nexus. Right away you can tell that Project Butter and the other various improvements Google has implemented in this release are doing what they're meant to do, with everything from regular animations to accelerometer performance increasing 10x over what 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had to offer. In a side by side test with a Version Galaxy Nexus with ICS, the verdict was clear: Jelly Bean is slick. These major speed improvements alone are enough to make this release amazing.
As usual, Android is still extremely configurable. Without rooting and the like, out of the box widgets, backgrounds, unlock methods, default apps, app folders, and more are all still extremely customizable. You can also move widgets and apps around and when you move them towards a place that is already occupied by another widgets/app, it will push that other widget/app out of the way. The biggest neglect, I think, is that you still can't use a custom ringtone. However, with a few simple apps and tweaks that almost anyone can find/do, even more things such as custom docks, icons, clocks, (and yes, custom ringtones), can be done.
Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.):
Although iOS currently trumps Android as far as amount of apps goes (650,000 and counting), Android is not by any means low on them (600,000 and counting). There are more than enough apps to fit whatever you're looking for, both first-party and third-party alike.
As gdgt user sawilson points out in his review of Jelly Bean (gdgt.com/google/android/4-1/reviews/rks/), "Nothing is more open than having the source code." This is true. Google openly (no pun intended) shares Android's SDK and source code online so anyone can download, examine, port, and develop for the OS.
Notifications have been vastly improved in Jelly Bean and are much more informative. Definitely a nice touch.
Besides the new speed and notifications improvements, perhaps the best new feature of Jelly Bean is Google Now. Accessed either by holding down the home button and swiping up or by the "Google" app shortcut, Google Now is possibly my favorite thing about Android. It's basically a list that displays the current and upcoming weather information for your current location, traffic information and routes, public transit information, flight information, next appointment reminders, nearby interesting places, sports scores, and more. All you have to do is search for something related to those, such as your flight number, and Google Now will tell you the status of your flight, when you'll depart, when you'll arrive at your destination, as well as giving you the option to navigate to the airport. Despite being slightly stalker-ish, Google Now is seriously awesome.
Google has also improved voice search, both in terms of accuracy and how it reacts. Let me explain. When asking it a question, not only is the time it takes to decipher what you said noticeably faster (at least in my opinion), it also is much more accurate in actually getting what you said right. I tried 10 times searching for different things, getting more complicated as I went, such as "Who is the president of the United States?", "Where is the nearest Pizza Hut?", and "What is the current conversion rate between U.S. dollars and Euros?" and every time it was able to get the question exactly right and find the answer I was looking for in under 5 seconds. Impressive.
It's also clear that Google took some cues from Apple's Siri here. When asked "Who is the president of the United States?", a female voice responded "The president of the United States is Barack Obama." while displaying his name, picture, and a link to the Wikipedia article about him. Likewise, when searching for the nearest Pizza Hut, the same female voice responded with "Getting directions!" while displaying the fastest route to the nearest Pizza Hut location. HOWEVER, the friendly Siri-like voice will only respond to certain requests. When asked "Who is the current president of the United States?" (one word off from my original question), I was met with a regular Google search results page. I still got the answer, but there was no flashy animation and female voice like I got with my old question. It seems the feature is limited to certain things. Although, it's still a nice touch.
I think Google absolutely nailed it with the release of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Everything great that was introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich has been refined and improved here. The OS is the fastest, most informative, and helpful release of Android thus far. I may even go as far as to say it's the best mobile OS currently available today. Sure, iOS is more consistent with design and has more apps, and Google has the fragmentation problem surrounding Android, but this review is of the OS version itself and I'm glad to say that Jelly Bean is an absolute joy to use.
(TL;DR: Google gets it right.)
EXTRA: Will it be able to stand up to iOS 6 this fall?
In iOS 6, Apple is currently playing a bit of catch up (iOS is just now getting turn-by-turn directions, for example) while at the same time adding some features that Android has yet to receive (restaurant reservations and the ability to launch apps from Siri, for example). Only time will tell which turns out to be the better experience, but either way it's clear that Android is still a very capable contender against iOS (especially with the release of Jelly Bean).
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Updated detailed review