The launch of a new Nexus device is always accompanied by the release of a new Android version. This time, the Nexus 7 was introduced along with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the most polished Android operating system yet since its inception in 2008. In a nutshell, Jelly Bean is the faster and smoother version of Ice Cream Sandwich which was introduced in October 2011. Here are some of its main features: -
The notification drop-down tab in Android 4.1 received a few modifications which make an already good system even better. Aesthetically, the interface sports a cleaner look, which makes individual notifications more distinct and easier to read.
You can drag down with two fingers to expand or collapse the notifications. In the screenshot shown above, you can view more information of the email by simply swiping down. Some notifications allow you to take action from the tab itself. For example, you can share a screenshot (press power and volume down button simultaneously) of the Nexus 7 on the notification tab.
How do you deal with an overwhelming number of notifications from multiple apps? Well, Android 4.1 gives you the option to turn off the notifications for specific apps. This is achieved by going to the "App Info" screen and unchecking the box, hence giving you total control over what notifications to receive and what not to.
While Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich enables you to take pictures faster, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean brings that speed to viewing photos in the Gallery. You can switch from camera mode to gallery mode by simply swiping to the left. Pinch with two fingers to switch to filmstrip view. The fun doesn't stop that; in filmstrip view, you can remove photos by swiping up or down. If you accidentally delete a photo, you can retrieve it via the "undo" button.
While the keyboard looks no different from that in Android 4.0, much of the changes and new features are found under the hood. Billed as "a smarter keyboard", it will throw up word suggestions and guesses for your next input after you hit the spacebar. According to Google, the Android keyboard has a language model that adapts overtime. This is quite similar to what we've seen from Research in Motion's new BlackBerry 10 keyboard. During our time with the Nexus 7, we found the typing experience to be faster and more accurate.
Another highly touted feature of the keyboard is its offline dictation. This is especially useful for the Nexus 7 since it does not come in 3G variant, and you can still compose messages outside Wi-Fi zones. Using the embedded speech recognizer to type was a hit-and-miss experience as it was not able to translate our voice into proper text at times.
When Face Unlock was first introduced in Android 4.0, it caused a controversy about its face recognition technology. The security feature was apparently fooled by a photo on two occasions (1) (2). Google addresses this problem with Liveness Check, an option whereby a user is required to blink his eyes in order to unlock the device. We tested out the Liveness Check and found it to be working as stated.
If you think Google Now is the Android's solution to Apple's Siri, then you are partially right (or wrong). Google Now is a more powerful, contextually aware system that will provide information such as weather, traffic and public transport throughout the day as and when you need them. The information is presented in cards, where you swipe to remove them or tap on them for more details. To activate Google Now, simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or swipe up on the lock screen.
Depending on how you see it, Google Now can be a double-edged sword. If you like to be presented with information on-the-go without having to do a manual search, then Google Now is probably going to be a blessing for you. However, if you are concerned about privacy issues over the using of a system that keeps track of your searches, Google Now is likely to end up as one of the last things you will want to enable on the device.