July 11, 2012

Google Doles Out Jelly Bean to Nexus Devices

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

The first taste of Jelly Bean, Google's Android 4.1 upgrade, are available to Nexus devices. The new operating system is updated with an enhanced voice search and Google Now, both new features compete directly with Apple's voice-controlled assistance app, Siri.

Nexus is the Google-branded line of Android handsets and tablets. It's the Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ that's getting the Jelly Bean update. To date, Nexus HSPA+ handsets are available in the UK, most of Europe and the US, though its availability is subject to patent claims made by Apple. BBC News details a shaky timeline for the Nexus phone. The most recent case against the Nexus brand occurred last week, with an injunction by a District Court Judge placed temporarily on the Nexus smartphone barring any new purchases of the handset - which has been on the market for seven months.

While the phone's availability is subject to the courts, there are still users already in the U.S., as well as other countries in Europe that have access to the upgrade to Android 4.1. The catch for users in the U.S. is that Verizon and Sprint handsets are locked down, and will not likely be able to make the upgrade to Jelly Bean.

The biggest enhancements are automatic search and Google Now. If the Nexus wasn't causing enough patent issues with Apple, these two new features might just tip the scales. Automatic searches involve an improved Voice Search for Jelly Bean users. That is a user can speak a search query into the phone, and the phone will display answers from sources such as Wikipedia, the CIA World Factbook and the community-run knowledge bank Freebase.

Google Now is an app that hopes to answer every question before it's asked. Wake up in the morning with a weather forecast, get traffic updates before heading out on your commute to work, and if you take a train on your commute you can find out when the next one will arrive at the station. While Google Now might not be the conversationalist Siri is for iPhone users, it gets you the stats and details you need. Users can program their favorite sports teams to get score updates. Google Now can also be used on the fly to find local businesses such as a nearby restaurant. Google has a video that opens the door on the possibilities of Google Now on its Google+ page.

Jelly Bean is an advance on the Android version Ice Cream Sandwich, which was unveiled last fall with the Galaxy Nexus phone. The time between the release of Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean is relatively short. Ice Cream Sandwich included features such as Android Beam and Face Unlock. Android Beam facilitated data transfer between two smartpones by holding them together. Face Unlock is an app that uses facial recognition instead of passwords to unlock certain actions on the phone such as apps or even the phone itself.

The next device to get the Jelly Bean update will likely be the Nexus 7 tablet, which is expected to be available in the next few weeks.