Google revealed the latest version of its Android OS this week - known as Jellybean, the newest version of Android focuses on improving system performance, as well as adding a few highly requested features to the platform. Announced alongside the Nexus 7 tablet, Jellybean is set to power the next wave of Android smartphones, and will make its way to older handsets starting this July.

Under the hood

At Jellybean's unveiling at Google I/O, the Android team announced "Project Butter," a processing framework that aims to make the entire Android experience feel more smooth and responsive. For example, whenever the user touches the screen, the system will try and predict where the user will tap next, pre-loading the required animation or application. Jellybean also delivers a CPU boost whenever the screen is activated to improve touch performance, then reduces CPU voltage when the screen is not in use to conserve the battery. The results are impressive, load times for applications have been reduced, and general system navigation is snappy and smooth.

With Jellybean, notifications are expandable, reducing the need to open applications

Smart notifications

Notifications have been an essential element of Android since its inception, and Jellybean gives the notification shade a much needed upgrade. No longer are notifications limited to an icon and a few lines of text, as all notifications are now fully expandable, removing the need to open a full application to simply read a text or email. Additionally, it's now possible to take action within the notification shade, you can respond to messages, as well as view photos and events, all without ever leaving the home screen.

Google Now is the most powerful voice assistant for Android

Google Now

Google has completely overhauled its Voice Search application, effectively creating the marquee application for Jellybean. Known as "Google Now," this voice activated application is far more than a search tool, and can compete head on with Apple's Siri.

Google Now can research commonly asked questions before you ask them. For example, before you wake up in the morning, Google Now is already checking local weather information, presenting you with the information the moment you ask. Google Now also makes impressive usage of the GPS sensor, warning you of potential traffic jams before you get stuck, as well recommending something to eat at a restaurant the moment you arrive in the parking lot.

Widgets will now automatically re-size when your home screens become more crowded

Wrap up

Android 4.1 Jellybean is a natural step forward for the platform, boosting performance and providing users with new and innovative ways to interact with their smartphones. Jellybean also manages to add a few unexpected features, such as improved accessibility for the blind by allowing for external braille input as well as expanded voice control. Rounding out the already impressive package are re-sizable widgets on home screens, speed improvements for the camera, and a smarter on-screen keyboard that will adapt to your writing style over time.

Jellybean is set to launch in the coming weeks on the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus, and will make its way to other devices over the next few months.

Google has provided video showing how much faster Jellybean is over its predecessor, Ice Cream Sandwich.

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