Android Jelly Bean vs. Ice Cream Sandwich

It was not so long ago that we featured Ice Cream Sandwich, a.k.a. Android 4.0 and pitted it against its predecessor, Honeycomb. ICS was miles better than Honeycomb but Google’s mobile operating system was limited to only a few “higher-end” phones so only a few lucky ones got to enjoy it. Can Jelly Bean, the newest Android, run on your phone? Knowing Google, it would be very unlikely. So for those stuck in Gingerbread, the next sections of this article will tell you how your current phone suck so much and why you need to throw it away. For ICS users, here are the reasons why you should upgrade your smartphones’ OS.

User Interface

At first glance, Jelly Bean looks different from ICS because the latter has less neon blue accents than the former. Backdrops are still dark and the notification area has a better-looking “Roboto” font. A cool animation is also added when you open an app. For example, an app located on the left corner of the screen will rise from that corner when you open it. Another is when you choose an icon in the multitasking menu; the thumbnail will grow from that location until it takes the whole screen and then the app loads.

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Jelly Bean vs. Ice Cream Sandwich notification area

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Jelly Bean vs. Ice Cream Sandwich home screen

The home screen also welcomed new changes particularly on the icons and widgets. When you drag a widget or an icon to a place where there is already one around, the widget or icon on that area will move to give way to the widget or icon you are dragging. This makes arranging the icons and widgets on your home screen less time consuming. See it in action below (special thanks to TheAndroidizen). If you want to remove icons and widgets from the home screen, you simply swipe them up instead of dragging them to the trash icon. Widgets that can be resized (if you encounter one) will also resize themselves if necessary.

 

Performance

Jelly Bean runs smoother than its predecessor because of what Google calls Project Butter. Note the words “smoother” and “butter”. The buttery smooth operation of Jelly Bean is made possible by VSync, Triple Buffering and better use of CPU power. VSync increases the frame rate of the OS to 60 per second. It’s a trick, actually, because increasing the frame rate does not increase the OS speed – it simply allows you to perceive everything to be faster than before. Triple Buffering means the CPU, the Display and the Graphics Unit will not wait for each other when handling tasks. This one here increases the speed of the OS. Finally, the CPU throttles higher when you touch the screen which affects the overall responsiveness to touch of Jelly Bean.

 

New Features

 

Google Now

When Google Now was introduced, what many of us thought was that it’s Android’s version of iPhone’s Siri. It is but with some notable differences. You can ask your Jelly Bean phone like others would ask their iPhones and it would answer as best as it could. There could be misses as Google’s Knowledge Graph system is still young compared to Siri which also seeks help from Wolfram Alpha. But as you keep using this feature, mistakes will become less likely because of the use of “cards”. These are chunks of information that the system acknowledges based on your past queries. Say for example you want to know some subway routes. Google Now will give you answers based on the routes you’ve taken in the past. In short, Google Now becomes smarter as you keep using it which is something Siri can’t do.

 

Predictive Keyboard

There are quite a number of users who use third-party alternatives to the native keyboard. Those alternatives are often SwiftKey or Swype. With Jelly Bean, the key features of these apps are already integrated with the keyboard. Predictive input is now much better including guesses as to what your next word would be after you press the space bar. You can also add shortcuts like “gm” and “imb” for often-used phrases such as “good morning” or “I’m busy”. We’re glad that Google finally improved its keyboard and we’re sorry for SwiftKey if their business will go down the drain.

 

Offline Maps and Dictation

Isn’t it frustrating when you need to have good internet connection to use Google Maps? On Jelly Bean, our favourite mapping app now includes an offline function which means you only need GPS to know where you’re going. You need to save the map on your phone first, of course. You can save any map zone as long as it does not exceed 80 MB which is not that large of a map. This means you can’t save a whole state. You can save multiple zones though which can be accessed on “My Places”.

Voice Dictation also includes an offline feature. Even without an internet or cellular connection, you can still command your phone to write emails or send SMS. This is something that Siri can’ t do as it needs to be constantly connected to Apple’s servers even for simple tasks such as dictating messages.

 

Others

Besides these main features, there are also some noteworthy ones that are not included in ICS:

  • Sound Search Widget – find a music file by hearing the tune.
  • Smart App Updates – doesn’t need to download the whole app during updates.
  • Android Beam w/ Photos and Videos – previous Android Beam (NFC service) only sends web links.
  • NFC Enabled Bluetooth Pairing – NFC is used to establish pairing between two devices which is faster than the usual Bluetooth pairing. Know more about NFC here.
  • Gesture Mode – a feature for the visually impaired users: everything on the phone is read out with a different touch interface.
  • Blink to Unlock – an answer to a problem in ICS’ face recognition unlock which can be fooled by placing a picture in front of the phone. A blinking image could still fool this one.

 

Conclusion

Jelly Bean is an improvement over Ice Cream Sandwich but the difference is not that large compared to ICS vs. Honeycomb. This is probably why Jelly Bean is named v4.1 instead of v5.0. Google knows, and most users agree, that Ice Cream Sandwich does not have many flaws that it needs that much renovation. But the sad fact remains that only a few users will get to enjoy this new version. According to reports, only units that are currently running ICS are the ones most likely to run Jelly Bean. How I wish that Google will finally solve this fragmentation issue. Until then, we who are stuck to Gingerbread phones continue to envy the more fortunate ones.

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