A Week With Jelly Bean: An In-Depth Review Of Android 4.1 As A Daily Driver

It seems like just last week ago that Google announced Jelly Bean. Oh wait, that’s when they did. And almost instantly the developer community found ways to get it onto the phones of consumers on models like the Galaxy Nexus (GSM/LTE), the Samsung Galaxy S III and even the HTC One X. The day it was announced, I found a ROM for my Verizon Galaxy Nexus (a couple, in fact), left AOKP and flashed it that night. Let me tell you, it has been one of the greatest choices I have made. So, after spending a week using Android 4.1, I’ll break it down for you so can see just what Google has accomplished here.

UI

As far as basic user interface, Google hasn’t changed the look much since Ice Cream Sandwich; however, the first thing I noticed when testing it out was the fluidity. One of my main reasons for rooting my phone was to get a more stable, fluid experience. This was something stock Android, even ICS, couldn’t do consistently. So I’ll admit, even with Google hyping their “Project Butter” work, I still wasn’t to confident that this would be much better. I was wrong. In fact, Jelly Bean has matched the fluidity I had achieved by flashing AOKP onto my phone. ROMs are no longer necessary if your only concern is a fast phone. Because, let me tell you, this phone flies.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still see an occasional lag. But this is mainly during times of intense use (we’re talking at least 8 apps open with multiple windows open within the apps). In fact, most of the time when I saw the lag was only during times I was actually trying to make it do so. Standard users will very rarely, if ever, see a lag thanks to Project Butter. This is also consistently true even with all of my apps, which after counting both pre-loaded and downloaded apps adds up to about 121. So don’t worry if you think having too much on your phone will slow it down. Chances are high that it will not.

Improved Google Search

This has been one of the greatest improvements, at least for me, to Android. Google search has always been an awesome feature, don’t get me wrong. But in Jelly Bean, it’s much faster in many senses. For instance, it loads faster due to Butter, of course, but it also will simply pull up a card with your information on it rather than just bringing up a search query. This saves so much time from searching through websites and having to pinpoint relevant information through all the extra stuff you don’t care about. Google has always been fast, but it’s found away to beat itself this time.

Voice search is another key feature here. It’s one of the few voice clients that actually understands what I’m asking it a vast majority of the time. Even in a crowded room, I was able to ask about Norway and it understood exactly what I was trying to scream through the crowd. This is a vast improvement over Siri and even S Voice, which I’ve tried to demo for people in a Best Buy and it usually picks up whatever song is playing in the loud speakers and mixes it with what I say. Although the errors are sometimes comical, I’ve actually been able to use Voice Search and get things done with it in a timely manner.

Camera

As a video student, a quality camera is a big deal to me. The Galaxy Nexus is a far cry from a quality camera, so any software improvements that can be made to make it sting a little less are always welcome. The camera has been made even faster. In my experience, the zero lag camera lost its appeal whenever the phone would have to refocus after every shot. Even if it was only a second to do so, it’s still a second that shouldn’t be happening with the way Google was touting the title “0 lag.”

Although it’s still not hit the 0 mark, it has improved even more. Focusing takes only a fraction of a second, but it seems to still want to fix itself after every shot. However, I have been able to pull a few 0 lag shots when I’ve rapidly pressed the button trying to make it happen. Realistically though, this probably isn’t something ppl want to do in order to get all their shots in. But it’s at least faster than before.

The biggest improvement, in my opinion, is the gallery and how much faster it is to access it. Taking a page straight out of Windows Phone, all it takes is a simple swipe to the right and I’m in my gallery. I can even zoom out and view more pictures in a photo-filled timeline. It’s just like reliving my past! It’s shocking to me how such a small improvement such as this has changed how I feel about the stock camera but it’s at least helped with the pain of not having the best camera out there.

Battery Life 

This is a big one, here. Android has been notorious for short battery life. Especially those rocking 4G LTE on any network. However, I can say I’ve been able to pull a consistent 11 hours out of it with moderate to heavy use. I am working with the stock battery, which is about 1850mAh for those who don’t remember. Now, I’ve been able to pull a longer life out of it by using custom ROMs and such, but for stock Android 11 hours with LTE is phenomenal. When Google made things run smoother, they made it significantly more efficient as well. Before rooting, I was only able to pull 8 hours max on a busy day. This may still not be enough for some, but for most users this will be plenty. Remember, I got 11 hours of heavy use.

Google Now

This is a feature I still haven’t been able to use to it’s fullest yet. It seems to be geared more towards avid travelers, which I’m not. However, it has still been able to pull up tons of relevant information for me. For example, I’m visiting family at the moment. Without having to change anything in settings and such, it has pulled up the forecast for this town for the next week, traffic information for my drive home tomorrow and cool places to check out around here. I can’t give the best examples, but even in small town “vacations” like this, it seems to be working pretty well.

Notifications

This has been the most apparent and most useful improvements for me. Often enough, I receive texts from multiple people with no time to reply. Normally, I would have to delete my notification to preview the messages and see who they’re from. Usually not a big deal, except I would often forget I had messages by the time I was able to reply and leave people hanging for hours at a time. I can finally view the previews straight from the notifications shade, allowing me time do get what I need to done and also helping me have a reply ready for whenever I get around to answering them.

The same concept works for emails, calls, pictures and music. All sorts of things can now be handled straight from the notifications shade. Personally, this might be one of the greatest improvements so far.

Miscellaneous 

Another key feature I’ve used is the improved voice typing. Even on going on long test rants hasn’t shocked this thing. It’s nailed almost every word without a hitch. In fact, it got some things I didn’t even expect. I’ve always been a fast talker, so the fact that this thing has consistently understood a majority of what I’ve said to it is a gift from the heavens. It is actually useful and accurate rather than sending messages I may be questioned for later.

Home screen behavior has been used more recently, as I’ve rearranged my panels just to test it out. The automatic widget arrangement is significantly more useful than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how much I was deleting, adding, resizing and creating folders until I tried to redo everything. A small but useful feature has added even more to Android’s already popular customization system.

Conclusion

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is, hands down, the greatest iteration of Android, yet. It finally has the fluidity Android has needed desperately. The functionality has been improved to work quickly, efficiently and easily. Android has always been advanced, but even with just an incremental upgrade like this, they’ve set a new bar for mobile operating systems. If they’ve done all this with a .1 upgrade, I can only imagine what’s in store for Android 5.0. Once  Jelly Bean is released to the masses, Android may finally leave its laggy reputation behind and move forward. It’s already the most popular OS in the world and won’t be slowing down any time soon as it just gets even better.

 

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