June 28, 2012, 9:27 AM — After a day of Google I/O announcements, I finally got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system. I found that there are a few things that Google has done right with this update---and a few issues that still need work.
What It Did Right
Jelly Bean is fast, slick, and feels like what Ice Cream Sandwich should have been when it first launched six months ago. This performance boost is due to Project Butter, a processing framework designed to improve responsiveness, smooth out animations and reduce latency.
I compared the Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean to my own personal Galaxy Nexus (running Ice Cream Sandwich) and noticed the difference almost immediately. There is basically zero lag when opening applications, and scrolling between different home screens is amazingly smooth. The phone's user interface looks basically the same, but there have been little animations thrown in that give it a more polished look.
In Jelly Bean, every time you open an app, you get one of these brief animations that quickly zoom in on the app you just tapped. Is it superfluous? Sure. But it's the little details like this that make Jelly Bean more pleasant to use. There are a few other minor user interface tweaks, such as bigger, easier-to-tap icons.
The notification tray got a minor facelift, but the important change is in the notifications. You can expand certain notifications by using various two-finger gestures, allowing you to see more information at a glance.
Not all applications support this feature when I tried it out, but all of the pre-installed Google apps work. In fact, while writing this story, I received a Calendar alert telling me that I was going to be late to an event. When I went to the notification bar to see what the alert was concerning, I was able to see the name of the event (part of it anyway), the time and location, as well as a brief note describing the event.
Below that was a button that allowed me to "snooze" the alert, which I did without ever having to leave the notification pane. It's a smarter way of making notifications less intrusive, and I hope that third-party developers take advantage of this new feature.