Android Jelly Bean launch brings Google Play expansion
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) released the latest update of its Android mobile operating system at its annual I/O developer conference Wednesday, concurrently launching a co-branded tablet with partner Asus as well as an overhauled Google Play multimedia storefront.
The new Android 4.1, nicknamed "Jelly Bean," promises a smoother and more responsive UI across the system, highlighted by triple buffering in the graphics pipeline for more consistent rendering as well as synchronized touch to reduce latency. Jelly Bean also brings a revamped homescreen that automatically adapts to fit content and a predictive keyboard.
New developer APIs introduced with Android 4.1 include expandable notifications supporting larger, richer user alerts that can be expanded or collapsed with a pinch; simplified Bluetooth-based data transfer via Android Beam; bi-directional text support; gesture mode for accessibility services; low-level access to platform hardware and software codecs; Wi-Fi Direct service discoverability; and network bandwidth management tools including tethering to a mobile hotspot.
The new Android 4.1 is nicknamed "Jelly Bean."
All Android apps downloaded from Google Play now automatically enable smart updates: When a new version of an app is uploaded to the store, the Android device downloads only the elements of the app that have been tweaked, reducing bandwidth and battery consumption. In addition, all premium Android apps optimized for Jelly Bean and future Android versions are encrypted with a device-specific key before they are delivered and stored on the smartphone or tablet, a move to reduce app piracy.
With the release of Android 4.1, Google also is revamping Google Play to support digital movie purchases; the store previously offered rentals of feature films. Google Play also will sell both individual episodes of television series alongside complete seasons. Content partners include NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Disney, Bravo, Paramount and Sundance. Also new to Google Play: Magazine subscriptions and single-issue sales, highlighted by publications from Condé Nast and Hearst.
Speaking at Google I/O in San Francisco, Android Engineering Director Chris Yerga said Google Play (formerly Android Market) now sells premium Android apps in 132 international markets and offers free apps in 190 countries. Consumers have installed 20 billion apps to date. Yerga added that more than 50 percent of Android developer revenues derive from sales of in-app goods like new game levels.
Android 4.1 and the Google Play expansion coincide with the introduction of the Asus-made Nexus 7 tablet, which runs Jelly Bean. Designed as a multimedia-themed device to rival Amazon's Android-powered Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 touts a 1280x800 HD display and is powered by Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chipset. The tablet also features a front-facing camera as well as support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications, and offers nine hours of video playback time and 300 hours standby battery time. The Nexus 7 is the first Android device to ship with Google's Chrome browser as its default browser option.
Google Play will offer two versions of the Nexus 7: An 8 GB model priced at $199 and a 16 GB model priced at $249. Google will begin shipping the device to customers in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia in mid-July, with additional markets to follow.
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