SAN FRANCISCO — Android OS version 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean, will ship mid-July, Google announced at its I/O Conference this week. This new version of the operating system includes a ground-up reworking of the graphics rendering system, and brings triple buffering and vsync to bear on all OS animations.

Codenamed Project Butter, the effort to smooth out animations in Jelly Bean was demonstrated with a high-speed camera. Dave Burke, the Google engineer charged with directing Project Butter, said that all animations are now rendered at 60 frames per second across all applications and without the need for new code from third-party application developers.

Those independent developers will also be pleased with another major change in Jelly Bean: Applications are now encrypted with a device-specific key. This will help to cut down on the rampant piracy present on the Android platform. (A quick search of popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay yielded dozens of Android collections for download, with some pirate torrents that included well over 3,000 Android applications.)

Hugo Barra, director of the Android platform at Google, said that signed encryption will ensure developers will earn money from their work. He also reintroduced the revamped Google Play store, formerly known as the Android Marketplace. The new store resembles the store interface used by Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, which offers large boxes with movies, books and music made available for purchase in a flashier style than the typical app store’s.

For developers looking to optimize their Android applications, Jelly Bean includes a new tool known as Systrace. This new performance profiler offers a dynamic graph of performance across the Android operating system. In a demonstration, Barra showed a profile in which the database was the bottleneck, and Systrace showed a gap in all performance graphs whenever the database was used, making it obvious where the problem lied.

For hardware manufacturers and designers, Android now offers a Platform Development Kit. The PDK includes documentation and source code for the low-level APIs in Android, and will help hardware designers to build their devices from the ground up to support Android. The PDK will be made available two to three months before every new Android OS release, starting with Jelly Bean, and its PDK is available today.

Accessibility is a major new theme in Jelly Bean as well. The Android team has unleashed speech-to-text recognition from the Internet, meaning offline users can now talk to their phones. This has further implications for blind users, who are now targeted with a combination of this speech recognition, new gesture-based interface controls, and added support for braille devices.
Search in the spotlight
Google Now is the newest search capability on Android. With a user’s search history, location data and calendar info, Google Now can tailor search results for that user. Given a calendar item referring to specific flight information, Google Now returns results that may include the arrival time for that flight, public transit information for getting to the airport, and any other pertinent information it can find.

Google’s other product lines were also updated at Google I/O. The company pushed hard to expand the capabilities of its social network, Google+. On the second day of the show, the company unveiled versions of its Chrome browser for Android under Jelly Bean, and for both iPhone and iPad.

About Alex Handy

Alex Handy is the Senior Editor of Software Development Times.