Google has finally unveiled the next update to its mobile phone operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
Key highlights of the new software include support for blind users via external braille devices and gesture feedback, a new Project Butter super-smooth UI and offline voice typing.
Also key is a new search interface that will provide a graphically rich initial result – such as images, dictionary entries or full weather readouts – but then revert to a standard list of text results if you need more. It also features Google Now, which is a new service that attempts to predict what information you want and when you want it. For instance it’ll tell you as you’re leaving work that your normal route home is blocked so you’d better take a suggested alternative. It does this by using historic search data, location data and some personal data, so it’s not one for the conspiracy theorists among you. But for the rest of us it could prove very useful.
The new search interface also now supports text to speech, so if you use the new offline voice typing feature to ask Google search a question it will speak the answer back to you.
Further improvements include new homescreen widget management and new camera/gallery interfaces. Widgets will now resize automatically depending on what other shortcuts and widgets you’ve already got on screen, making it much easier to get just the layout you want quickly and easily.
The new software will first be available on the Google Nexus 7 tablet which launches today for $199. Meanwhile the Motorola Xoom tablets and previous Nexus phones will get the update in mid July.