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Android 4.1: Open Sourced with UI, Connectivity, Services and Tools Improvements

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The recently open sourced Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, comes with several UI, connectivity, services and SDK enhancements, including: smoother UI, better HTML5 rendering, cloud messaging, performance and debugging tools.

Jean-Baptiste Queru, Technical Lead of the Android Open Source Project, has recently announced the open sourcing of Jelly Bean. Many of the new enhancements are related to the user interface and are backed up by APIs, including:

  • Using a 16 ms heartbeat for vsync timing for all drawing and animations
  • Triple buffering for smoother rendering, scrolling, paging and animations
  • Reduced touch latency through synchronizing touch to vsync, anticipating finger position, and boosting CPU
  • New performance monitoring tool, systrace, collecting kernel data. It helps evaluating application performance
  • Support for bi-directional text and new languages
  • Expandable notifications containing text, icons, buttons
  • Improved HTML5 experience

Regarding connectivity, Jelly Bean adds:

  • Easier Android Beam transfers using Bluetooth
  • Support for DNS-based service discovery used to access services provided by other Wi-Fi devices
  • Wi-Fi Direct has been improved to discover pre-associated services

Other enhancements:

  • Google Cloud Messaging lets application developers to send short messages to users
  • Applications are encrypted with a device-specific key before being sent to the device via Google Play
  • Only new bits are downloaded during application updates, and not the entire APK

The new Android SDK Revision 20 comes with the following improvements:

  • New application templates for creating apps, activities, master-detail flows and custom views
  • GLES Tracer for tracing all OpenGL calls
  • Device Monitor for debugging applications and tools
  • Systrace: tracing low-level kernel activity

An important change is Google’s plan to provide the Platform Development Kit (PDK) to device manufacturers two months ahead of new Android releases. The move is intended to let manufacturers provide an update for selected devices shortly after the mobile OS is announced. Until now, many manufacturers have announced the 4.0.1 upgrade several months after ICS was released, some even more than 6 months later.

Although ICS and some of the previous versions of Android may support Flash, Jelly Bean is not supporting it. Adobe has announced that there “will be no certified implementations of Flash Player for Android 4.1” because they have stopped developing and testing it. Also, Flash won’t be available for download through Google Play after August 15th except for those devices that already have it installed. That means either the device comes with Flash pre-installed or the user installs it before August 15th. Adobe has published the list of Flash-certified Android devices.

Google has announced the availability of Jelly Bean OTA for Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ devices. Nexus S, Motorola Xoom and Nexus 7 owners are to get their OTA later this month.

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