Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sweets for Geeks: Jellybean on my Galaxy Nexus

Google officially announced its latest update to the Android mobile operating system at it's 'best' I/O ever last month.  Jellybean, aka Android 4.1.x, builds upon the Halo theme gui that Ice Cream Sandwich introduced and keeps with a consistent theme throughout the OS.  Several key new feature have been included in Jellybean including Google Now and a much improved notification system w/actions.

Intro: The Nexus Line advantage

It is definitely good to be back using a Google flagship phone! Previously I had been using an LG G2x and my Sony Xperia X10 Mini and in turn usually was not running the latest Android OS offering (yes, i could run them via custom roms but since the source for the G2x was never released, the drivers are not ideal and in turn not as smooth performing).

Google flagship phones (Nexus line) usually get the latest OS offers first since they are the devices that Google itself is testing on.  The Nexus One was the first device to go by this model and to date still gets OS updates via the dev community.  Plus these devices also run a pure Google experience; no custom launchers or add-ons. Android as it should be, vanilla stock.  However, a few carriers (cough, verizon and sprint) have slowed the updates to their flavor of Galaxy Nexus devices but that is mainly due to their own testing methods and the hardware is different than the GSM/HSPA+ version the rest of the world and ATT/Tmobile USA use.  I personally hate CDMA based carriers for lack of phones and incompatibility outside of the USA. FYI!

Jellybeans for all!

Jellybean is actually officially available to Galaxy Nexus devices starting this week.  To see more on this, check out the Google+ news release here. You can also get the files for the updates here (android source code repository).  Google will be pushing the OTA updates to devices starting this week.  I personally updated via a custom rom from after the IO. also has several other Jellybean custom roms available for download/flashing.  MCR roms are usually very close to stock and in turn the main reason I use them.

Jellybean features

Google Now is a new feature in Android 4.1/Jellybean that tries to utilize all of Google's info about you to help make your life easier.  Some will compare it to Siri for iOS and yes Google Now does do voice recognition and also text to speech playback, but I say its a total different beast.  I've used Google for over 10 years now and also have taken advantage of most newer location based tech (gps, location history tracking) within Google apps.  I have location history for the last 6 years via Google Latitude.  Some people freak out with the thought of a company knowing so much about them however I am not too worried.  What would they do with that info anyways? Follow me around? Track me? They'd just get bored watching me at coffee shops and geeking at home. ;)

Back to Google Now.  You can activate it by swiping from the home button and up.  To initiate a voice search or query, say "Google" or hit the Mic icon and then ask your search.  Example, "Delta flight DL 4343" will bring up flight info on screen and a voice telling you the info too.  Google has done a great job in the ai voice, it sounds closer to human than Siri imo.

Google Now lets you also do basic knowledge inquiries to it too, so you can ask.  "How tall is the empire state building?" or "Who is the leader of Canada?" etc.  Google's voice recognition software and algorithm are top notch. They've been experimenting with and analyzing voice data for years now.  The killer piece of Jellybean is that the voice recognition data can now be saved locally on your phone and will work if you don't have an internet connection.  Yes, its that good :)
Voice typing is really easy and accurate if in the proper areas (ie not so good in noisy areas but great in quiet areas).  I've used it to type a full email, it is on par with and slightly better than Dragon Naturally and of course Microsoft's Win7 builtin voice recognition.

The Application drawer has remained the same as it was from ICS and has a store link in the upper right.

However, the Notification tray got a much needed and wanted update.  You can now do actions from the tray itself such as share pics/screenshots or play voicemails.  Android has always nailed notifications and still is tops on this one.

Realworld Usage/Battery

Finally, the real test.  Using it in the real world and as a daily phone (ie must not crash or freeze up).  So far, my Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Modaco MCR JR2 rom has been running very smooth and stable.  Zero lockups or reboots.  Zero lag in the OS or apps.  Camera app works very well, at one point i ended up taking 6 photos cuz i thought i wasn't even taking it.  Resolution/Camera hardware itself is the only downfall, I came from a 8mp LG G2x vs the 5mp  in the Gnex.

I average about 14-15 hours of usage on a single charge.  This involves running a push email app Good (work email) constantly in the background,  an hour in total call time and constant gmail updates and twitter/facebook notifications set to every 3 hours, display brightness set to auto, wifi/bt/hspa data on, sleep set to 1min.   My Tmobile data speeds in Minneapolis, MN average in the 5-7Mbps down and 2-3Mbps up. So faster than most home user's DSL.

Overall, Jellybean is a solid and stable OS.  It looks great and has features that iOS has yet to introduce or come close to (face unlock, google now, offline voice recognition, cached google maps and turn by turn for free navigation to name a few).