It’s official. Google has rolled the latest statue onto its lawn, meaning we’ll see Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) launched at this evening’s I/O conference.
So what features will it have? And what else will Google unveil? Here’s what we know, what we’re hoping for, and exactly how we reckon Jelly Bean will pound iOS 6 into the ground.
First up, what we know:
New Google Maps
There’s no love lost in the war with Apple, with the Cupertino company recently dropping Google Maps for iOS 6. Google wasn’t one to sit around moping, however; it unveiled its own update for Google Maps, bringing it offline, meaning you can find your way without racking up data charges, as well as in places with poor coverage. It lowered the price for developers by 88 per cent, too.
It also added 3D capabilities, thanks to cameras strapped to planes. So you’ll be able to soar above whole cities on your phone, rather than just stroll as a pedestrian. Apple may have bought a military company for missile-like accuracy for its own mapping software, but Google still has the edge in our book. Especially as it has Street View.
Google’s own tablet
Monday’s leak showed off the Nexus 7 – Google’s first tablet, made with Asus – in all its glory. It’s a 7-inch offering, so it won’t compete with the iPad, but still packs a 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor with 1GB RAM. NFC is on board for wireless payments, too. Storage is much lower than the iPad – it’ll come in 8 or 16GB versions.
An Asus exec has told Reuters the price will be more in line with the Kindle Fire than the iPad, so expect a cheaper device for watching and browsing on the move, rather than a proper mobile computer. Our guess at a price? Around £200.
Hopefully I/O will see Google’s wireless payment system take off. Microsoft also has its own version, known as the Wallet Hub, and Apple of course has Passbook for iOS 6. Google Wallet has so far been a bit of a letdown, but (just like Google TV) it was announced early and is only now gathering momentum. Here’s hoping Google can make Wallet more fully integrated within Android. And with months until iOS 6 and the NFC-enabled next iPhone touch down, Passbook may well be left playing catch up.
Those are the sure bets, but here’s what we want:
A Siri killer
With Samsung launching S-Voice on the Galaxy S3, and LG outing Quick Voice, everyone’s at the voice recognition game nowadays. Ok, so there’s Voice Actions for Android, but it doesn’t have the same flair and smarts of Apple’s digital butler. We want more accurate, natural voice recognition. We want all Google’s services tied into one. Frankly, we want the kind of voice activation seen in Project Glass, and we want it now.
Siri has certainly had its problems, with delays on local services for us Brits and the fact Apple’s only just added it to the iPad both hinting that maybe it’s not performing as well as it could. With Google’s huge range of services just a whisper away, a proper voice-activated dogsbody could well take Siri down a peg or two.
In-house Android updates
Along with Monday’s Nexus 7 leak came the rumour that Google will control all future Android updates, meaning an end to torturous waits for the latest version.
These have been a real bugbear of Android so far, so if Google can make it happen, that’ll be good news for everyone. Most of us are still waiting for Ice Cream Sandwich, after all. The fact that Apple controls all updates for iOS itself, rather than having to deal with partners, makes its updates a lot slicker, and simultaneous for all users. Make it so, Google.
Chrome for all
If you haven’t updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, Google’s program ‘Browser’ is your default way to get online. Chrome is still exclusively for ICS users, as it has been since its February debut on Google Play. This is because it’s still in beta. Still.
Chrome is easier to use, faster, and can sync your bookmarks and web history with your desktop browser. If Google can make Chrome available for everyone on Android (or even those of us stuck dragging our feet with Gingerbread), it’ll be a major boon.
Google’s I/O conference kicks off tonight. We’ll bring you all the news as soon as we get it.