- Google Chrome leaves Beta and becomes default: Certain improvements in terms of stability and performance made it into what is already the best browser in the Android Ecosystem. It has also become the default in Jelly Bean.
- Offline Maps: Yes, Google Maps for Android now supports offline maps, an awesome feature which will provide guidance even in places where there is no signal. It is also an amazing thing if you are planning a trip offshore and don't want to be killed by the ridiculous data roaming prices. Forget those paper maps which look like a bed sheet folded a thousand times, all you need is your phone. The fact that the app provides an estimate of the storage space the offline map will use before downloading it is an added plus, so users may choose whether they want to download it over data network or WiFi.
- Google Earth 3D Maps: Yes, what was presented as the ultimate Wow element by Apple in recent weeks, to hit iPhone devices "sometime in Autumn", is already available for Google Android users. The service is limited to a few big cities (with more to come in coming weeks) and only works on devices with multiple core CPUs (Apple 3D maps will only work on the iPhone 4S and up), but still, it is quite a nice feature and works very well. I will be the first to admit that it is a gimmick more than anything else, though, so in a sense it feels good that Google does not make such a big fuzz out of it.
- Street View enhancements: I am still surprised that Apple would pull its users out of Google Maps without having an alternative for Street View. In my opinion, it is leaps and bounds more useful than any 3D view, and a feature that is very much part of how I guide myself inside the city when using a map. In this upgrade it has received stability and performance enhancements, as well as the awesome Compass mode.
- Google+ properly dressed for tablets: This update for Android brings some performance and stability changes, but most significant is the new Tablet specific UI. The mobile phone UI has also been redesigned and it looks a lot better than it used to. Google+ events and full Google Calendar integration were also presented as new features, both immediately available to all Android users.
- Google Play improvements: Again, a quiet update, but a significant one. Google Play My Apps section now allows users to both update and uninstall apps, which means Android users can do pretty much all there is to software management without even pulling their device out of their pocket/purse. No cables, no specific PC required, no Wifi, just access to the Internet. In addition, the list of installed applications only shows those currently on the device, with others that have been installed/uninstalled at some point being listed on a different section.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean... and more!
The latest version of Google Android was presented just days ago and, being an Ice Cream Sandwich user myself, I have to admit I am excited with what I have seen so far. It seems some people were expecting another game changer, though, another revolution, but the move to build on and continue to expand and improve ICS awesome features is just right, in my opinion. Google has been criticized heavily because of a lack of stability in their environment, a lack of consistency, which was caused by the rapid growth and development rate. However, with essentially the most advanced set of features on a mobile device, Google decided to get the most of what is good while improving the rest. This also means that developers will have a chance to continue to polish their applications and make revenue out of them without headaches for many months to come. Moreover, while ICS adoption was still SLOW in the first half of 2012, it seems to be gaining momentum quickly and many signs point to a dramatic increase of Android 4.x devices before the end of the year. Most manufacturers have made significant progress in this regard (Samsung FINALLY managed to get it ready for their Galaxy SII users, while many Motorola, Sony and HTC users are getting their updates now), but the addition of very successful devices like the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III should also help renew the Android playground. ...WAIT, A NEW RELEASE AND IT IS NOT JELLY BEAN? Excitement around Jelly Bean features is logically building up and lots of users wonder when they will get them, but it strikes me as odd that many awesome new things are happening in the background that are somewhat making little or no noise, things that are almost important enough to be considered a release by themselves. This is perhaps due to the fact that Google are not as good as Apple in selling what they offer, or maybe they just don´t want to be, who knows... In the recent presentation of Apple's iOS 6, we saw a bunch of new features, some OS related, some others very much app related, like the switch to a new Apple Maps system. In fact, looking at the official feature LIST, most new features are actually application specific. In contrast, Google presented Jelly Bean today and limited their presentation to features that are mostly OS specific, leaving others (still very important ones) a bit on the side. However, most Android users received very important upgrades during Google I/O, things that, had they been iOS devices, would be on the front cover of every tech source today. Here´s a short list: