Both Apple and Microsoft have announced their new mobile operating systems in the last 10 days. On Wednesday 27th June it will be the turn of Google to show us its vision of the future of mobile, with its expected announcement of the new version of Android, Jelly Bean.
With some very promising new features added in both iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8, it’s clearly time for Google to up its game, or risk having its Android OS superseded by the pioneering feats of other mobile platforms.
But what exactly will we see announced in Google’s presentation of Jelly Bean? As you’d imagine there are plenty of rumors circulating around the web that might give us an idea. Here are some of the more plausible changes to Android that will be announced:
User interface improvements
Ice Cream Sandwich brought with it some significant changes to the default interface design. Given that Jelly Bean comes so hot on its heels don’t expect a radical overhaul of the look and feel of the OS.
Android 4.1 (or 5.0, depending on how Google decides to number Jelly Bean) could bring some subtle changes to the interface design. Many bloggers have got excited about a screenshot on the Google Play page for the official I/O app, which seems to show a new interface that could be Jelly Bean.
The grab in question suggests some minor tweaks to the home screen, including a solid search bar with transparency, a different shade of blue used for elements in the status bar, and a very subtly redesigned dock. Check for yourself and see if you can spot the difference between ICS and Jelly Bean (or rather, the alleged look of Jelly Bean).
The general consensus seems to be that many of the changes in the new Android OS will be geared towards tablet devices. Although we’ll stop short at saying Jelly Bean will be a tablet-only update (like the Honeycomb OS was) it’s clear that Google is ramping up its efforts to beat Apple’s iPad in the battle for the coffee table.
The 7-inch Google Asus Nexus tablet could be announced at the I/O event and if so it seems likely that Google would want to make a big deal about the Nexus tablet being the first device to get Jelly Bean.
Dual boot with Chrome OS/Windows 8
To further push the attractiveness of Android to tablet and netbook makers, Jelly Bean could support the ability to dual boot with another OS. Some rumors suggest that the most logical choice for this would be Google’s own Chrome OS, as it would give a much-needed boost to the failing operating system.
However, there are some more ambitious rumors that say that Android Jelly Bean could be dual booted with Windows 8. In our opinion this would be the most interesting option both for consumers and hardware vendors, though if this happens it would effectively consign Chrome OS to the trash can.
Chrome as default browser
While the Chrome OS looks doomed, the fortunes of the Chrome browser for Android couldn’t look rosier. In our opinion it’s a better option than the default app, and it’s likely that Google will adopt Chrome as the native browser in Android OS. There’s a consensus among Android bloggers that this will happen, and looking at Google’s alleged Jelly Bean screenshot above you’ll notice that it’s the Chrome icon that’s sitting in the dock rather than that of the default Android browser.
Built-in file manager
Android has always lacked a default file management tool, and until know users have had to rely on apps such as Astro File Manager or ES File Explorer to organize their data. Word is that this will be put straight in Jelly Bean, with a file manager built into the operating system.
This, by my reckoning, would make it the only major smartphone platform other than Symbian to have out-of-the-box file management support. It’s certainly something that Android users could brag about to their iOS and Windows Phone-using friends.
Siri-style voice assistant
Another thing that could hush cocky iPhone 4S users would be the inclusion of a Siri-style voice-assistant in Android Jelly Bean.
There have been attempts by several third-party developers to replicate Siri on Android, but most have fallen wide of the mark. The most promising is probably Iris, but even this is pretty limited in comparison to its Apple equivalent and accuracy is poor.
Aside from snapping up someone else’s technology, it looks like Google will expand its own voice capabilities to try and make a more complete version of Siri for Android. TechCrunch has already revealed that Google is working on a solution, code-named ‘Assistant’, which it hopes will go beyond Siri in many ways. There’s even talk that the service will be extended to developers so they can build interesting applications and features centered around ‘Assistant’.
It could be too early for an announcement about a Google voice assistant in Jelly Bean, but the more optimistic rumor mongers suggest we might be surprised.
What are you hoping to see announced for Android at the Google I/O event? Do you think Android is now falling behind iOS and Windows Phone?