Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Review

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Review
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean has finally started arriving on Samsung Galaxy Nexus devices in the last couple of days, and after we’ve spent just enough time to get used to the update, we can now say that we’re left very impressed with what Google has done to Android. Here’s why.

Jelly Bean is not the most prolific update Android has seen, but it patches just the right places, and takes the experience up a notch.

Project Butter

First and foremost comes Project Butter, Google’s radical approach to exterminating lag on Android devices.

We remember the first time we got a dual-core phone in our hands last year. The handset was the LG Optimus 2X, which didn’t make much of a splash eventually, but the true shock was that even with a dual-core processor it was laggy. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but choppy frame rates when opening the app drawer and a couple of seconds to open even the most basic app like the dialer were definitely not our idea of top notch performance. Things have been improving slowly but surely since then, but even now with quad-core chips on phones, Android still lags here and there.

Good news is that this is largely put an end to in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Project Butter makes almost every one of the built-in apps tick and open extremely snappily. We’ve been using the Galaxy Nexus as our daily driver for quite a while, and after the update we were shocked at the increase in speed and smoothness. Actually, often times the 8-month old G Nexus would beat the Samsung Galaxy S III, that’s how much of a difference JB makes.

Google Now

We know you’re all curious about Google Now, and deservedly so. Google Now is basically an intelligent system that taps into your search history, calendar and locations to learn more about you and your lifestyle - where you work, eat, sleep. You access it by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. It might scare those who are frantic about security, but in exchange for your data, you get information relevant to your location and time automatically pop up on your screen.

Leaving home for work? A card would pop up with driving directions. Passing by a restaurant you looked up earlier? A card would pop up with the place and its menu. Your favorite team played yesterday? The phone will automatically give you a card with the score and highlights.

Best of all is that all that action happens without you setting up anything - completely automatic. Moreover, Google Now learns from your everyday routine and will guess what you want to do depending on the day and give you the relevant information in a card. Cards are basically just neatly formatted snippets of information. Right now, Google Now gives you cards with information about weather, traffic, appointments, transit information, flights, sports, places, translation and currency.

All of this is good and works well, especially in dense urban areas, but we feel Google Now is a good start to a future intelligent assistant, a system that will have a lot more information about you, a promise for tomorrow rather than today.

Google Voice Search

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean also introduces an improved Google Voice Search that now makes full use of Google’s knowledge graph. Also, it understands you extremely well and often times speaks back to you in a shockingly natural and smooth voice. We liked Siri for what it promised to do - bring intelligent voice input to mobile phones, but Siri can only learn from Google’s Voice Search.

The voice platform on Android is dramatically faster and more accurate, saving you tons of frustration. When it knows the answer from the Knowledge Graph, a neatly formatted white card will summarize it, and if not it will just search Google. Overall, we were very pleased with the search and happy to see it works in 21 different languages.

Lots of small other improvements

There are tons of other small improvements to the system that show Google’s work on detail in Jelly Bean. Android head designer Matias Duarte has left his mark and you could definitely see some ideas from webOS with its brilliant gestures arrive on Android.

If we had to point out a single favorite vector of improvement in Android that would be exactly gestures. Now, they are baked into the gallery app where you flick images up to delete them (very useful when you snap tens of images with burst mode shot), into the notifications tray where you can preview emails by pinching in, into Chrome where you slide from the side to switch tabs and so on.

The notifications tray is one thing Google is really improving recently. In Jelly Bean, the dropdown window is less cluttered. Now, you can pinch in to expand a certain notification or long hold a notification to go into the app where it comes from and mute all messages from that app if it’s bugging you.

We love the keyboard in ICS and in Jelly Bean it’s even better. One thing we really like is the iOS-like globe button for quickly changing of languages, so you don’t have to somewhat weirdly slide the space bar. Google is also bringing better dictionaries and predictions, for those who use them.

Finally, the interface has changed just a little bit with more whites contrasting in the lock screen and a brighter Google search bar to contrast the neon colors of ICS. Jelly Bean brings resizable widgets, so it’s easier to arrange widgets across your home screen. Boot up time is also noticeably faster in Android 4.1.


Android 4.1 Jelly Bean would have been huge even if only for Project Butter. We were pleasantly surprised how much faster and smoother Android got on our Galaxy Nexus after the update. Google Voice Search is also a huge deal for drivers and those using voice more often - it’s extremely accurate and mind-bogglingly quick.

Google Now is a very interesting attempt to leverage that huge amount of data we feed into our computers every day. We felt it was more of an interesting experiment for the moment, though - something we’d love to see in products like Google’s Project Glass and in future technology.

Jelly Bean is a jump rather than a small step for Android. Question is how big of a jump and that’s debatable. In our opinion, Project Butter makes the platform so smooth we’d rather be using a Galaxy Nexus that’s starting to show its age with Jelly Bean rather than any other brand new phone at the moment, even the Galaxy S III. And that’s telling, isn’t it?



3. Tjey007

Posts: 86; Member since: May 22, 2012

cant wait to get on my S3.

6. lascoul

Posts: 2; Member since: May 24, 2012

Experience the use in my very old galaxy s. I can confirm that project butter is a winner

8. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 556; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

phonearena, i want to see comparison between WP8 and android 4.1 regarding project butter with same hardware on both devices.then only i will certify android as a winner in project butter.lets see who's fast and fluid...........

107. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1273; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Compare when WP becomes TRUE-multi tasking OS and NOT fake one like now...

14. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011


16. KineticArc

Posts: 11; Member since: Jun 29, 2011

Has Project Butter improved the horrid frame rates when a live wallpaper is being used? I leave live wallpapers turned off on my Galaxy Nexus for a reason. Surely vsync and triple buffering means we can have a consistent 60fps whether or not live wallpapers are enabled?

21. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

Something I have noticed about live wallpapers is that it's more about the wallpaper than anything. I will say that most live wallpapers still show stutter when swiping across home screens or opening the app drawer. What's interesting to me is the one live wallpaper I have that actually let's me "adjust" FPS will run perfectly smooth if I set it to 100 FPS when by default it's set at 50 or so.. I'm wondering how many live wallpapers have poorly written code (or whatever) that makes it stutter regardless of how good the hardware is.

99. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Which is one reason I just use Live Wallpapers for show n tell. Like wallpapers on desktops have issues, so I knew it was gonna have issues on phones.

105. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I meant Live wallpapers on desktops have issues.

106. Luuthian

Posts: 332; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

It has. This problem was fixed by a number of custom ROMs, but Project butter makes it official.

17. thedarkside

Posts: 654; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

project butter, i choose you!

19. jackhammeR

Posts: 1548; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I'd rather take S III or even S II than nexus. JB is not such a huge step forward to sacrifice a better hardware.

26. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

the OMAP4460 is really not that far a cry from the Exynos 4210 and it adds LTE support so i'd say the Nexus is better than the SII but as far as the Nexus vs. the SIII the buying decision is obvious but should somebody go from a Nexus to an SIII? i don't think so.

37. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

If your comfortable enough with root and like AOSP / AOKP roms, I'd go with the SGS3 when there is a 100% stable 4.1 ROM available. If they can keep the Samsung camera driver/app working on the ROM that would be a huge + over the stock app.. which is still one of stock's weak points. If you want stock without all the mess, my recommendation is to wait another month or 2 and see what the next Nexus rumors will bring. If it comes around november, there is a pretty decent chance it will boast an A15 chip of some sort and at least an 8mpx camera (with better optics damnit!).. both would be a very substantial upgrade to the current nexus. But hey, if you want a great phone for cheap, the unlocked GSM nexus cant be beat. $350 brand new and unlocked gets you all the latest apps all the time. Sooner or later though, the SGS3 will get the official 4.1 upgrade if you dont mind waiting. then you get the software AND hardware thats 3-4x as powerful as the nexus. But you will be paying the premium for that.

22. threeline

Posts: 320; Member since: Sep 11, 2011

When will the Spint GNex get JB 4.1?

29. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1777; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Right now if you're rooted :D

25. thunderising

Posts: 232; Member since: Nov 25, 2011

Hope this actually makes it to handsets man!

27. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

looking forward to getting it n my Razr! ;D

33. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Me too. Can you help me root my razr? I'm a little nooby, but will it clear my data?

34. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

I do not think that rooting the RAZR will clear your data in the sense that your pictures etc are stored on your SD card. You will most likely lose all app data as far as text messages, saved games, etc. There is generally a way to back all of this up. If you are interested in rooting your RAZR I would recommend starting at or simply "Googling" "Droid RAZR root".

40. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

I know how to Google bud. It's just that the instructions are not clear for me and most of the fourms are more advanced. I was asking KingKurogiii... not trying to be rude or anything but thanks for the help. :)

36. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

you won't lose anything for just rooting. download Mattlgroff's Droid Razr Utility 1.81 on your Mac or PC and run it with your phone plugged in. there should be an option to make it run a script that'll root your Razr.

39. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Anything AT ALL? Because ^^ said i will.

58. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

no, you won't lose a thing. I don't know why he said that. maybe he thinks you're preparing to flash a ROM and in that case you WOULD lose things. after rooting you need to get Titanium Backup and Voodoo OTA Root Keeper. the former to make backups and freeze apps and the ladder to quickly restore your root permissions after flashing a new ROM.

48. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Gotcha, and is there any reason to use a different method?

59. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

that's just the easiest method I can think of and Mattlgroff really packs some useful things into his Utilities and he updates often so it's good to have anyway.

43. Ohrules

Posts: 327; Member since: Jun 11, 2012

has the name of the next android been amounced? i remember hearing jelly bean around the time when ics was released.

47. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

No, but I think the speculation is that it is going to be made my Motorola since they have that partnership with Google or whatever.

70. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Oh scratch that, I thought you were talking about the name of the next Nexus, not Android OS. I think it is Key Lime Pie, but not sure.. might be Kiwi.

62. JonBjSig

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

People have been saying it's going to be named Key Lime Pie.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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