So much for how Jelly Bean looks to the eye and reacts to the touch. Yet where it has improved the most obviously is in the notification area. Notifications are now larger, show more information and can be expanded or collapsed. For instance, if you get a new Gmail the notification shows you a preview of what the mail says.
Similarly, you can see the details of your social network notifications – including photographs – and like or retweet from the notification menu. In fact, the notifications system now functions like a stripped-down OS in its own right.
An entirely new presence on the lock screen is the Google logo. You either drag it or swipe up from the bottom of the screen at any time and Google Now launches. This is Android’s much-vaunted local and personal information feed. Based on your searches, calendar info and suchlike, Google utilises what it knows about you – which for good or ill seems pretty much everything – and then predicts what information you might like to see.
So, the next train from the platform you are standing on; the traffic en-route to a location in your calendar; a good place to eat nearby or the journey time to the airport for a flight you Googled, all this will pop up as and when Android thinks it germain. What's more, it even works here in Blighty and quickly started to show me cards relevant to my daily activities.
The new implementation of Voice Search, however, is something I will be using more often as it turns out to be very good. The system’s ability to understand natural language and reply in the same is certainly on a par with Siri on the iPhone. As well as speaking back search results, Android now presents an easy-to-read index card showing you the information you requested. Swipe this away and you find the more traditional web results below.
Voice Search speaks and shows answers
The keyboard looks much the same as before but now has improved predictive abilities though they are nothing you couldn't get before from a third party keyboard app. Far more useful is the new off-line voice typing facility, which lets you dictate into your Android device even if you don’t have a data connection. That’s seriously useful on the 3G-less Nexus 7.