Ultimate Guide To Nexus (Part 3)

9/26/2013 5:44:13 PM

Voice recognition

As well as a slick new user interface, the capabilities of voice search have been considerably improved now, most notably with the ability to dictate messages without using the keyboard while in offline mode.

And the voice searching facility has become a whole lot better as well. No longer are you simply talking aloud what you could be typing - you are now able to speak to your smartphone or tablet as though it’s alive.

Ask it how tall Tom Cruise is, for example, and you’ll get a card result of little Tommy’s face, along with his height details. Your Nexus device will also tell you just how small he really is.

It’s not exclusively about getting celebrities’ heights, though - you can ask it about the weather, the stock prices, pretty much anything you like, and it will respond. Providing it understands you, that is...

Gmail additions

Gmail hasn’t been left out of the Jelly Bean revolution, getting a spruce up which includes both optimization for smaller tablets - making it easier to read your mails and keep on top of your inbox at the same time - along with the new notification options that we touched on earlier.

Offline Maps

Maps users now have the ability to save area data for when they have no connection, which comes in quite handy for a Wi-Fi only device, such as the Nexus 7, or when roaming in strange and foreign lands.

We were able to select the majority of Greater London, as well as large parts of the Home Counties, while staying below the roughly 80MB limit for a single offline zone. However, the new ‘My Places’ menu enables you to save as many as you’d like - storage space permitting, of course.

As well as making content available offline and including additional reviews for chosen locations, Google Compass has been integrated deeper into Google Maps, particularly in the new indoor mode, which enables you to look around the room of a restaurant, for example, to get a more detailed viewing of the location you’re planning to visit.

Offline Maps

Buttery Calendar

Google’s words, not ours - it really loves the butter then, eh? The new calendar app now enables users to send emails out to everyone if, for instance, you can’t make a meeting. You’ll also see a wealth of new animations, colored entries, default quick responses for invites and a snooze button for when you’re tied up.

The interface has been optimized for 7-inch tablets, and with that you’ll have the option to expand or hide the controls. Add to this the redesigned Today tab, and you're looking at a vastly superior setup and, hopefully, a more organized you - although any failings with the latter can’t be laid at Google's door because there’s no excuses now.

Face unlocking

If you loved the Face Unlock feature introduced with Android 4.0 but had concerns about somebody being able to use your photo to access the handset, worry no more. Google has beefed up Jelly Bean with a blink detector, which now asks the user to blink their eyes to confirm they are a living, breathing human being and not just a static image.

The Face Unlock tech introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich was soon found to be easily bypassed using a photograph of the phone’s owner. Google’s new feature, that it’s calling Liveness Check, should mean an end to such shenanigans.

Face unlocking

Face unlocking

Security guard

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean won’t be as easy to exploit as older versions, because it is the first Android edition to properly incorporate address space layout randomization (ASLR). ASLR is an industry-standard defense against hackers looking to install malware on your devices.

ASLR randomizes the memory locations for the library, stack, heap and other data structures, which means that there's no way of the hacker telling where the malware will land when it’s on the handset, rendering it scrambled.

Factor in a second layer of defense, known as non-executable memory protection, and you’ve got yourself some basically harmless code instead of malicious malware running on your Nexus device.

Better People

The People app, first introduced in Android 4.0, has been vastly improved second time around, with the inclusion of improved search performance, smoother animations, high-res images for your Google+ pals and automatic image syncing.

You can also add your favorite contacts to a homescreen, directly from the contact’s details page, or clear the frequently contacted list from the favorites tab with ease. All this and a newly optimized UI as well. And it’s all much more “buttery” too. You just knew it would be, didn’t you?

Google ears

Introducing a much deeper integration of Google Play into the Jelly Bean Ul, Sound Search is a Shazam-like widget that can identify a song, revealing information about the track name, artists and the album it is taken from.

The ‘What's this song?’ query sits anywhere on the homescreen. Tap it while a song is playing and the device throws up EQ-style meters as it analyses the tune; if recognized, track, artist and cover art info are displayed next to a button for buying the song from Google Play Music.

The Sound Search widget correctly identified most of the tracks we threw at it, with only some of the more obscure (and presumably Google Play-less) songs tossed back as unidentified. Unfortunately, it’s US-only at the moment, though.

YouTube views

YouTube views

The video sharing app has been given a smart new high-definition makeover, bringing an interface much more suited to the 7-inch surroundings of the Nexus 7. This includes the new side navigation bar, which enables you to jump into categories such as trending videos and recommended clips.

The YouTube app can now preload videos from subscribed channels for quicker playback even on sluggish networks. And, with a new integrated menu, you can easily watch your favorite clips on your big screen TV with Nexus Q or YouTube TV.

Blind improvements

Google has finally caught up with the excellent accessibility options Apple bakes into iOS, by now allowing blind users to use a new Gesture Mode in Jelly Bean.

This means that visually impaired Android fans can navigate the Ul with only touch and speech output. New APIs also extend these abilities, allowing developers to offer external Braille input/output devices capable of connecting via USB or Bluetooth.

TalkBack, the accessibility feature that provides spoken feedback (such as describing what has been touched or selected on the screen) has also seen gesture support added to its repertoire, in order to make it much easier for people to navigate their Android device and use it naturally.

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