Your Android Jelly Bean questions answered

With all the hubbub that's been made about Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), we're sure many of you have questions you're dying to have answered. After responding to questions on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Reddit, we compiled the most frequently asked questions into a FAQ. If you have a question that we didn't answer here, or just want to ask something more specific, leave a comment and we'll get back to you.

What are the main differences between Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich?

Jelly Bean still looks and behaves a lot like Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). There have been a few visual tweaks here and there, but most of the changes are taking place beneath the surface and won't affect much that you are aware of.

One tweak that you will notice, however, is Project Butter. Project Butter is Google's attempt to bring a smoother experience to Android. When you first get your hands on an Android phone or tablet running Jelly Bean, you'll notice instantly how much snappier and much more fluid the operating system feels in response to your input.

Aside from Project Butter, Jelly Bean also brings with it a new Camera app, interactive notifications that display more information, Google Now, a new voice recognition system, and offline support for voice dictation. We're still digging through Jelly Bean, and the final version hasn't hit our devices quite yet, so we'll let you know if we find any other major features you should know about.

What's your favorite thing about Jelly Bean?

We each have our own personal favorite Jelly Bean features. Ginny Mies and Melissa Perenson both like that widgets and icons now rearrange and resize themselves when you move them from one home screen to another. Armando Rodriguez is a fan of the new, more dynamic notifications, while Jason Cross puts his vote towards Google Now and the improved smoothness that Project Butter brings.

Performance?

Jelly Bean keeps things running smoothly for the most part, thanks to Project butter, and actions like scrolling through web pages are no longer as jerky as they once were. That said, some parts of the operating system still lag a bit, like when you bring up the recently used apps list. Another place you'll still notice significant lag is when launching the Camera app from the lock screen.

The system is very stable and responsive overall, and only a handful of apps have crashed (likely because they weren't built to run on anything higher than Android Gingerbread).

How well do games work?

Project Butter currently only affects input on the home screen and other basic areas of the OS. Games play much the same as they did before, so their performance will rely on the tablet or phone you are playing them on.

What is Google Now and how does it work?

Google Now as seen on the Nexus 7.

Google Now gives you the information that it thinks is most relevant to you, based on your time and current location. To get to the Google Now screen, you can either swipe up on the lock screen or swipe up from the bottom of the screen from anywhere in Android. The Google Now screen will pop up and populate itself with "cards" that relate to your recent Google searches, Google Calendar appointments, the weather for your area, places nearby that you might be interested in, and a handful of other bits of useful information. It's context-sensitive and location aware, so if you've looked up a specific flight using Google, you'll have a card appear on your Google Now page with details about that flight and what gate you need to board from.

Right now there are only ten types of cards, but Google has said that it will add more in the future.You'll need to opt-in to use Google Now, so you don't have use it if you don't want to.

Will Google Now work without an Internet connection?

Google Now will work if you don't have an Internet connection, but the cards won't update and you won't be able to do much other than swipe away cards you don't want to see.

How well does voice recognition work?

This was probably the second most asked question we received, along with questions asking whether Jelly Bean's voice capabilities were better than Apple's Siri. Our sister site PCWorld put both Siri and Jelly Bean's voice recognition to the test by asking a series of 17 questions and declaring a winner based on who gave a better response. We'll just say that voice recognition in Jelly Bean is really good.

Will my *insert name of device here* be updated to Jelly Bean?

Whenever a new version of Android is announced, this is usually the first thing people ask. Unfortunately other than the Motorola Xoom (Wi-Fi), the Samsung Nexus S, the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and the Nexus 7, no other devices at this time have been confirmed to get Jelly Bean. It could be several weeks or even months before carriers and manufacturers start rolling out updates for other devices, though if you're still waiting to be updated to Android Ice Cream Sandwich you shouldn't get your hopes up.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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