Google Slips Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Details

Google accidentally spilled some beans about Android 4.1 Jelly Bean ahead of its official Google I/O debut. Here's what Google's slip-up says about the next version of Android.
Samsung's Android Super Smartphone: Galaxy SIII
Samsung's Android Super Smartphone: Galaxy SIII
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Eagle-eyed Web surfers noticed on Thursday that the listing for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the Google Play Store had some new information. That new information said that the Galaxy Nexus would be receiving the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update in the coming weeks.

But wait a minute--Android 4.1 Jelly Bean hasn't even been officially announced. Whoops.

The information, which of course has since been pulled, called out only a few new features for the next version of Android. The images showed a new Google search bar and a new background image. The app launcher looks a little bit different and other user interface tweaks abound. That's about it, though. Google didn't reveal anything else about Jelly Bean.

What it didn't say, however, leaves enough room to make a number of assumptions.

[ Check out Samsung's feature-packed new smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S III: Hands-On Test Wows. ]

First, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean won't be a major, system-wide upgrade. Android's upgrade path has been anything but linear, at least if you look at the version numbers. Android has included versions 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, and 4.0. (For the sake of this example, I am ignoring iterative updates such as 2.3.6 or 4.0.4.) Not all of these versions were given a dessert nickname. For example, Android 2.0 and 2.1 are both Eclair, and Android 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2 are all Gingerbread.

The differences between Android 1.x and 2.x were a big deal, as were the differences between 2.x and 3.x, and again between 3.x and 4.x. This points to the likelihood that Android 4.1 will be a minor update.

It also calls to question the success of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. At last check, ICS was installed on about 8% of all Android devices. Android 4.0 has been available since October 2011, a full eight months ago. Android 4.0 was a huge step forward for the Android platform. It was such a significant update that many expected it to become the most popular version of the platform yet. Instead it has languished, being tweaked and customized in the labs of hardware makers and wireless network operators.

Motorola and Verizon Wireless, for example, are pushing Android 4.0 to the Motorola Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX starting today--eight months after promising to do so. Worse, new phones, such as the Sony Xperia Ion, which goes on sale June 24, are still shipping with Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

We know the Galaxy Nexus will be the first device to receive Android 4.1, but will any other devices have it? If so, which ones? Can phones go straight from 2.3 to 4.1, or is that even possible?

Google is sure to give us the lowdown next week at its Google I/O developer conference, which runs June 27 - June 29. InformationWeek will be on site to deliver continuous coverage of Google's big shebang.

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