Jelly Bean Rolling Out

Stephen Yagielowicz

The Android rumor mill recently kicked into high gear with the premature release of a product announcement that listed among its many features, the new Android 4.1 OS — tastily code-named “Jelly Bean” — the latest of Google’s dessert inspired product names. Previous incarnations of Android included Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich — named as if to instill hunger among consumers.

Analysts expected Google to announce the next version of Android during its annual I/O developer conference, but a posting on the Google Play storefront (since removed) claimed that the new $399 Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ Smartphone is “the first phone with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.”

If you currently own an Android Smartphone, this is yet another update that you’re unlikely to see delivered to your handset [because] none of the major players have an interest in delivering the update to you.

Little else was known about the new OS (a screenshot revealed updated user and search interfaces), but much was being guessed — and hoped for. For example, a recent posting on Wired.com highlighted a number of desired features, including the default use of Google’s Chrome browser; more unified messaging; programmable user “gestures;” more applications built in to the OS; and a “Do Not Disturb” feature that is akin to the one Apple intends for its iOS 6.

What fans received when the product finally launched on June 27, according to Android Product Manager Angana Ghosh, is “a smoother and more responsive UI across the system, a home screen that automatically adapts to fit your content, a powerful predictive keyboard, richer and more interactive notifications, larger payload sizes for Android Beam sharing and much more.”

Visit http://developer.android.com/about/versions/jelly-bean.html for a feature list.

While those who can make use of the OS’ new features will doubtlessly applaud this latest release, a relatively small audience will apparently get to enjoy it.

For example, the year-old Ice Cream Sandwich powers only seven percent of Android devices; while the older Gingerbread is on 65 percent of devices, followed by Froyo with its 19.1 percent market share — a pattern echoed on the desktop by the continuing users of Windows XP — despite Microsoft’s best efforts to convince its customers to upgrade.

This situation compounds the phenomenon known as fragmentation, where multiple versions of the core OS are currently available in the marketplace; causing headaches for developers, marketers and product support teams.

“If you currently own an Android Smartphone, this is yet another update that you’re unlikely to see delivered to your handset [because] none of the major players have an interest in delivering the update to you,” Adrian Kingsley- Hughes wrote for ZDNet. “Google is primarily interested in new handset activation and increased market share above all else, not in creating a unified ecosystem.”

The reasoning is practical, if somewhat disheartening for developers.

“The handset makers have sold you a phone and hope to never hear from you again until it’s time to buy again,” Kingsley-Hughes added. “And finally, the carriers already have you hooked up to a multi-year contract and don’t care a jot about what operating system your Smartphone is running.”

This systemic apathy is hardly the best way to ensure that consumer’s mobile porn is as feature-packed as possible, but it is what it is.

Recent comScore data indicates that Android devices constitute a bit more than half (50.8 percent), of the U.S. Smartphone market; followed by Apple’s iOS at 31.4 percent.

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