The next big release in the world of Android will be Key Lime Pie. This week, Google did make a smaller bit of news when it released an incremental update to Jelly Bean, the current latest-and-greatest version of the operating system.
Amir Efrati, a Wall Street Journal reporter, tweeted that Google Senior Vice President and Android overseer Sundar Pichai told him that the Nexus 10 from Samsung will be released in the near future, according to Android Authority. The speculation is that the device could be the first using Key Lime Pie, which will be Android 5.0 and that October is a reasonable ETA.
But first things first. Jelly Bean 4.3, according to ReadWrite, “is not the major jump in Android design and functionality that many users have been waiting for.” The site says, however, that it does add several features: OpenGL 3 for Embedded Systems enables creation of intricate games, Bluetooth Smart for monitoring of sensor-based data such as fitness and proximity, notification access, restricted profiles, digital rights management for media companies and improved profiling tools.
ReadWrite outlines some under-the-hood elements of the new version of the OS:
Android 4.3 also has some improved location and sensor capabilities, such as the ability to do "hardware geofencing" that's designed to optimize power efficiency by moving location computations to hardware rather than performing them in Android software. Google also is increasing location accuracy by allowing for Wi-Fi scanning (where an app determines location by scanning nearby Wi-Fi signals) without the user actually turning on Wi-Fi. That will help save battery life significantly for many users while increasing the specificity of location.
CNET echoes the common thought that Jelly Bean 4.3 is not too big a deal, at least on the surface. However, the site suggests that there could be a good rationale for the deliberate approach:
While many Android users have been crossing their fingers for the OS' next iteration to be version 5.0, Key Lime Pie, this performance-focused update says that Google is taking a slower development route, possibly to minimize fragmentation as device manufacturers play catch-up. If that is, in fact, what's going on, then the move, as unexciting as it is, might be better for all Android users in the long run.
Indeed, fragmentation – the multiple out-of-date versions of Android that make the ability to use available Android apps a hit-or-miss affair – is perhaps the biggest challenge to the operating system. It seems that a release such as Jelly Bean 4.3 is a good step toward consolidating the OS and setting it on a firmer stance in advance of the next substantial release.
Little else seems to be slowing the OS down. The company, according to Engadget, is reporting some impressive numbers: Google claimed a few months ago to have activated 900 million devices. More recent claims are that 70 million tablets have been activated, and more than 50 billion apps have been downloaded from the Google Play Store, which now has more than one million applications available. Half the tablets sold worldwide during the first half of the year were based on Android, the company said.
That’s a lot of operating systems, devices and apps. The landscape will get even more complicated when Key Lime Pie hits. For that reason, it makes sense that Google has chosen to take a rather low-profile interim step.