Google Nexus S Jelly Bean Software Update Review
by PJ Joanino
The moment I read on the internet that Google had started rolling out Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update to all Google Nexus S handsets, I got totally excited to upgrade my mom's smartphone and give her a better Android experience.
But when I was about to press the Update Now button, I got a bit hesistant.
I suddenly realized that Nexus S is hardly as powerful as Samsung Galaxy S2 or S3 specs-wise so the handset might not be able to run the new OS as smoothly. Also, I considered the fact that the phone belongs to my mom, and although she'd given me the green light to update the software, she's not really as techie as me; I was afraid that any significant change to the user interface might give her a hard time using the phone. Actually, it took her around 2 months to be totally comfortable with Ice Cream Sandwich coming from Gingerbread.
Anyway. Before deciding whether or not I should install Android 4.1 on her handset, I did a little research online about the difference between JB and ICS in terms of the user interface, and showed it to my mom. She was okay with it since she thought the homescreen looked the same anyway, except for the wallpaper. But I wasn’t satisfied. I was worried that it might cause the phone to have frequent lags and the like so I tried looking for a user-based review of the Nexus S running the Jelly Bean, but I couldn't find one. So I just told myself, "I'm not sure if it will be worth it but I'll take the plunge. I just hope she likes it." And I ran the update.
TP Friends, after playing with the phone on JB for two days, here are some Android 4.1 enhancements and key features that I found quite notable;
I think this is the strongest suit of Jelly Bean. Knowing that the Nexus S is a little bit outdated in terms of hardware, it worried me that the update might cause lags, and frequent app crashes; One would expect that JB would be designed for faster, newer phones. Suprisingly, however, everything felt snappier and smoother after the upgrade. I think the touch screen response got a little better, and I’m just happy with it. My mom even noticed the improvement too!
Google Voice Search
With the Jelly Bean update, clicking the Microphone icon at the end of the Google Search bar launches the new Voice Search app that reminds me so much of Siri on my 4s, only it has a bit more personality. Also, it felt like the voice recognition ability of the app is actually more accurate compared to Siri’s.
Improved Notification Center
Opening the notification bar, you'll see that Google has redesigned the clock, date and clear icons with new, cuter-looking ones. With Jelly Bean’s revamped notification center, you can now read incoming messages, edit calendar items, or even snooze alarms without even having to enter the respective apps one by one.
Same Great Homescreen with Cooler Widgets
I am a big fan of Android's homescreen in general. Using a Blackberry and an iPhone as my daily handsets, I really long for homescreen that I can customizable however I want. Nexus S' ICS homescreen was already kinda cool; You can create folders for different apps and the widgets are resizable. But with the JB, widgets automatically resize when you put them on an icon-congested screen, which is amazing. Anyway, it's a bit hard to explain how it works so I just recorded this quick demo:
Un-deleting a Photo
I hate accidentally deleting pictures. And thankfully, we'll have less of that on JB. While viewing photos, pinch the gallery, and slide the current picture up and the photo gets deleted. If you accidentally do this, you can simply press the undo button to undelete the picture. Right now, this is limited to the last picture deleted, but it's still nice to have.
I'm still testing the phone's uptime with Jelly Bean. Off hand, though, I don't feel any noticeable change in battery life coming from Ice Cream Sandwich.
a. Google failed to address the lack of Zoom feature for the Camera app. (Then again, there's a third party app like lgCamera that can give me that.)
b. I tried using the offline voice recognition and typing feature like 10 times, but it never worked. This happened to Offline maps and Face unlock, too. (I can’t even find the option for face unlock, but according to some forums online, it’s because the Nexus S has a low resolution front-facing camera)
Jelly Bean offers vast improvement from ICS -- if only because of Project Butter. It’s smoother, snappier and the experience is just awesome. My mom loves her phone even more now. Honestly, doing the update on her Nexus S made me want to own a JB powered Android phone too.
Check out the Jelly Bean Boot Screen!
Mark of TP: "Thanks for the review, PJ! I appreciate it. And I'm sure those who are curious about Jelly Bean's key features do too. I'm now looking forward to getting the update from Samsung and HTC; Project Butter looks slammin'! I love your videos! God bless!"