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Google unveils Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at I/O developer conference

Google today unveiled the next version of its Android operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

The update will roll out over-the-air to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, and Motorola Xoom in mid-July. Google released the SDK to developers today via

Google also announced plans for a platform development kit (PDK), which will let Android hardware developers port Android to their gadgets. Going forward, it will be available to Android device partners two to three months before a new Android platform release date.

"We want things to be simple, beautiful, and really smart," Android product management Hugo Barra said today at the Google I/O developer conference.

Barra showed off a number of new features in Jelly Bean, including offline voice typing, auto arranging of icons, and a predictive keyboard.

Icon arranging will allow users to move apps around the screen, much like on Apple's iOS. If you want to get rid of an app, just swipe up and it'll disappear. Similarly, an update to the Camera app allows for easy scrolling and dismissing of photos via pinching.

With offline voice typing, meanwhile, you can talk to your Android Jelly Bean device even if you don't have an Internet connection, and the text will appear on the screen. Initially, it will only work with English, but support for other languages is coming soon.

The new audio features will be used to boost accessibility on Android. Blind users, for example, can use a new gesture mode in combination with speech output, as well as integrated Braille support.

Ice Cream Sandwich included Beam, which allowed for the transfer of information by tapping two phones together. With Jelly Bean, users can pair and connect a phone with an NFC-enabled Bluetooth device like a speaker or device by tapping phones.

"It takes one second," Barra said.

Updates to notifications, meanwhile, will include more information.

Boosting Search, Google NowIn May, Google unveiled what it called its "Knowledge Graph," which combined a Bing-like "snapshot" panel. With Jelly Bean, Google plans to use the power of the knowledge graph to return richer results, dubbed cards, Barra said.

A new service known as Google Now, meanwhile, "gets you just the right information at just the right time, and all of it happens automatically," Barra said.

That includes using your search history, location history, and calendar to figure out what information your might need and when.

Google Now, for example, will memorize your normal commute from home to work and back and provide alternate routes if it detects traffic. If you're waiting for a bus or subway, Google Now will tell you when it will arrive. If you're at a restaurant, Google Now could tell you the dish for which that place is best known, or could recommend places if you're walking down the street.

To access Google Now, tap on search box or swipe up from bottom of the screen.

Under the hood, meanwhile, Google engineering director David Burke talked up Project Butter, which he said is a performance-focused effort that makes everything feel "buttery" smooth.

Earlier this week, the Jelly Bean statue showed up at the Googleplex, which usually signifies that an Android release is imminent.

Google unveiled the last version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, during an Oct. event in Hong Kong, and it made its debut on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus here in the U.S. later that year.

As of June 1, Ice Cream Sandwich was running on 7.1 percent of Android devices, according to the Android developer website. But Gingerbread remains the most popular version with 65 percent of devices running Android 2.3.