5 Ways Android's 'Jellybean' Can Make You More Efficient The new update makes some functions easier, improves security and allows multiple user accounts.
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Users of non-Nexus Android devices will gradually start seeing Jellybean over the next few months. Wireless carriers and manufacturers of non-Nexus Android devices typically customize Android and have to create and distribute their own unique updates.
While Jellybean is not as sweeping as the previous OS update called "Ice Cream Sandwich," it does include new features that might prove especially helpful to small-business owners.
Here are five of those features that business users should keep an eye out for:
1. Google Now: Part of the Google search app for Jellybean, Google Now improves your efficiency on the go by providing a dashboard of real-time information, such as your next appointment, directions to your next destination, weather forecast and nearby local businesses.
This information is displayed on sections called "cards," which you can customize from templates and organize however you like. The cards are easy to read as you thumb or scroll through them on a smartphone screen. It's likely that in the future Google will allow fully customized card templates.
Google Now also includes a Siri-like voice search capability that could make Android a more tempting option for iPhone users.
Related: 7 Things Every Android User Should Know
2. Expanded and actionable notifications: Anything that allows mobile users to execute tasks from the same screen, without having to navigate menus or jump to different apps, saves time and reduces errors and confusion.
In Jellybean, the default Android notifications screen now lets you take direct action on events. For instance, if you missed a call, you can tap on the notification to return the call and also hang up from the same screen.
Similarly, you can tap on a calendar notification to send a message to everyone in your next meeting to say you'll be 10 minutes late, for instance.
3. Better text and voice input: Typing on any smartphone is almost invariably an error-prone hassle. Anything that makes typing or talking easier and more reliable will enhance your mobile productivity.
The default keyboard in Jellybean now does a better job of predicting what you want to type and learning your typing patterns. Overall touch responsiveness is also better. And Google has updated the Android dictionaries to make word guesses more relevant.
Android has long had solid voice recognition, but with Jellybean, this feature now runs directly from the mobile device. That means you don't need a strong carrier or Wi-Fi connection to make this feature work well.
4. Improved security: One common complaint about Android is that its apps are far more likely than iPhone apps to contain malware or pose other security risks. Jellybean includes a significant upgrade to a security strategy called "address space layout randomization" that makes it more difficult to exploit Android security weaknesses.
Related: Google's Nexus 7: The Latest Entry in the Tablet Wars
5. Multiple user accounts: This Jellybean feature is hidden and not quite official yet, but you can set up multiple user accounts, each with varying permission levels for access to apps, accounts and more. For business users, this could be especially useful for Android tablets used in retailing, demonstrations or presentations.
For instance, the owner of a small bookstore may use a tablet to handle inventory, payroll and supply orders under a manager user account. But on busy days, the owner might want to switch that same tablet to a different user account and then hand the device, equipped with a Square credit card reader, to salespeople. That way, the owner can ease congestion at the cash register without giving the sales staff access to more sensitive business information.
In contrast, so far the iPad does not directly allow multiple user accounts. The Our iPad app can let you create multiple user accounts on an iPad, but this app is targeted mainly at consumers, not business users.
If all of this sounds appealing and you don't want to wait for Jellybean to arrive on your non-Nexus device, you may be able to "root" your Android device to gain full control over the entire operating system -- something many Android users do to remove "bloatware" preinstalled by carriers or make other customizations. Once your phone is rooted, you can install a Jellybean "custom ROM" (new version of the operating system) available from several online sources, such as CyanogenMod.
Keep in mind, however, that this process has risks. Rooting generally voids the warranty on your device, and installing a custom ROM may impair performance -- or even render your device nonfunctional. Also, rooting is easier on some Android devices than others. Before taking these steps, be sure to research the process carefully online and back up your device.