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Resize widgets

It's not the full revamp that Ice Cream Sandwich was, but Android 4.1 Jelly Bean nonetheless adds a collection of new and useful features for Android enthusiasts. Using a Jelly Bean-equipped Samsung Galaxy Nexus that Google issued after the first-day keynote presentation of Google I/O, I was able to explore some of the enhancements and get a taste of what Jelly Bean will bring.

The user interface is largely the same as in Ice Cream Sandwich, but now a widget will resize automatically when you drop it onto a crowded home page. Then, by moving the blue points, you can make it smaller or change its shape.

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Swipe widgets away

After a long press on a widget or icon, you can remove it from the home screen by swiping it up to the X.

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Voice Search

Google fires a shot at Apple's Siri with a voice search feature. After selecting the icon in the main menu, you'll launch directly into the app's uncluttered interface. From there, tap the microphone icon to get started.

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Voice Search

When the phone is "listening," the microphone will turn red and a series of circles will radiate out from the icon.

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Voice Search

After you ask your question, you'll see a series of squares in the middle of the screen.

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What's the weather in New York?

For many questions, such as when I asked for the weather in New York, the phone will speak your answer. In this case, for instance, it told me the temperature (here in Celsius) and advised me that a forecast for the next few days was available. During my initial tests, Google's Voice Search feature was faster than Siri and the voice wasn't so robotic. We'll have a head-to-head comparison between the two services soon.

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What is the capital of Australia?

For some questions, though, the feature won't always read your answer. When I asked for the prime minister of Australia, for example, the voice told me it was Julia Gillard. But when I asked for the nation's capital, the Galaxy Nexus just gave me the Web search results. We'll be investigating the parameters for getting a spoken result.

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How fast is a 747?

Likewise, I just got a series of links when I asked for the speed of a 747. And just like Siri, the Voice Search feature won't always interpret your words correctly.

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Filmstrip view

When you're in the media gallery, you can pinch a photo to make it smaller. You'll then see a filmstrip-style view of all your photos in a row. Swipe left or right to scan through them all.

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Swipe a photo

You can delete a photo by swiping it up to the top of the screen.

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Predicitve text

Google says that Jelly Bean has tweaked the internal dictionary to provide more word-completion options when you're typing a sentence. It worked well in my brief trial period, but it didn't appear to be a huge improvement over Ice Cream Sandwich.

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Add more suggestions

When you tap on one of the suggested words, you'll see even more options.

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Voice typing

The new voice-typing feature lets you dictate whole paragraphs to your Jelly Bean phone. Google promises that it will even capture punctuation marks if you speak them out, as in saying "period." The tools are stored locally on the phone so you can dictate even when you're without a network connection.

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Voice typing

Of course, it wasn't completely accurate. I wonder if they even have Spam in Spain.

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Notifications

In the notifications center you now can return a missed call or send a message by tapping directly on the notification. That nicely saves you from having to open the call or messaging apps.

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