Little, important changes abound. For instance, you can now create keyboard shortcuts (text expansion) in your personal dictionary, and Emoji has been added as an optional key set (huzzah!). The keyboard has also gotten overhauled on the back end, with a new predictive text system which will try to guess the next word you’ll type (kind of like SwiftKey), and a new algorithm which the company claims will learn and adapt the more you tap away. That’s a welcome change, since I was getting tired of typing "tine" instead of "time."
Another big change is that dictation can now be handled offline, which means you can do speech-to-text whether you have a connection or not.
The calendar app has been updated with slight drop shadows and new coloring, while animations that take you into and out of applications now sweep upward and down when you choose them from the multitasker. Google has also cleaned up its menu options in settings, made its toggle switches more flat, and added easier access to accounts. Maps now includes new offline options, making it easier to select big areas all at once — though weirdly it doesn’t just allow you pull entire cities.
Chrome for Android is also present as the stock browser on the Nexus 7, and it performs excellently on the device. In particular, syncing with your Google account and real, usable tabs stand out as highlights here (as do the easy-to-access menu options). Especially in light of the version of this browser released for iOS today (and its issues), it's clear that the Jelly Bean tablet instance of Chrome is as close as you can get to a desktop experience on a mobile product right now. And that experience is pretty fantastic.
On the homescreen, Android is now more iOS-like due to the fact that icons will now auto-rearrange when you move objects. In addition, widgets that don’t fit on a screen will now resize themselves instead of being rejected. One thing that struck me as odd, however, is the fact that the homescreen doesn’t have a landscape view. As in, you cannot turn the tablet to landscape when you’re on the homescreen. It’s actually a bit frustrating when you move from a landscape app back home — and I can’t figure out why Google would have removed this functionality, which was present in Honeycomb.
The camera and gallery apps have gotten some tweaking as well — with a new, Windows Phone-style method of viewing your latest photos. From this new "film strip" view you can also toss away pictures you don’t like, mirroring the way you tossed away cards in webOS. Duarte was the mastermind behind webOS’s card interface, so it’s no surprise to see it back again here.
And of course, Google has updated and added to its content offerings in Jelly Bean, bringing TV purchases to its video store, and adding magazine issues and subscriptions in a new app. The latter works well (better than the Fire or Nook in my opinion), though the content selection is rather thin right now. As a consumption device, Google has gone along way to filling some of the gaps in its ecosystem, even down to giving users new widgets that put their content front and center.