Google executives took the stage today at the company's annual Google I/O developers conference to announce their newest Android products, including the Nexus 7 Tablet, a new $199 Android tablet built in partnership with Asus to run the latest version of Google's operating system, Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean.
The tablet has a 7-inch, IPS (In-Plane Switching) 1280x800 HD resolution display, Tegra 3 clip set with a quad-core processor and a 12 core GPU, which makes everything, including games, run quickly and seamlessly.
"Everything works smoother," said Hugo Barra, director of product management for Android.
The other nitty-gritty specs include a micro USB port, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1 GB of memory, WiFi, and Bluetooth. It also uses NFC, or Android Beam, a system to allow users to transmit data from one device to another simply by tapping them against each other.
The super-thin handheld tablet is about the size of a large greeting card, 10.45 mm thick, and and weighs just under 0.8 pounds, about as much as a small paperback book.
Nexus 7 is now available on the Google Play store for pre-order, starting at $199 for a version with 8GB of storage and $249 for 16GB, and the devices will ship in mid-July.
But hardware isn't the big story with the Nexus tablet. Google is putting the focus on the tablet's software and price.
Like the Nexus phones Google has released in the past, Google isn't making the hardware, but instead worked very closely with Asus, a large Taiwanese computer manufacturer, to craft the hardware to work with the new software.
In keeping with the theme of alphabetically naming its Android operating systems after sweets -- Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich -- Google's latest version, Jelly Bean, features a new technology dubbed Project Butter, which allows for a smoother experience overall.
The Nexus 7 tablet will be the first device to run Jelly Bean. It will have Google's Chrome as its default web browser. Google also said the device would have up to 9 hours of battery life, which is impressive for one with such a detailed graphics display -- gamers will swoon.
Google engineers showed Jelly Bean could recognize the touch of a finger more easily than previous devices. They said it displays app pages in a neat, clean "card" layout with seamless swipe-through capabilities.
But its most exciting feature is the new search experience with Google Now, the company's answer to Apple's Siri. Google Now uses your search history, location history and calendar to help you get around.
"Smartphones are only as smart as you tell them to be," Barra said. "But with Google Now that starts to change."
Google Now will tell you when to leave for appointments based on traffic times and transit routes.
For example, when you commute to home and back, Google Now will track your route and offer a faster one, or if you take public transit, it will tell you when the next bus or train will come. It will work with flights too, keeping you up-to-date on flight status and updating you if there's a delay.
Sports fans will go gaga for Google Now's automatic score updates for their favorite teams, the company said.
"You don't need to set up your favorite teams. You've already done that by searching for them [on Google]," Barra said.
Jelly Bean also includes improved voice-recognition software called Google Speech, which Barra said was "shrunk" to fit on the mobile device. If users have a poor wireless connection or are offline, they can still dictate by voice to their device, which will recognize and transcribe their words.
To demonstrate, an engineer leaned into a phone and said, "This is a demonstration of offline voice typing. Period." In seconds, the words appeared on the phone's screen.
Smartphones had been able to take dictation for years, but usually the voice-recognition software was too complex to be included in a phone's operating system. Jelly Bean also introduced the "gesture mode" so that visually impaired users can use gestures on the phone, as well as voice recognition.