27
Jun
jb-android-4.1

Another major enhancement we've just learned about with the announcement of Jelly Bean is called Project Butter. Butter (so named likely due to the colloquialism "smooth as butter") represents a new, more efficient processing framework for Android's latest and greatest iteration, making the OS much faster (allowing animation up to 60fps). Android 4.1 also makes apps more responsive, reducing touch latency and "anticipating where your finger will be at the time of screen refresh."

"How is such an enhancement possible?" I can almost hear you wondering. Take it from the Android developer site:

To ensure a consistent framerate, Android 4.1 extends vsync timing across all drawing and animation done by the Android framework. Everything runs in lockstep against a 16 millisecond vsync heartbeat — application rendering, touch events, screen composition, and display refresh — so frames don’t get ahead or behind.

Android 4.1 also adds triple buffering in the graphics pipeline, for more consistent rendering that makes everything feel smoother, from scrolling to paging and animations.

Android 4.1 reduces touch latency not only by synchronizing touch to vsync timing, but also by actually anticipatingwhere your finger will be at the time of the screen refresh. This results in a more reactive and uniform touch response. In addition, after periods of inactivity, Android applies a CPU input boost at the next touch event, to make sure there’s no latency.

Besides these enhancements, Project Butter also brings something called "Tooling" to the table. Tooling involves the use of a new tool called systrace. Systrace uses Android's Linux kernel to essentially paint an overall picture of what's happening on the system at any given moment, stacking time-series graphs representing happenings and allowing developers to "isolate rendering interruptions and other issues." For those interested, the tool is already available in the Android SDK (Tools R20 and higher).

Project Butter, on top of all the other new features we're learning about today, brings a major enhancement to Android, finally delivering on the age-old cliché of "smooth as butter" transitions and animation, while delivering myriad behind-the-scenes enhancements as well.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • SK

    The CPU boost on input has been there for quite a while in the Android kernel shipped by manufacturers. I wonder why they are claiming it's new.

    • Greg Sanders

      New for AOSP.

    • Tyler Chappell

      Hmm, maybe due to all the other things that weren't there yet, it wasn't as noticeable or didnt make a substantial enough difference worth mentioning? Dunno.

    • Tyler Chappell

      Hmm, maybe due to all the other things that weren't there yet, it wasn't as noticeable or didnt make a substantial enough difference worth mentioning? Dunno.

  • NexusKoolaid

    Kind of a specific question - will this give us (or allow for) palm rejection?  This is one of the few areas where iOS (iPad) has one up on Android.  Without it, Android's (tablet) hand written note taking applications will continue to suck.

    • http://twitter.com/wollac Charlie Callow

      This already exists in Ice Cream Sandwich my tablet has it :-)

      • NexusKoolaid

        My TF101 is also running ICS, and I've seen no evidence of any (note taking) app making use of this feature.

    • Deltaechoe

      Just don't write with your palm on the screen, writing like that is terrible for your hand anyway

      • NexusKoolaid

        Whether or not writing like that is probably debatable with several factors to consider.  The answer to that question is irrelevant, though.  The bottom line is that, right or wrong, that's how people write and have been taught to write for ages.  It's technology's job to accommodate my needs and shortcomings, not the other way around.

        • NexusKoolaid

          Whether or not writing like that is terrible for one's hand probably debatable with several factors to consider.

    • ericl5112

      iOS doesn't have palm rejection built in.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        It actually does, but it's not very strict, preferring to allow most things to work if it can't be sure.  I've seen a demonstration about how this worked.  From memory, I believe that only certain gestures (like Pinch-to-Zoom) would reject significantly mal-formed touches.

        • ericl5112

          Good point.  I wasn't thinking about palm rejection during gestures, I was only considering palm rejection during pen input.  The iPad can't tell what's a pen or not, so it can't tell when to reject anything else.

          • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

            It starts to get needlessly technical and sorta pointlessly over-informative (for that I'm sorry), but iOS doesn't have any concept of pen input anyway.  iOS only acknowledges that there are touches, and as a part of that, it can eliminate certain things that don't match a finger in certain circumstances.

            In ICS, Android got an input type for Stylus (something that had already been done independently by HTC and Samsung to go with their own stylus-equipped products).  Both HTC and Samsung included palm-rejection, or maybe added it with updates, I can't recall.  I'm not sure if any there's any palm rejection in any other products, though I thought I read somewhere that Asus had built in something basic for the Transformer line, but I'm probably mistaken.

          • ericl5112

            @CodyToombs:disqus Yes, that's what I said, iOS has no way of recognizing pen input.  Only devices with special digitizers and pens such as the Note, Flyer, and the Ideapad can sense it. Not over complicated at all.

  • Psychotroyp101

    Here's hoping it comes to the Transformer Prime...*fingers crossed* :)

  • Debtac20

    I think the 'smart update' for apps in the play store is one of the most underrated features in 4.1 for app devs and users alike. 

    • http://www.torikomix.pl/ Adam Szopa

      I believe they said that smart update is a google play improvement for gingerbread and up.

    • Hyestack

      Maybe its underrated for a reason. I dont think its going to be an everyday need. Just install and uninstall from the device people, if you can unnistall from a web interface that means others can too.

      • ericl5112

        That's not what smart update is.  Smart update means, if you download a 40mb game, and they change 3mb of textures, right now, you have to redownload the 40mb app.  With smart update, you download 3mb of textures.  It's called delta updates, and is great.

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

          It's a particularly great fix just when everybody is getting forced to give up unlimited data.  I seriously doubt this is going to result in significant savings for most people, but there are some people who probably download upwards of a gig each month with just a few game updates.  I'm sure Google is saving a ton of bandwidth as well.