There are lots of great new features in Android Jelly Bean. It's just a huge pity that a large majority aren't going to work in Australia when we first get our hands on a device running Android 4.1 at some point in mid-July when the Nexus 7 tablet launches here..
I was pleasantly surprised today when Google revealed that Australia would be one of the four launch countries for the ASUS-built 7-inch Nexus tablet. At $299 for the 16GB model and $249 for the 8GB junior version, I suspect there will be strong interest. Previous Nexus-branded devices have hit Australia a long time after their American release, so when Google reached that point in its announcements at around 0330 this morning and Australia came up, I felt a brief surge of pleasure. Maybe we're getting closer to a global Google, I briefly thought.
But looking back on those announcements a few hours later, it's very evident that Australians aren't going to get immediate access to a lot of the coolness that was revealed this morning, on both hardware and software fronts. Let's review the list of options that won't work in Australia:
- Most of the Google Now features are reliant on Google's enhanced Knowledge Graph search, and that hasn't hit Australia yet.
- More particularly, the ability for your device to tell you when you need to leave the house to catch a bus or train relies on Google Maps already having public transport data. That still isn't the case in Australia's biggest cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), which renders it all but useless. (I realise Google is reliant on state government authorities releasing that data, but I don't get the impression it's a major priority for anyone in Google's Australian HQ either.)
- The groovy-looking Nexus Q media player is also US-only right now. But in a weird way that makes sense: we don't have access to Google Music in Australia yet, so the ability to play stuff on it would be hopelessly compromised.
- Google hasn't even revealed US release dates for its updated Play content options, which include buying movies and TV shows rather than renting, and selling magazines as well as books. However, given that we only just got movie rentals through Google Play in Australia and all the magazine brands discussed were from the US, I am not holding my breath.
- The enhanced voice control options are US English only. So no dice there.
- Even if you were an Aussie developer and made your way to IO, you can't buy the $US1500 developer edition of Google Glasses which attendees can pre-order; that's also US-only, apparently because of regulatory requirements relating to the connectivity options.
I'm sure some of these features will be introduced eventually, but there's no clear timeframe. Obviously we'll still get the under-the-hood benefits of Jelly Bean such as improved performance and enhanced notifications.
And Google is far from unique in this respect: Siri in Australia only offers a fraction of the features seen in the US. So it's not that this lack of features makes Jelly Bean a bust. But that list reminds us that even though we might get our hands on the cool new tablet quickly, it will be rather less cool just because of where we live.