Jelly Bean (JB), or Android 5.0 or possibly even duller 4.1 if you're not taken by Google's sickly sweet code names, is the next version of Google’s mobile operating system. Here we'll keep you updated on what we know about Jelly Bean (features, release date, devices), by keeping tabs on all those spilling the beans on Jelly.

The current version Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), also known as Android 4.0, is out but not universally adopted by Android mobile-device makers. Android’s like that, with the vast majority (even new Android phones) stuck with the older Gingerbread flavour.

There are four versions of Android used in current devices: 2.2 "Froyo," 2.3 "Gingerbread," 3.0 "Honeycomb," and 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich."

Motorola, for example, doesn't expect to be able to offer Android 4 upgrades for its recent smartphones and most tablets until late 2012, if at all. Samsung, on the other hand, has embraced Ice Cream Sandwich for its new Galaxy S3 smartphone.

Jelly Bean release date

Despite the glacial take up of Ice Cream Sandwich unconfirmed reports say that Android 5 "Jelly Bean" could be released this autumn.

That’s right, Google is yet to announce an official release date for Android 5 Jelly Bean. At this rate Apple will sue Google for being as secretive about release dates as it is with its own iOS announcements.

But we shouldn’t have to wait till so late in the year for news on Jelly Bean, and maybe even a confirmed release date for Android 5.

Jelly Bean could get a public showing at Google's I/O developer conference, June 27-29, at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a source that says Jelly Bean will be released by Thanksgiving (November 22, 2012). According to TalkAndroid Google will be launching five Nexus devices (see below) on November 5 to celebrate Android’s 5th birthday.

Jelly Bean Android 5 rumours release date

Jelly Bean features

Jelly Bean Android is rumoured to feature such improvements as Chrome browser integration, better enterprise security, better power management, increased gesture recognition, and maybe even  dual-booting support for Microsoft's Windows 8 – which would be a surprise (although not now we’ve said it here).

At the 2011 Mobile World Congress Google's chairman Eric Schmidt told delegates that the company’s own Android and Chrome operating systems will converge  - but failed to say exactly when.

This would pare down Google’s already fragmented OS strategy. How can Google moan about phone and tablet makers using various different versions of Android when it has at least two operating systems floating around itself. Merging Android and Chrome – that is, ditching or deflecting Chrome – makes a lot of sense.

As Ice Cream Sandwich has been more of a smartphone OS, it's possible Google will want Jelly Bean to be seen as the ultimate tablet operating system – given the size of its phone screens this would certainly appeal to Samsung.

It’s a fair bet to suggest that Android 5 Jelly Bean will have some form of voice-recognition to take on Apple’s Siri, found on the iPhone.

Google did not respond to requests for comment about its future OS plans.

Jelly Bean:  which phones or tablets first? Just Nexus?

So while we wait for Jelly Bean it’s not like a new version of the iPhone’s iOS system, which appears on all new iPhones (and even newly sold old ones) as soon as it’s released in the wild. Jelly Bean will likely first see the light of day on Google’s own Nexus smartphones (maybe as early as November 5, see above). The next Nexus smartphones are widely expected to be sold unlocked, without a wireless contract and able to run on multiple wireless networks simply by inserting a SIM card. The phones would cost more than they do today but consumers would have the choice to buy a contract separately.

ASUS has claimed that it will be the first to upgrade its devices to Jelly Bean – citing its close relationship with Google.

Technology blog Techno Buffalo claims that the first Google-branded tablet, built by Transformer tablet maker Asus, will run Jelly Bean (Android 5.0), and cost under $200. The site expects the Jelly Bean tablet to debut at the Google I/O conference in June.

The Nexus tablet will apparently run a 1.3GHz Nvidia's Tegra 3 chipset, and Asus will build 600,000 for launch – with the first batch to go on sale in July.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 release date is expected to be October, and is another device rumoured to possibly feature Android 5 Jelly Bean.

Google is trying to get more phone and tablet manufacturers to adopt the latest Android versions by giving the major players privileged early access to versions as they near development.

“With Google buying Motorola, working with all of the leading hardware partners to develop a Nexus line of what’s on the leading edge makes more sense,” Forrester mobile analyst Charles Golvin told Wired.

“If they get everyone involved in developing, nobody will be able to point and say Motorola is getting something they’re not.”

By giving every manufacturer a decent amount of time to develop around Android 5.0 Jelly Bean, each phone maker could roll out OS updates much quicker to non-flagship handsets.

“Right now, there is very little consistency in the user experience on Android because each company is making whatever they want. This would give Google more influence over design of the hardware and the software experience too,” Jack Plunkett, head of Plunkett Research, also told Wired.

Android 6 Key Lime Pie

Before we get too carried away with Android 5.0 Jelly Bean, some are already looking forward to Android 6.0 – rumoured by The Verge to be called Android Key Lime Pie (KLP).