We take a look at some of the memorable updates from past Android versions in light of the announcement of Android KitKat.
For those who don’t already know, Google has announced the name of the next version of their popular Android operating system (OS).
We were at the peak of our curiosity on what the next OS will be, as every announcement by Google of a new OS version since Android 4.1 Jelly Bean has been met with disappointment by Android enthusiasts.
That’s because instead of releasing the much-rumoured and anticipated Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, Google had instead opted to announce incremental updates to the Jelly Bean OS by introducing Android 4.2 and 4.3 (both still using the name Jelly Bean).
Well, Google’s recent announcement came as a surprise as the next major Android OS update will not be Key Lime Pie, but will be named KitKat instead (unlike the favourite confectionery snack, the Android version does not have a spacing between the Kit and Kat).
The announcement was made via Google’s senior vice-president Sundar Pichai’s Google+ post (bit.ly/19fgTdt) of a picture of an Android statue with its body made out of Kit Kats.
For the uninitiated, all Android versions are named after a form of dessert, with each new version starting with the following letter in alphabetical order. The first system version was named Cupcake (version 1.5), followed by Donut (1.6), Eclair (2.0 - 2.1), Froyo (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3), Honeycomb (3.1 - 3.2), Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0), and Jelly Bean (4.1 - 4.3).
As such, everyone knew that the next major update after Jelly Bean will be a dessert beginning with the letter K, with earlier leaks indicating that the name Key Lime Pie was going to be used.
It is interesting that Google managed to keep the name change under wraps and surprised everyone when the Kit Kat statue was unveiled, especially in a time when almost anything and everything gets leaked out before they’re supposed to.
Another interesting fact about the use of the name KitKat is that it will be the first time a trademarked product is being used as the face of the OS. Kit Kat is a registered trademark under the Swedish confectionery company Nestle. It sounds like a multi-million dollar deal, but Google had informed BBC (bbc.in/15AUoLX) that this is not a money-changing-hands kind of deal and that the idea for the name came from Google itself.
While we patiently await the announcement on what we will be receiving from this latest update, I’ve compiled a few of my favourite changes that came from the past Android updates. Note that I’ve started the list from the time I started using Android:
Android 2.2 Froyo was the first OS update I received after boarding the Android ship. The update was heavily anticipated at that time as it brought Adobe Flash support to the Internet browser, making it possible to stream movies as well as play Flash games.
Froyo also gave users the ability to move apps to their SD cards, which was a big deal then as device’s internal storage memory were generally very limited.
Both of these features would later be removed in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but were incremental changes at the time they were introduced. The update also brought some of my favourite features — USB tethering and WiFi hotspot.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread brought better overall stability to the system. It brought support for Near Field Communication (NFC), which has now become an interesting way of interacting between two compatible devices. There was also a new download manager, as well as enhanced copy and paste functionality.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb was an update released specially for tablets. It was a milestone update as it finally gave Android tablets a proper tablet user interface, instead of an oversized smartphone UI. The updates were mostly for improved browsing and multitasking experiences.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was a major update that combined the user experience of smartphones and tablets. Users were introduced to the desktop version on their stock Internet browsers, as well as Google’s mobile version of its Chrome browser and its syncing capabilities.
The Camera app was improved to have zero shutter lag; a feature that I really love from the update. There was the ability to access apps directly via shortcuts on the lock screen, as well as the cool but impractical face unlock feature. Widgets were also separated from apps and given their own drawer, similar to the app drawer.
As mentioned earlier, support for Adobe Flash and moving apps to SD cards were removed.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean addressed Android’s lag issues with the introduction of Project Butter. Notifications were given the ability to be expanded, with simple actions executable from the notifications themselves. Google Now was brought in as the user’s personal assistant and also offline voice dictation.
In the 4.2 version of Jelly Bean, the Photo Sphere panorama picture mode was introduced. The lock screen received further improvements, now supporting widgets. Multiple user accounts could be created for added privacy, although this is limited only to tablets. There was also support for wireless display via Miracast, as well as accessibility improvements.
The relatively new 4.3 version of Jelly Bean brought Bluetooth Low Energy support, 4K resolution support, and many other bug fixes and minor improvements.
So now we know that the next in line will be 4.4 KitKat. The Android official webpage (www.android.com/kitkat/) states that KitKat’s goal is to make an amazing experience available for everybody. Would that mean that we will be seeing an improved Android experience on devices other than smartphones and tablets? Time will tell.
What are your predictions on the updates that the new OS version will bring? Do share your thoughts.
(Donovan is a full-time auditor and big-time gadget lover who discovered the wonders of the Android world back in October 2010. He hopes the new Android OS will bring better app optimisation to the Android ecosystem.)