Android: a 10-year visual history

Google's Android operating system has undergone tremendous changes since its debut on the T-Mobile G1 on October 22, Ten years may seem long, but blinks in the scale of PC growth. Eye. Historical consumer technology has not evolved as fast as a smartphone, and you can make pretty convincing arguments about the fact that Android was at the center of its evolution.

When Android comes out, the OS gets into a crowded but problematic market. A year ago, Apple officially entered the smartphone market, BlackBerry was still in place, and Symbian was leaving the door. Microsoft will soon replace Windows Mobile with Windows Phone. Today, however, Android has been on almost every device, not Apple, and has caught up with almost every other competitor. As of 2017, more than 2 billion Android devices per month are used worldwide. Android on smartphones accounted for more than 85% of those devices.

Ten years after becoming the world 's most dominant S, we wanted to look back on Andy Rubin' s ideas to evolve into today 's industry. . What has changed? What (and sometimes stubbornly) stayed the same? What version is included in every new version? Since Android is an open source OS, other manufacturers have applied their own skins like Samsung's TouchWiz and OnePlus's OxygenOS. So we are focusing on inventory Android for this visual history. Today, we know that Android did not have the boldest equitable distribution before reaching its current position using all the machine learning functions and the digital voice assistant. Many innovations will inspire, borrow, or enhance other features found in the main rival Apple iOS.

All started


On October 22, 2008, when the T-Mobile G1 was launched, the Android era officially started. in America. Initially, there were a lot of features that did not go away today, such as on-screen keyboards, multi-touch features, and paid applications, but with a foundation, some permanent brands of the platform are rolled off in the first G1 assembly line.

Pull down notification window. While these initial calls were not without fault, it was almost common that Android had a notification system on its first day. When you investigate messages and warnings from your ever-increasing collection of mobile apps, you'll use iOS for three more years before releasing your design. This secret is in the G1's unique status bar, and you can drag it down to display all your notifications, including text, voice mail, and alarms, in a single list. The fundamental concept is in the latest version of Android (in sleek form).

Home screen widgets If you need to choose differentiating elements for your Android platform, you can support a wealth of home screen widgets. We had a big plan for the widget from scratch, but there was one big problem at the start. Developers can not create their own widgets.

Rich Gmail integration By the time the G1 was released, Gmail has long supported POP and IMAP for integration with mobile email clients. The problem, however, is that none of these protocols are suitable for supporting some of Gmail's unique features, such as archiving and labeling. Android 1.0 fixed it in a big way and provided the best mobile Gmail experience in the market.


The Android Market. It's hard to imagine a smartphone without a centralized app store now, but when Android first shipped it started at the beginning of the mobile app revolution. In fact, the Android Market for the first G1 is not nearly identical to today's Play Store. It started with a small number of apps and did not have a rich and varied curator, as you would expect from a completely new ecosystem. It has been added over the years. Instead, there is one row selected at the top of your app's Home screen. Perhaps even more important is the lack of support for payment systems that will not be addressed until next year.

In particular, we developed the UI for Android 1.0 with the help of The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). A Swedish interactive design company that has been working on truly amazing interface concepts for years. (If you look closely, you can see where TAT has taken place on the platform.) The analog clock widget included in Android versions 1.0 to 2.2 includes a small light gray "Malmo" dedicated to the development of the BlackBerry and BBX platforms by TAT RIM

Android 1.1


The Android platform was launched in just three months after the launch of the G1 in February 2009. Version 1.1 is a revolutionary revolution in the imagination I've patched a long list of bugs, but if nothing else, Android deployed updates over the air and I found that users rarely need to install it, when there was no big smartphone platform

Sidekick It is a coincidence that Danger's Hiptop platform, which gave birth to the Andy Rubin, who previously created Danger, later created the Essential Phone, a smartphone that notifies the start of the ubiquitous notch design trend.

Dessert provided by: 1.5 "Cupcake"


Android 1.5 – Probably better known as the code name "Cupcake" – a much more important milestone Some unexpected features important to maintaining platform competitiveness Cupcake is also the first version to use Google's "sweet" naming convention since it was named after the sweet sweets in alphabetical order. The trend is ongoing and is expected to continue Next year's version 10 Q is still the biggest name assignment on Android.

Cupcake has many different Improvements have been made by polishing the rough side of the user interface, which was first introduced in the face. Some of these changes were hardly noticeable unless you were looking for them. For example, the standard Google search widget used for many users' homescreens gets a hint of transparency, and the app drawer is decorated with a subtle weave pattern beneath the icon.

Hovering over the image below gives a sense of how subtle these changes are. 1.1, and 1.5, you can not feel anything. In fact, everything from text alignment to shadowing of the status bar was under the knife.

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For most G1 users, the extensive list of new features Google has thrown is far more interesting, eye-catching, and relevant to everyday use.

On-screen keyboard. In retrospect, it's surprising that Google thinks it can ship Android without a soft keyboard. You can explain why the first Android device in the sleeve was a landscape QWERTY slider. It also explains why we saw the first touchscreen after Cupcake was released (about 30 years after the launch of the G1 in April 2009). HTC Magic

We took bold action with regard to soft keyboard support. Today, you can still differentiate Android from competing platforms because third-party developers have incorporated the hooks needed to replace their keyboard. (The cup coaster and Windows Phone are not supported either.) At the time of the cupcake release, the official Android soft keyboard was delayed much time after iOS in terms of accuracy and speed, so OEMs such as HTC ultimately developed alternatives to their own devices . In fact, it was one of the first forms of "skinning" that you can see on Android.

Scalable Widgets. Android 1.0 and 1.1 include technically widgets, but Google has not yet released the SDK to developers, so the potential is not yet realized. The only widget available was just a few items in the box. 1.5, and is not bundled with many of the platform's third-party applications today, but most of them come with one or more widgets that you can use. Android continues to enjoy the most flexible and scalable home screen on the mobile platform, and its title is Cupcake, which adds this feature.

Clipboard improvements. Android had a somewhat tough road to get "full" support for copying and pasting. The platform has been technically supported from day one, but is largely limited to text fields and links. This meant that text could not be copied from a browser window or Gmail. Cupcake added support for browsers to allow plain text to be copied out of the page.

Capture and Playback of Video Cupcake will solve the problem originally found by T-Mobile G1 buyers, but like Android's built-in soft keyboard, just like the soft keyboard built into the operating system, It became one of the more mean parts. OEMs have also replaced OEMs with frequently improved interfaces, such as adding additional scenes, modes, options, and convenience features to quickly focus.

And much more. Other updates might include Google Talk for the platform-wide status, such as batching Gmail (you can not delete or archive multiple emails at a time before 1.5), uploading support for YouTube and Picasa, Ubiquitous access is included. Messaging applications and Gmail. (This feature – Syncing rich contact information from multiple apps and screens can predict how Android 2.0 moves in particular.)

1.6: "Donut"

Cupcake, a big donut of upgrading to Android 1.6 Still had a much larger deal than the "0.1" increment. After a slight visual improvement across platforms, new and updated updates have been added, but much of the big news is broken. CDMA support was originally provided by Donut, for example, to US telecom operators such as Verizon and hundreds of millions of subscribers across Asia.

None of the "hood" changes, however, were more affected. Platform support. Donut is the first product to enable Android to work with a variety of screen resolutions and aspect ratios, opening the door of a mobile phone featuring a display other than 320 x 480 in portrait orientation. All of these scaling functions track roots directly to 1.6.

Donuts have introduced the concept of a more commonly known concept: the Quick Search Box. It's called "universal search" in the mobile world. Before donuts, if you press the search button on the keypad of your Android phone, you will be taken to the Google search box for searching the Internet from the home screen. Going to google.com is no different. Enter search there. Donut enhancements allow you to search multiple local content and the Internet at once, including applications, contacts, and more. Donuts also revealed a feature that allowed plug-ins to allow developers to search for applications.

What other features did you debut with Android 1.6? The redesigned Android Market, designed with white and green accents that closely relate to the Android mascot, includes additional curations that can show up a top list of free and paid apps. Especially when the third-party app catalog started to explode. . The reconstructed camera interface was included with better gallery integration and significantly reduced shutter delay, but it did not get much more favorable than the replacement. Google will continue to make minor changes through 2.3 though most users will not see it since the manufacturers replaced them with skins.

2.0 / 2.1: "Eclair"

At the beginning, Pixel announced that Google will be considered the best smartphone camera in the market. November 2009 – About one year since the G1 debut – Android 2.0 was released right on the heel of the donut. "Big" will be an accurate description. It was a big deal, made a big commitment, and was placed on a large phone provided by a large telecommunications company. Eclair was initially offered exclusively at Verizon, not the Motorola Droid, and was one of the most successful mobile franchises at the time.

Why is Eclair so important? It represents the most fundamental exhilaration we've seen since Android made its visual and architectural debut. Of course, with an unprecedented 854 x 480 display, we knew that the Droid was the most powerful Android handset in the world, but the platform's robustness and bolt were greatly improved. It also plays an important role in the retail success of the device.


Multiple account support. We were able to add multiple Google Accounts to the same device for the first time. For example, you could access your email and contacts by separating your business and personal accounts. Support for Exchange accounts has also been added.

Eclair also automatically allows continuous synchronization by providing third parties with the tools needed to connect their services to this account framework. One major benefit is that shared information between account types can be automatically synced to a single contact on the phone, the one-stop shop for personal information in the address book. Facebook used this feature as an early adopter. Actually, it was on the droid. However, where Facebook's synchronized contact information is ultimately stored, spats with Google have been terminated due to revocation of account synchronization.

Google Map Navigation ] Launched with Android 2.0, Google Maps Navigation was a completely free turn-by-turn car navigation product using Google's own map data for maps, Includes many features System: Future-oriented 3D view, voice guidance (including street names) and traffic information. Google's move is confusing, given that drivers must consider that they have to pay a lot of money for turn-by-turn apps, monthly fees, or dedicated navigation. There were some disadvantages to the early version, and the alternative was still quite attractive. For example, it could not be cached because it required persistent Internet access, but the system has since narrowed the gap.

Quick contacts. Just as Cupcake has added the Google Talk status of a contact throughout the platform, Eclair has a quick chat bar that corresponds to a pop-up toolbar that allows you to interact with your contacts in a variety of ways, including email, text, Added. Telephone, etc. You can drag the bar by pressing and holding it anywhere on the platform where the picture of the contact appears, which appears as a series of neatly designed icons. The bar is designed to be extensible from scratch, so different types of information are synchronized with your contacts. For example, you can add a tweeter handle to a bar.


Soft keyboard improvements Like the G1, the Droid was released as a full physical QWERTY array, but we used it as an opportunity to show you a modified virtual keyboard. Multi-touch is still not fully supported across platforms, but both browser and map applications did not have a Pitch-to-Zoom feature. Eclair uses multi-touch data on the keyboard to detect the secondary press while typing rapidly, which can make a big difference. Accuracy of quick typists.

The browser has been modified. As mentioned previously, Eclair's browser still does not support multi-touch zoom, but it has evolved into several other important ways. Considering the launch of Android 2.0 on devices with WVGA displays, it's also important for browser apps to display complex, desktop-optimized sites. To this end, we've added HTML5 support, including video (even in full-screen mode). This is also the first time with an appropriate address bar designed to allow Android's browser to double-check the address bar to mimic Chrome. And to alleviate the lack of multi-touch, the new version adds a double-tap zoom feature, making it a convenient alternative to zoom in / out buttons.

There were other changes that could not be counted by touching almost every aspect of Eclair. While Google continues to keep up with the trends in the latest version of the UI, the changes are more simple and simple icons and widgets that are designed to work well with the Droid's clear resolution, and are more concentrated than in 2.0. Android 2.0 was essentially a lonely wolf. In addition to the Droid and its equivalent, Milestone, all phones that will be released after the launch of Eclair have been released with Android 2.1, with minor bug fixes and fewer API features. A big release is not a sign? Google did not give a new name. Both 2.0 and 2.1 were known as Eclair. However, there are two additions to 2.1.

Live Wallpaper One of the cool features of Android 2.1, Live Wallpaper, first appeared on Android 2.1. The concept is simple. The background of the Home screen instead of a static image is a real application that can be animated and has limited user interaction. Google showed its features when it added a live wallpaper to the Google Maps update. I have replaced the home screen with an overhead map of the current location of the mobile phone. Particularly the battery consumption was small, but the paintings were wonderful.

] Speech-to-text. Google has pushed the power of Text-To-Speech (TTS) after adding the developer framework for Donut's TTS engine. Now I was going in the other direction. Users can enter the existing keyboard. To facilitate this, Android 2.1 replaced the comma key on the soft keyboard. Tap, say, and the text box you highlighted will be dictated. And there is no function in appearance. Apple added a keyboard-like feature to iOS 5.


New lock screen Android 2.0 actually includes a new lock screen that allows you to swipe the screen to unmute and change the phone's mute mode, but this is the second time you have modified it in 2.1. Although this feature remained nearly identical this time, we had to change the font of the clock from a standard sans serif to an Android-style high-tech font and modify the unlock and mute functions to swipe straight to the curve instead of the curve.

Android 2.1 is not a huge update, but has brought strategic changes to Google. Google, which has dramatically changed its Android experience with concerns about the hardware vendor's skinning trend, worked directly with HTC to create its flagship device. Android is a slim, keyboardless device with one of the first 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processors from Nexus One and an advanced AMOLED display with WVGA resolution. It's ahead of that time and has since disappeared into one of the most well-known Android phones ever produced.

Google actually started this route from the Android 2.0 to the Motorola Droid. Google and Moto have worked very closely together in the phone development process, and Droid has received Eclair ahead of others. However, the Droid modified the unmodified part of the user interface. We did not sell the Droid directly to users by building a platform.

2.2: "Froyo"

Android 2.2 was launched in mid-2010, so the benefits of the Nexus program have begun to become clearer. Nexus One was first updated. What should Google show in Froyo? Much. From the first time the power was turned on, the newly designed home screen was instantly recognizable. The old three-panel view (before Android 1.0) has been removed, and one of the five panels has been replaced with a new group of dedicated translucent shortcuts. The bottom of the phone, web browser, and app launcher. Dots on both sides of the shortcut also provide an indication of the panel the user is currently viewing. Third-party skin, such as HTC's Sense, has already done all of this.

2.3 Organizing the status bar

Froyo included a completely redesigned gallery app. For example, when tilting your phone, the image tilts on the screen and includes a variety of high-quality animations as you move between individual galleries and photos. But actually, the app is not a one-time show, so it does not represent the direction of Android as a platform. We have included mobile hotspot support. (19659054) Your mobile carrier may disable or provide your own Froyo device for an additional fee when you sell it. It supports copy / paste functionality in Gmail, patching one of the big clipboard disadvantages of the platform. Google also added a traditional password / PIN lock screen for those users who do not like Android's own pattern locks or who want to be more secure as part of their corporate policies. More generally, with the release of version 2.2, BlackBerry seemed to be starting to seriously consider Android in a traditional, unbreakable enterprise environment. Here are some Exchange-related features that helped you drive your home.

2.3: "Gingerbread"

About a year after launching Froyo on Nexus One, we restarted the Nexus program to support Android 2.3 launches. This time, we chose Samsung to produce the Nexus S, a derivative of the Galaxy S line, which has been successful. In fact, it was not much more advanced than the Nexus One, but the two phones could not look much different because of the new curved glass display and polished black shell. With the Nexus S, the ubiquitous trackball beneath the display has also disappeared. We are finally ready to bid for hardware navigation in the user interface. In the case of Andy Rubin, the transition could be difficult. The trackball was always a move in Danger's line of equipment and brought in for the G1.

Gingerbread was relatively trivial in many ways, but there was a "trivial" change jointly for significant improvements on the platform. First, the stock widget has been refreshed since Eclair (including the ubiquitous "Malmo" analog clock), the UI elements on the home screen turned green and the status bar changed, so it was the most important reshaping of the platform, There was a background. This seemingly minor change has actually had a considerable impact on the appearance of the platform. Immediately it looked cleaner and more modern. However, in fact, it would have been mainly used by Google to reduce burn-in effects on battery drain and AMOLED displays. 19659059] Android 2.3 also adds new features.

You have more fine-grained control over copying and pasting. Since Apple released version 3.0 in mid-2009, Android's support for working with the clipboard has lagged behind iOS. We provided a fantastic level of highlighting by character using the magnifying glass so that the cursor is easy to manipulate with your fingers. Prior to Gingerbread, Stock Android provided only the ability to copy the contents of a full text box that you did not want (usually, even flat). To fix this, Gingerbread highlighted an anchor word-wise that you can drag with your finger on both ends to facilitate highlight adjustment. Like Froyo's home screen enhancement, this was another area where Google was catching up with innovations that some OEMs have already included in their skins. HTC already has a similar feature in previous releases.


Enhanced keyboard. Google adjusted the stock keyboard back to 2.3, this time with the naked eye. The design and coloring of the keyboard has changed significantly for the first time since Cupcake first introduced the keyboard. Multi-touch support has been improved to "chording" allowing users to quickly access the secondary symbol keyboard by pressing a multi-key combination.

Improved battery and app management tools Because Android was effective at supporting multitasking (19459052) The software was running in the background freely, so battery life was always in danger of being hit hard. Especially if the user has designed the wrong app. Over time, Gingerbread has made it easier to check for battery consumption graphically and to fix it with new bundled utilities that give you the ability to pinpoint the apps and system features that are using the most power (and of course,

Front camera support Although Google Talk is not available for mobile video chat support until mid-2010, Gingerbread supports multiple cameras on a single device, . 실제로 Google은 Nexus S에서 정면 카메라를 지정할 수있는 선견지명이 있었지만 장치를 처음 시작할 때 사진을 찍는 것 이외에는 사용할 수 없었습니다.

Gingerbread의 다른 새로운 기능은 최종 사용자가 아닌 개발자의 경우 : 배터리 덮개에 내장 된 특수 안테나를 통해 Nexus S에서 사용할 수 있었던 NFC 지원. 여러 달 동안이 기능은 조금 새로운 것이 었습니다. 일부 도시의 Google 지역 정보 표지를 검색하여 QR 코드처럼 위치 정보가 더 많은 URL을 수집 할 수 있었지만 나중에 Google에서 Sprint의 버전을 사용했습니다. Nexus S는 주요 모바일 결제 전략 인 Google 월렛을 출시했습니다. 많은 기업들이 NFC와 모바일 지불의 미래에 농장을 베팅하고 있으며, 진저 브레드는 그 밀림의 최후에 있습니다.

Google은 진저 브레드를 모바일 게임 시장에서 발판을 마련 할 수있는 기회로 사용했습니다. 그것이 iOS를 상당히 뒤 졌던 지역. 새 버전에서는 개발자가 오디오, 장치 컨트롤, 그래픽 및 저장소에 대한 하위 수준의 액세스를 허용하여 상당히 빠른 네이티브 코드를 작성할 수있었습니다. 플랫폼에 부족한 풍부한 그래픽 중심 3D 게임을 제작하는 데 절대적으로 중요했습니다.

3.X : "Honeycomb"


허니컴은 스마트 폰 지배력에 대한 Google의 과중한 청구 경로에서 벗어난 이상한 점이라고 할 수 있습니다. 실제로 Honeycomb은 스마트 폰을 전혀 사용하지 않았습니다. 그 대신, 구글은 모토로라 (Droid에서만 Android 2.0을 제공하기 위해 함께 작업 한 회사)를 반환하여 Nexus 시리즈와 동일한 맥을 사용하여 "주식"을 선보였습니다. Android 3.0, 독점적으로 타겟팅 된 Android 변형 태블릿에서. 그 장치는 Xoom이 될 것입니다.

Honeycomb은 Google이 목표로 삼을 수준의 시장 점유율을 보지 못했지만, Android의 사용자 인터페이스를 근본적으로 재 설계했습니다. Android 4.0에서 더 철저하게 구축 될 것입니다.

녹색에서 파란색으로 액센트가 변경되었습니다. 친환경은 안드로이드와 관련이 있고 영원히 지속될 것입니다. 안드로이드 로고는 물론 밝은 녹색이며, 구글의 공식 안드로이드 사이트는 녹색으로 강조되어있다. 그러나 실제 플랫폼에서는 허니컴이 출시되어 초록색 문이 열렸습니다. 대신 배터리 및 신호 표시기, 시계 위젯 및 인터페이스 전반에 걸친 다양한 하이라이트 및 트림 조각을 위해 불투명 한 파란색이 사용되었습니다.

홈 화면과 위젯 배치 재 설계 Rather than choosing home screen widgets from a list, sight unseen, Honeycomb ratcheted up the user friendliness a couple notches by showing visible previews for each type of widget available on the system — and once you choose your widget, you can place it on any of Honeycomb’s five home screen panels from a single, zoomed-out view showing all five at once. Though Android had always used a grid for widget and icon placement on the home screen, Honeycomb did a better job of embracing it and exposing it to the user — below each widget preview, you can see exactly how many “grid squares” it’ll consume once placed.


The death of physical buttons. On a Honeycomb tablet, there’s no need for dedicated, physical buttons for Back, Home, Menu, and Search as there had been on phones running 2.3 and below — instead, Back and Home have become virtual buttons that occupy a new “system bar” at the bottom of the screen. Because they’re virtual, the operating system has the flexibility to show, hide, or change them when it makes sense to do so — and for hardware manufacturers, less bezel space needs to be devoted to supporting hardware buttons.

Improved multitasking. Borrowing a page out of webOS’s playbook (keep in mind that webOS design guru Matias Duarte was employed by Google by the time Honeycomb was released), a new Recent Apps virtual button at the bottom of the screen produces a list of apps recently used — and more importantly, screen captures for each. On Gingerbread and prior, seeing recently-used apps involved a long-press of the Home key — something users would rarely think to do — and you were presented only with each app’s icon, not a helpful thumbnail.

A new paradigm for app layout. Honeycomb introduced the concept of the “action bar,” a permanently-placed bar at the top of each app that developers can use to show frequently-accessed options, context menus, and so on — it’s something of a dedicated status bar for each individual application. Additionally, Honeycomb introduced support for multi-column app layouts, a nod toward the version’s tight focus on tablets.

Android 3.1 and 3.2 were primarily maintenance releases (hence their continued use of the Honeycomb name), but they did produce a couple important features that have been retroactively deployed to most Android 3.0 tablets on the market. 3.1 added support for resizeable home screen widgets using anchors that appear when pressing and holding; a variety of third-party skins had supported widget resizing previously, but Android 3.1 pulled the functionality into the core platform.

4.0: “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Android 4.0 arrived first to the Galaxy Nexus, Google’s return to the Nexus program — and a second visit to Samsung, which had provided the Nexus S for the launch of Gingerbread. Ice Cream Sandwich is, without question, the biggest change for Android on phones at the time — but many of its new features and design elements got their start in Honeycomb, including virtual buttons, the transition from green to blue accents, improved widget support, multitasking with a scrollable list of thumbnails, and “action bars” within applications.

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Longtime Android users are well acquainted with Droid, the custom-designed typeface that’s been used since 1.0. Ice Cream Sandwich replaces it with another bespoke font — Roboto — that is said to be designed to take better advantage of today’s higher-resolution displays.


Google’s Vice President of Design Matias Duarte noted that the old font “struggled to achieve both the openness and information density we wanted in Ice Cream Sandwich,” whereas Roboto is said to avoid some anti-aliasing pitfalls (“grey mush,” as he calls it) at any scale. Google would later open source Roboto in 2015, four years after the release in 4.0.

And one of Android’s defining (and oldest) features saw a thorough refresh in 4.0, too. The aging notification screen is still one of the best implementations available in a mobile platform, but ICS improves it by making individual notifications removable simply by swiping them off the screen. In older versions, your only options were to clear them all — not always the desired behavior — or to acknowledge the notification in question by pressing it, which would usually send you into an application that you may not want to be in.


Google has quietly tweaked Android’s soft keyboard in virtually every version since it launched in Cupcake, and ICS is no exception — in fact, it’s as big of a leap forward as Gingerbread’s was. The physical design and layout of the keys is largely unchanged, but the correction intelligence driving it has been overhauled, and real-world suggests that the changes are working wonders. Alongside, the platform gets an attractive implementation of inline spellcheck and replacement — not unlike iOS — with red underlining for misspelled words and on-the-spot dictionary adding. For the first time, text entry, clipboard support, and soft keyboard quality feel as though they’re as good as anything on the market.

And that’s just the start:

More home screen improvements. ICS’s home screen adopted many of the changes that Honeycomb brought into the fold, but it added a couple new tricks, too. Folders can now be created simply by dragging one icon onto another, at which point they appear as a three-dimensional stack of icons rising out of a black circle — a nice look. The home screen also gets a “favorites tray,” which mirrors the configurable dock functionality seen on third-party launchers and some OEM skins over the last couple years. Unlike Froyo and Gingerbread which had the Phone and Browser apps permanently docked to the bottom of the screen, the favorites tray lets the user decide what shortcuts should lie there (the defaults are Phone, People, Messaging, and Browser, but you can have whatever you like).

Android Beam. NFC support was heavily touted with the release of Gingerbread and the Nexus S — but apart from the limited rollout that Google Wallet had seen so far, there’s been virtually no practical application to the capability whatsoever. ICS looks to change that with a new feature called Android Beam that allows two Beam-enabled phones to transfer data just by touching them together, and it’s open — developers can extend it and use it however they see fit.

Face unlock. In addition to the pattern and password locks already supported, Android 4.0 adds a face unlock that uses the phone’s front-facing camera to look for a match. It’s arguably more of a novelty than anything else since it can be defeated with a picture of the individual who owns the phone. This concept would go on to be a major part of Apple’s iPhone X in 2017, which arrived with its own Face ID system that uses IR sensors to detect the user’s facial features.


Data usage analysis. Just as Gingerbread improved visibility into battery usage by application, Android 4.0 did the same thing for data usage. You can see overall usage broken down by any time period you like (and set alerts to prevent overage), but additionally, you can drive down on an application-by-application basis and see what’s eating your megabytes.

New calendar and mail apps. The Gmail and traditional email experiences on Android 4.0 have been extensively overhauled with new, crisper designs and “action bar” support — functionality carried over from Honeycomb. The calendar app has a unified view for the first time, convenient for those using multiple accounts on their device.

Announced at 2012’s Google I/O conference, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is arguably a much bigger deal than its mere 0.1 increment over Ice Cream Sandwich would have you believe. It represents both a reboot in Google’s flagging tablet strategy (having been introduced alongside the Asus-sourced Nexus 7) and a big refinement in the completely redesigned user experience that debuted in Android 4.0.

A quick glance at 4.1 — starting with the home screen — doesn’t give you much indication that anything has changed, but a deeper look reveals a host of tweaks and new features. And one of its most important features is under the hood, away from view: “Project Butter.” Google says that it set out to significantly improve Android’s visual and touch performance with this version by triple-buffering graphics, locking all drawing to a 16-millisecond refresh time, and making a number of tweaks to the touch input subsystem. Since Android’s launch, the platform has always seemed to lag iOS’s touch responsiveness by a hair (particularly when scrolling) and these changes help close the gap.

4.1: “Jelly Bean”


Of all the user-facing changes, Google Now was undoubtedly the biggest, most important, and most ambitious — would that would predate how Google Assistant today helps manage your daily tasks. Google Now sought to do a lot of your day-to-day thinking for you, predicting what you need to know before you ask. Accessed with a screen swipe, Now processed a variety of data — your schedule, location, time of day, and so on — and presents a series of “cards” that slide into view depending on what it perceives as the most important information right this moment (it might give you a drive time home if it detects that you’re at your office, for instance). It also integrated a revamped natural language search function with perhaps the most realistic text-to-speech system ever offered on a phone. With Jelly Bean, voice dictation became available offline for the first time, meaning you didn’t need to be connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network to use it.

A small selection of 4.1’s other headline features include:

Roboto refresh. Android’s signature font, first seen in Android 4.0, has been reworked. New styles and weights are used throughout the UI (italic is seen in Google Now, for instance) and the font renders a little differently than it did before.

Expandable, “actionable” notifications. Android has long had the best and most flexible notification system in the business (with webOS arguably the exception) and Android 4.1 takes it to the next level. Developers can now create more dynamic notifications that can expand right inside the notification dropdown to reveal more information and controls without opening the app itself. Notifications can also now be toggled off on an app-by-app basis, a useful feature first introduced by Apple with the debut of the Notification Center in iOS 5.

Minor UI tweaks.

Widget flexibility. Resizable home screen widgets first came to the platform in Android 3.1, but Jelly Bean makes them more useful — they can resize dynamically. The task of trying to fit all your widgets and icons on a single panel is a notoriously frustrating one, but now, widgets will adjust to fit the available space. Icons will also move out of the way to accommodate your drop target, much as they do in iOS.

Predictive text. Google has aggressively refreshed Android’s stock keyboard with almost every new version of the platform (an effort that is largely lost because OEMs almost universally choose to replace it with their own), and 4.1 is no different. This time, focus has turned away from word correction and towards word predictiona capability made famous by the widely popular SwiftKey and adopted by BlackBerry 10: the keyboard will now attempt to guess the next word that you want to write and adapt to your writing style over time.

4.2 “Jelly Bean”


While Android 4.1 Jelly Bean introduced a new confectionary-based name and significant improvements over 4.0, Android 4.2 kept the Jelly Bean moniker and can be looked at as more of a refinement of the platform instead of a major update. Announced just six months after 4.1, 4.2 tightened up performance, introduced improved animations, and offered an even more cohesive design over 4.0 and 4.1. That isn’t to say there weren’t any user-facing additions: Android 4.2 offered a new control panel accessible from the notification shade (via a rather obscure two-finger gesture or a more obvious button), the ability to access widgets and launch the camera right from the lock screen, and the ability to trace words on the stock keyboard a la Swype.

One of the biggest additions to come with 4.2 was Miracast support, which lets you wirelessly stream video and audio from your device to a television or other display. Google’s apparent answer to Apple’s AirPlay, Miracast is considered an industry standard, and there are some set-top boxes on the market that support it. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of improvement in Miracast support since Android 4.2 was released in the fall of 2012, and there are relatively few smartphones on the market that take advantage of it, even if they have been updated to Android 4.2. Eventually, this feature would make its way into a standalone hardware called Google Chromecast, a device that continues to be iterated to this day.

Though it wasn’t a software feature, per se, Android 4.2 also saw the release of ”Google Play edition” phones — popular devices from Samsung and HTC that had their custom software stripped and replaced with a “stock” Android experience. For customers who didn’t love the Nexus hardware but still wanted to get Android 4.2 out of the box, the Google Play editions became the best option around.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other new features introduced with Android 4.2:


Redesigned clock app and clock widgets. One of the biggest visual changes in 4.2 is the new clock app, which features oddly-bolded hours and skinny minutes, as well as quick access to a countdown timer, stopwatch, and world clock. Google also added new analog and digital home screen widgets to the clock app.

Multiple user profiles. Android 4.2 added the ability to have multiple user profiles or accounts on the same Android tablet, letting families easily share the same device. Profiles work very similarly to multiple user accounts in Windows or OS X, and are something that the iPad still doesn’t offer today.

Photospheres. Android 4.2 was the first time that Google introduced Photospheres to the world. A Photosphere is a 360-degree panoramic image that is captured by panning the device around to encapsulate the whole scene. Unfortunately, Photospheres were difficult to share — they can only really be shared through Google’s own Google+ social network — and were not the best at stitching many disparate images together. As a result, they’ve remained a novelty and aren’t something that most users bother with.

Daydream screensavers. As head of Android design, Matias Duarte’s influence on how Android looks and feels is fairly significant, and the Daydream feature in Android 4.2 might be one of the most obvious. Daydream essentially replicates the Exhibition mode that came with webOS 2.0 (Duarte came to Google from Palm, where he led design on webOS), and is a screensaver that can display pictures, images, information, or widgets whenever the phone is plugged in or docked.

Accessibility enhancements. Android 4.2 added a number of improvements for the disabled, with the ability to triple-tap to magnify the entire screen, pan and zoom with two fingers, and speech output and Gesture Mode navigation for blind users.

Though we had been waiting for Android 5 for some time, Google threw us a curveball by once again sticking with Jelly Bean and a point update: Android 4.3 was announced alongside a new Nexus 7 on July 24th, 2013. As you might expect from the small jump in numbers, this update had an equally small jump in features. The most high-profile change to 4.3 was designed specifically with the Nexus 7 (and other Android tablets) in mind: improved multiuser support with restricted profiles, which put the tools were put in place to ensure kids didn’t go crazy with in-app purchases.

Google had begun making a big push for Android gaming earlier in the year, and with 4.3 the company began promoting it in earnest. The new version was the first operating system to support OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics, an advanced software engine for gaming. Apple followed suit with its own OS later in the year, though, and still maintains a significant edge in the gaming ecosystem.

4.3: “Jelly Bean”


Android 4.3 also brought some other minor improvements: TRIM support for improvement memory management, Bluetooth Smart for low-energy accessories, virtual surround sound, a predictive dial pad, and improved Wi-Fi location services.

For Android users, the relatively minor updates in 4.3 may have been blessings in disguise. For one thing, there was less consternation about the inevitable delays that every Android phone faces in getting the latest version of the OS. However, the biggest changes to the experience of using Android over 2013 didn’t come from OS updates, they came from app updates. As Android director of engineering Dave Burke explained to The VergeGoogle has embarked on a process of modularizing Android. Many core apps like Gmail, Chrome, and Calendar get updated on a regular basis without the need for a giant OS refresh. That means that Android users get the benefits of those improved app right away, instead of having to wait for manufacturers and carriers to go through the long, slow process of customization and approval.

While Android 4.3 might be the pinnacle of Google’s new philosophy of making OS updates more about plumbing than about user-facing features, that doesn’t mean that users aren’t waiting for the next big thing. Google has already teased that the next version is coming — and it has a surprising name.

4.4: “KitKat”


Google released Android 4.4 KitKat in October 2013, coinciding with the launch of the Nexus 5 smartphone. KitKat was the first time that Google has partnered with an outside brand for the Android mascot, and the company launched a massive marketing campaign with Nestle for it. Google would then repeat a similar partnership in 2017 with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Despite being just a point update, 4.4 brought the largest visual change to the platform since the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google took the visual concepts used in 4.1 and 4.2 and pushed them even further, and modernized the platform in other places as well. The familiar blue accent color seen throughout versions 4.0 to 4.3 was been replaced with white, excising the last remnants of the Tron-inspired aesthetic introduced in Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Additionally, a number of stock apps were redesigned with lighter color schemes.


But the biggest change was found in the home screen: Android 4.4 introduced a transparent notification bar and on-screen buttons; a refined, condensed version of the standard Roboto font; a new app drawer; and most importantly, Google Now integrated directly into the home screen.

In addition to the visual overhaul, Google said its “goal with Android KitKat” was “to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody.” The company focused on making the new OS more efficient, faster, and less resource intensive. This allowed it to run on lower-end and older hardware, encouraging manufacturers to update their existing devices and launch new devices with KitKat instead of resorting to older versions of Android. It was Google’s biggest move yet to end the dreaded version fragmentation that has dogged the platform since its early days.

Here’s a look at some of the top features introduced with Android 4.4:

Google Now in the home screen. The biggest feature for Android 4.4 KitKat was the redesigned launcher, and the star of that show was Google Now. The predictive search service was pulled out of hiding behind a swipe up gesture, giving it prime real estate as the leftmost page of the new launcher. Google Now’s features became more powerful — it coulddirect you to the right app for your search, instead of just launching a web search — and the pervasive search box at the top of every home screen began listening for an “okay Google” voice command at any given time.

New dialer. The dialer was updated to plug into Google’s vast database of businesses and services, letting you search for things right from within the app and get results that might not be in your address book. It was a two-way street, too: if a business called you and you didn’t have its number stored, the dialer automatically identified the caller. In addition to the new searching features, Android 4.4’s dialer had a new, lighter design that better matches the People app.

Full-screen apps. Complementing the new transparent status bar and navigation buttons was the ability for apps to run completely full screen. Apps had the option to hide the status bar and navigation buttons entirely, providing a more immersive experience. The lock screen also offered full-screen album art and cover art for when you are listening to music and playing movies or TV shows on a Chromecast.

Unified Hangouts app. Android 4.4 expanded Google’s Hangouts messaging service with the ability to send and receive SMS messages right from within the app. Though the new features were also available to earlier versions of Android, they made their debut with KitKat and the Nexus 5. The integrated SMS feature wasn’t perfect — Google doesn’t thread SMS messages in the same conversation as Hangouts messages — but was a big step towards Google making Hangouts the focus for all of your messaging activity.

Redesigned Clock and Downloads apps. For the second time since Android 4.2, Google has redesigned the standard clock app in KitKat. The new app offers a more intuitive interface for setting alarms, and does away with the odd bolded hours and thin minutes look of the earlier app. The Downloads app was also been redesigned with a lighter color scheme and more modern look and feel.


Emoji. With Android 4.4, Google finally built colorful emoji characters into the standard keyboard. Other platforms and third-party apps had offered emoji, but users were granted access to the various smiley faces and icons anywhere in the Android operating system.

Productivity enhancements. Google made productivity a big focus in Android 4.4, with a new version of the Quickoffice app and the ability to print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print. The new Quickoffice gave users access to files stored on cloud services such as Dropbox, Box, and others, in addition to Google Drive. It also received the lighter design treatment, and fits in better with the rest of Google’s existing productivity apps. Google also updated its long-neglected standard email app (not Gmail) with better navigation, nested folders, and other improvements.

HDR+. On devices such as the Nexus 5, Android 4.4 introduced support for HDR+, a new HDR mode that is said to provide sharper images with less noise and greater dynamic range. It still required capturing multiple images and stitching them together, so it didn’t work well with moving subjects, but it was impressive on landscapes and other still-life scenes.

5.0: “Lollipop”

Three years after the release of 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google finally moved forward to the next version of Android with 5.0 Lollipop in November 2014. Lollipop would be the first to introduce a new design language called Material Design that would change the look and feel of apps across Android, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and even stock apps like Dialer and Calendar. This update also brought on Google’s ambitions to expand outside of mobile devices and into wearables, televisions, and even automobiles.

Material Design. Again, the most noticeable change is the introduction of a new design language across Android. Material Design was built on the Cards metaphor first seen in Google Now, establishing a hierarchy of transitions and animations to imitate real life. The colorful interfaces, playful transitions, and animations looked straight out of Disney’s playbook. The Material Design ethos would later be incorporated into Google’s web applications as well, including the desktop interfaces for Google Drive, Google Docs / Sheets / Slides, and Chrome OS.

Multitasking redefined. With Android Lollipop, Google had redesigned how multitasking functions. Rather than simply showing you previews of your recent applications, the new Recents menu let you jump right into the part of the app you’re interested in. This means that tabs in Chrome or documents in Drive will show up as separate preview panes, and developers will be able to tap into the new functionality, too. Apps like Hangouts, Messenger, and WhatsApp can now take advantage of this new view to break conversations into tabs that are accessible from anywhere.

Notifications. Lollipop also saw a big emphasis on the lock screen as the home of notifications in Android. It’s similar to the system already in place in Android 4.4’s notification drawer, but each item is neatly segmented into Cards. The update allowed you to dismiss or deal with notifications straight from the lock screen, with granular controls in place to define which apps can be managed without unlocking your device. There are also new drop-down notifications for when you’re in an app that look like large, floating Cards.

This lock screen notification design would become a large part of how mobile operating systems operate today, emphasizing quick actions like replying to messages or snoozing pings without ever unlocking the device.

Project Volta. Named after Alessandro Volta, the Italian physicist who invented the battery, Project Volta is a broad set of optimizations and tools that Google says will improve battery life in Android. Battery Historian is a new tool that will give users and developers a greater understanding of how apps are consuming energy, while a new API lets developers make more power-efficient apps by giving control over when background tasks are performed. There’s also a Battery Saver mode coming that Google claims will give users another 90 minutes of usage by switching off all but the most vital functions.


Moto 360 2040px

Android everywhere. Google’s dominant mobile OS is no longer just for phones or tablets. Android Wear, an initiative to get the mobile OS onto wearables, was a large focus. Google wants Android on all wearables, whether they’re smartwatches like the Moto 360 or headsets like Google Glass. The first Android Wear smartwatches became available to order through Google Play, with Lollipop enabling functions like unlocking your smartphone without a passcode or pattern if you’re wearing a paired smartwatch. It also integrated Google Fit into the devices, tracking physical fitness activities like walking or biking.

Additionally, Android TV became another attempt to get Google services into your living room. Built on top of Lollipop, Android TV has all the functionality of the company’s Chromecast device, but it pairs that with a more traditional media streaming setup (think Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon’s new Fire TV). Google would later build Android TV into a 4K HDR, Chromecast-like dongle, but so far, it has only released this to developers, not consumers.

Android Auto puts often-used features from smartphones directly into your car. The platform offers calling, texting, navigation, and music, all controlled via a Google Now-style home screen optimized for voice commands or in-car controls. Today, it’s replaced by Google Assistant, the software now found in many of Google’s smart home devices including the Home line of speakers and Home Hub smart display.

There were other smaller announcements with Lollipop, too, such as the ability to run Android apps through Chrome OS and also receive Android notifications directly on your laptop. The message is simple: Google wants Android Lollipop to be the release that takes its dominant mobile operating system and puts it everywhere — your phone, your tablet, your laptop, your TV, your wrist — as the future of Google computing.

6.0: “Marshmallow”


Android Marshmallow was released in October 2015 alongside Google’s Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. The update had only a couple truly exciting features, but altogether, the changes represented an important quality-of-life development and an overall maturity of the OS. App permissions offered users more control, the system got smarter about conserving battery, and long-standing pain points like copy and paste were fixed.

It also made Android work a lot more like iOS at a time when the gap between Android phones and iPhones was finally starting to narrow. At long last, their operating systems were starting to move toward each other, with Google adopting some of Apple’s caution and Apple starting to make iOS feel as ambitious as Android. The result was an important update that moved Google’s operating system in a smarter direction as apps, devices, and users began demanding more.

Granular app permissions. Like iOS had long done, Google began allowing users to accept or deny permissions for features like camera or location access on an individual basis, rather than requiring them to accept all or nothing. The transition was slow — developers had to update their apps to support the new scheme — but it was an important move that offered users more control and added safety.

Android Pay. Though not strictly a Marshmallow feature (it hit other Android devices a month before launch), Android Pay was preinstalled on Marshmallow and began allowing users to make payments at supported registers over NFC. Google had been trying to break into mobile payments for a while, and after many failures — and the sheer force of Apple paving the way — Google was finally able to launch a service that worked.

Google fixed copy and paste. Finally. Instead of indecipherable glyphs at the top of the screen, Google borrowed iOS’s approach and made cut and copy options appear directly above what you selected, which is way easier.


Smarter app management. Another meaningful inspiration from iOS came in the form of how Android Marshmallow managed apps. The system began doing a more thorough job of freezing and closing apps lingering in the background using a pair of features called Doze and App Standby. Doze would freeze apps when Android detected that a phone wasn’t in use. And App Standby would block background apps from updating if they hadn’t been opened in some time.

Now on Tap. Now on Tap was Marshmallow’s big new feature, and it was a neat and extremely Google-y one. You held down the home button, and the operating system would automatically scan what was on your screen and pull up relevant information about what it found. It was, in some ways, a precursor to Google Assistant, which would later get this functionality built into it. Now on Tap didn’t always work perfectly, but when it did, it was one of those things that really made a smartphone feel smart.

Fingerprints and USB-C. Neither feature was strictly new to Android devices, but Google helped the them take off by building support directly into the OS, offering a standard way for manufacturers and developers to interact with them.

A smarter app drawer. Instead of flipping through pages of apps, Marshmallow overhauled the app drawer in a few smart ways. First, it sorted the apps in alphabetical order and displayed big letters to help you find what you were looking for. Second, it added a search bar to the top, so you could just type in what you wanted. And third, it added a row of suggested apps to the top, which would go ahead and guess what you were looking for. The guesses got it right… some of the time.

7.0: “Nougat”


nougat splt

Android 7.0 Nougat was officially released on August 22nd, 2016. This update introduced big changes for big phones. The most significant among them was split-screen multitasking, long after Samsung and LG had started building split-screen support into some of their Android devices. Nougat was also the first and only time Google allowed fans to help it name its next version, landing on an official name just a little over a month after crowdsourcing some suggestions.

To this day, version 7.0 remains the most-used version of Android.


Split-screen support. To get two apps running on-screen at once, users could hold down the recents / overview icon and then select a second app to open. But not all popular Android apps immediately supported split-screen, and some of them still don’t to this day.

One of the most useful additions to Android Nougat was a very simple one: quickly double tapping the overview button would hop between the two most recently used apps. This proved even faster than opening the app switcher.

Quick replies get quicker. Nougat also allowed developers to add quick replies directly to their app’s notifications, letting users respond to messages without having to change apps to do so. Google made some changes to the visual style of notifications as well, getting rid of the space between each of them to give the appearance of a single pull-down “sheet.”

With Android Nougat, apps could also bundle several notifications together to cut down on clutter in the notification shade. And users could take control of notifications and change their settings with a long press.

Customizable quick settings. Starting with Nougat, Google put five quick settings icons at the top of the pull-down menu that could be customized — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, do not disturb, data saver, etc. — to a user’s liking. These could be conveniently accessed and toggled on / off with a quick swipe without fully pulling the notification shade all the way down.

Small user-facing updates and bigger ambitions inside. Android Nougat extended the battery-saving Doze optimizations of Marshmallow, which put devices into a deep sleep state when sitting still on a table, for everyday usage. Now, they’d kick in whenever the screen was turned off to extend a phone’s charge.

Underneath the user-facing features, the update had a lot of important improvements like support for the Vulkan API to allow for higher-quality 3D graphics and better games. And Nougat introduced a new approach to future updates, where a phone would download and install a new Android version onto a separate partition in the background. After that, a user would just need to restart their phone to be on the new software right away.

8.0: “Oreo”

As previously mentioned, Oreo would be Google’s second partnership to name its next version of Android after a branded snack. Google would coincide Oreo’s name unveiling with the 2017 solar eclipse, revealing the mascot as a superhero with a cape. By this version, Google Assistant had essentially replaced Google Now as the default virtual assistant. Visually, Oreo also brought one of its most controversial moves yet: the death of the blob emoji.

Notifications are more condensed. Android Oreo proved that the lock screen became essential to the Android experience, with even more organization around how notifications are shown and actionable without unlocking your device. Now, notifications are ordered by what Android perceives to be the priority, such as a pinned music player at the top to let you start, stop, or skip songs. “People to people” alerts, such as text messages or social media notifications, would come next, followed by other notifications like news alerts or app updates.

Oreo also brought a new snoozing feature that lets you swipe away a notification and be reminded at a later time. There are a few UI changes, too, such as notification dots on app icons that let you hold down to see what’s new in that app rather than constantly bombard you on the lock screen. Unlike iOS, however, the dots do not show the number of new notifications, just that there is (at least) one.

RIP blobmoji. Initially unveiled at I/O 2017 without major fanfare, Android 8 Oreo had introduced a new set of emoji that would mark the end of the blob-style emoticons that were first introduced with 4.4 KitKat. The expressive yellow blobs were replaced with a more standard, circular emoji that used gradient colors and bolder lines. Animal emoji were also updated to look slightly more realistic, rather than cartoony. Blobmoji would live on as stickers on Allo, Hangouts, and Gboard.

I’m one with the blob, the blob is me ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ.

Android 4.4 vs 8.0 emoji.

Picture-in-picture. Google had teased better multitasking with the introduction of picture-in-picture for Oreo, but the feature was underused upon release as it was limited to specific Google services, such as the paid version of YouTube.

Android TV gets more updates. Prior to Oreo, Android TV had only seen tiny updates, but the new version offered new app channels that displayed live previews of what’s currently playing. A new Watch Now queue also pulled up a list of next episodes in your viewing lineup. Google Assistant was now standard on Android TV running Oreo, rather than an OTA update for those on Nougat and Marshmallow.

Project Treble. Android Oreo brought some significant changes to how the platform was built under the hood in the form of Project Treble. At its simplest, Project Treble separated the Android OS framework from the firmware and other low-level implementations installed by device makers such as Samsung, LG, Huawei, and others. The goal is to make it easier for these companies to issue updates to new versions of Android as they are released and shorten the time it takes to deliver them. So far, results have been mixed. Treble has made it easier for modders and enthusiasts to tweak their devices, but we haven’t seen companies really deliver updates any quicker as a result of it.

9.0: “Pie”


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Of the many good P sweets, Google went with Pie for its 10th anniversary in 2018. With it, core functions of the world’s biggest mobile operating system evolved. When Android P debuted at Google’s I/O 2018 developer conference, it was immediately available to test for Google Pixel users. Shortly afterward, Android Pie became the first release that could be tested on non-Google smartphones since the platform first launched. It’s a welcoming sign considering that in 2018, Android still struggles with update fragmentation.

Android Pie is a turning point for the mobile OS. It now has new gesture-based navigation and a dashboard to monitor and limit your “digital wellbeing” or app usage. It also incorporates AI more than ever, using it to drive Android’s UI in the form of Actions and Slices, which predicts the tasks you might want in a certain app then offers an immediate shortcut. Smaller but still useful updates like an improved Do Not Disturb mode, screenshot editing, an early attempt at a “dark mode,” and a Lockdown feature designed to help protect your personal data in case you’re under duress round out version 9’s enhancements.

Gestural Navigation. The big change in Pie is the removal of the three-button navigation setup of past Android builds.

The main navigational screens for Android P can all be accessed with a gesture starting from the “pill” button at the bottom of the screen. A half-swipe up shows the Overview (or recent apps) screen, a full swipe up opens the App Drawer, a tap goes back to the home screen, a long press launches Google Assistant, and a slide to the right quickly switches between recently used apps. Android Pie is also where Google begins to phase out the back button, only allowing it to appear within apps, rather than at all times.


Digital Wellbeing. Google announced its take on monitoring and limiting app usage before Apple did with iOS 12, but as of October 2018, the Android version of the product is still not quite ready. Instead, Digital Wellbeing is being tested publicly as a beta on Pixel and Android One devices — as Google often does — and then it will assume its position within Android Pie at a later date, via an OTA update.

Digital Wellbeing promises to track the notifications you receive, time spent in apps, and how often you check your phone to see what’s going on. Google is being sensitive to conversations in modern society about better time management for digital devices for younger users as well as teens and adults.

Even More AI. Actions and Slices are still in their early stages, which debuted with Android Pie. If you don’t already know, Google really loves artificial intelligence, and this is the way it lives in Pie’s user interface. These deep links into apps are separated into two parts: Actions operate just like those in Google Assistant, while Slices are a new subset that can show the app’s own UI when you type out a global search. They’re handy additions, but they will need the buy-in from developers before they become true time-savers.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 7th, 2011, and it has been updated for Android’s 10th anniversary.

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