An Overview of Android Flavors
In 2014 Google’s founders went public with the statement, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” This was not just a declaration but a commitment which the company upholds. Unconventionally, Google names its Android versions after desserts, which are known as Android Flavor. Of course, every flavor and version number offers a suite of new features. Marshmallow (6.0) is the latest tasty nickname for the latest Android version released in October 2015. This post will be your guide to different Android flavors released over the years.
So what’s new in it? With permission dashboard, Marshmallow provides you better control over managing permissions. You no longer have to grant apps access to your data by installing it. With this version, you can control the parts of the data you wish to share. Other user features Android 6.0 offers include: Finger Print Authentication Support, USB Type-C Support, Android Pay, Voice Interactions, Adoptable Storage Devices, MIDI Support, and BETTER BATTERY LIFE. Yay! Better battery life is the thing we all wanted for a long time. This is just the start, and new features like Assist API and app linking will help developers in building powerful and better apps. Another thing we love “powerful and better apps.”
Marshmallow (6.0) released in October this year, and currently has 0.3% of Android market share and its API Level is 23.
Android Lollipop (5.0) was released by Google with Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, and provides many new features for users. It extends the reach of Android to cars and TVs, beyond typical uses like phones, wearable and tablets. The most prominent feature of Lollipop is the Material Design, which provides you an extended UI toolkit to ensure easy integration of new patterns of design in your apps. Submitting to the popular demand, Google tends to provide better, powerful and smoother computing experience with this version. The other prominent features include high performance graphics (for gamers), Android in the workplace (for professionals), tilt detector and heart rate sensor (for anyone who wish to use it). For developers, it provides thousands of new APIs and for the first time Google has provided developer beta previews of the software.
Android Lollipop (5.0) with all these fancy features, plagued by performance issues, and in the following updates Google mostly fixed bugs and performance issues. Lollipop (5.0) currently has over 11% of Android market share and 22 API levels.
This version was designed to operate faster, smoother and responsive than its predecessor. KitKat has been designed in a way that it can support millions of entry-level devices operating on as low as 512MB RAM. This version was released with LG Nexus 5, and offers features like screen recording, new translucent system UI (making it more colorful), and system-wide settings (for closed captioning). And of course, there were so many new APIs for developers.
KitKat (4.0) currently has over 37% of Android market share and its last update had 19 API levels.
Jelly Bean (4.1 – 4.3)
Jelly Bean name was attributed to three important point releases of Android, each offering upgrades, bugs and performance fixes. This version also comes with a suite of new features for both users and developers.
The release of the ASUS Nexus 7 marked the arrival of Jelly Bean, which was updated quickly to 4.1 for unlocked phones of Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Xoom tablets. The release of Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 later in that year updated the version to 4.2 from 4.1, and then to 4.3. The release of Jelly Bean improved the Ice Cream Sandwich UI design, and brought many great features to users and developers. Jelly Bean version has been regarded as the turning point for Android OS, where better features are supported with better design. It focuses on responsiveness of the system and brought features like Google Now, wireless display, multi-user accounts, lock screen widgets, photo sphere with 360 degree images, and actionable notifications among many others.
The versions 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 currently have around 11%, 13.9% and 4.1% of Android market share respectively, and its last update had 18 API levels.
Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0)
This Android version was released in December 2011, following up the tablet only version Honeycomb. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) refined many concepts of Honeycomb and attempted to provide a unified platform for both phones and tablets. ICS also simplified and modernized the experience of Android which was built following the new set of human interface guidelines. New lock screen, better voice recognition, updated launcher, web browser, and smooth screen rotation are among the prominent features this new flavor offers to users.
ICS was launched by Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung Nexus S was the first of smartphones that jumped to this version. Whereas, ASUS Transform Prime and Motorola Xoom were the first tablets to receive this update. ICS currently has 3.3% of Android market share and its API level is 15.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb is only tablet-exclusive operating system developed by Google. This version was released with Motorola Xoom in February 2011. This OS is specifically design to enhance UI of large screen devices, specifically tablets. Updated versions of Honeycomb (3.1 and 3.2) were also released for improving the overall performance and for smoother experience. Its main features include: customizable home screen, media sync from SD card, Wi-Fi improvements, and support for mouse, joystick, and gamepads. Honeycomb is discontinued and has 13 API levels.
This desert-themed version of Android was baked (released) in December 2010, for various smartphones. However, Nexus S of the Google Nexus line was the first to run Gingerbread. This version comes with improved gaming functions, enhanced apps, better UI, easy to use keyboard, video and video call support among others. For developers it offers strict mode debugging, improvement in near field communication or NFC API, and open accessory API among many others. Moreover, feature that is useful for both developers and customers alike is multi-media framework, which provides better support to video and sound.
The API level of Gingerbread was 10, and presently holds 3.8% of Android market share.
The single and most prominent change introduced in this flavor of Android is JIT or Just-In-Time Compiler. JIT substantially increases the processing power of phone and offer smooth experience to users. Additionally, Froyo (2.2) supports Adobe Flash 10.1, simply making it easier to play Flash-based games. This feature might not appear attractive to many, but the experience is unforgettable for those of us who used it.
Support to USB tethering was also introduced in Froyo, which enables you to use your data connection to any device with a cable or wirelessly. Its other prominent features include improvement in speed than its predecessor, installation of application to extendable memory and animated GIFs. The API Level of Froyo is 8, and currently has 0.2% of Android market share.
The tasty name Éclair was given to the Android 2.0 version, which was released in October 2009. This version carried on improving and enhancing the features initially introduced in Donut (1.6). This version introduced for the first time live wallpapers, tools for photo editing, camera filters, flash support, and Google Maps Navigation. Éclair (2.0) first introduced through Motorola Droid. However, an updated version (2.1) was released shortly mainly bringing bug fixes and improved UI with cool 3D graphics. Android Éclair is now discontinued and had 7 API Levels.
Expanding on the feature of Android Cupcake (1.5), Donut was released in September 2009. The UI was not mesmerizing but the overall operating framework of Android OS was drastically improved, paving the way for amazing features. For end users, Donut offered improvement in universal search and Android Market.
Gesture framework and turn-by-turn navigation are the two key features of Donut. Moreover, Donut (1.6) also offers improved camera and brought support for high-resolution touchscreens, gallery and Sprint and Verizon phones. Its API level is four, and this operating system is no longer supported by Google.
Cupcake was the first desert-themed codename for Android OS released in April 2009. The enhanced and user friendly features in Marshmallow (6.0), all are the results of continuous improvement of Android OS. Cupcake synchronizes Contacts, Gmail and Google Agenda. Cupcake brought plenty of changes in UI and also improved features like camcorder and Bluetooth uploading. Cupcake (1.5) also provided feature like Google Maps, YouTube, Web Browser, and Downloading updates through Android Market, which is known as the beginning of modern Android phones. Its API Level is 1 and is no longer used in any device.
The declaration “Google is not a conventional company,” is represented not only by desert-themed code names of the products, but also through the consistency of efforts in enhancing user experience.