Android 4.1 Jelly Bean further fragments the OS as many handsets wait to update to Android 4.0. CNET weighs in on how far the Android OS has come and where it’s going.
Google has come a long way since the early days when it struggled to convince the world that its friendly green extraterrestrial could make applesauce of the revolutionary iPhone.
In truth, Google’s first Android phone, the HTC-made T-Mobile G1, wasn’t much to look at when it debuted in October 2008, with its trough for a keyboard and its bizarrely jutting chin. HTC was hardly a known brand, and we weren’t even sure if we were getting a single Google Phone or an entire operating system. Yet the humble G1, with its ugly design and few apps, kicked off an Android avalanche just the same.
Fast-forward to 2012, when the now-mature Android operating system is neck and neck with the iPhone around the globe. Android is everywhere.
Yet for all the platform’s success, Android is still plagued by fragmentation, by too many versions of the operating system available at the same time across handsets and carriers. Developers and the press will once again raise a hue and cry this week when Google spills the beans on its Jelly Bean OS at Google I/O. As of today, many existing Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphones are still waiting for their Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich updates, eight months after the SDK became available.
A little perspective tends to go a long way, and in light of that, here’s a look at milestones in Google’s Android operating system, from its humble beginnings to its current ambitions in smartphone and tablet domination.
|Android version||SDK release*||Notable updates|
|1.0 (G1)||February 2008||
|1.5 (Cupcake)||April 2009||
|1.6 (Donut)||September 2009||
|2.0 (Eclair)||October 2009||
|2.1 (Eclair, second helping)||January 2010||
|2.2 (Froyo)||May 2010||
|2.3 (Gingerbread)||December 2010||
|3.0 (Honeycomb)||February 2011||
|3.1-3.2.6 (Honeycomb)||May 2011-February 2012||
|4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)||October 2011||
|4.1 (Jelly Bean)||July 2012||
|* The date reflects the SDK release rather than the over-the-air (OTA) update timeline since OTA release dates vary by carrier and handset model.|
Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
Less than a year after the Ice Cream Sandwich release, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean builds from Android 4.0 with incremental additions that still pack a lot of punch.
Google’s Voice Actions has been dusted off, prettied up, and thrown into the spotlight to stand against Apple’s Siri. Google also devised Google Now, an optional program that uses your GPS coordinates, calendar, and search history to anticipate your needs for travel information, sports scores, public transportation routes, and reminders on when to leave in order to make your appointments on time.
Google has also built out its notifications to let you see and do more whenever you get a new alert, and expanded Android Beam, which now transfers meatier files like photos and video, in addition to URLs, maps, and contact details.
Fragmentation on the rise
While Jelly Bean is a worthy update, Google is only digging itself deeper into the fragmentation mess. Most current phones have been brought up to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but despite its announcement eight months ago, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is still shiny, new, and absent from the majority of top U.S. smartphones. The hunger for Jelly Bean, which arrives first for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, and Google Nexus 7 tablet will only frustrate more.