Flashback: thanking Android Jelly Bean for the buttery interface and multimedia improvements

As Google prepares to retire Android Jelly Bean to the nice farm in the cloud the place it may well play with the alphabetically smaller variations, we thought this may be a great time to take a look again at a life effectively lived.

Jelly Bean first arrived in 2012 with Android model 4.1, however the identify would stick round for two extra minor releases (4.2 and 4.3). Nine years is a very long time for an working system, particularly in the cell world. Even a desktop OS like Windows 10 will stick round for solely 10 years (it was launched in 2015 and Microsoft will finish prolonged assist in 2025).

Flashback: thanking Android Jelly Bean for the buttery interface and multimedia improvements

But earlier than we discuss Jelly Bean, we now have to set the stage. Android’s early interface was promising if somewhat clunky, which led most makers to pores and skin it – again then skins have been noticeably higher than inventory UI. Android 2.3 Gingerbread (which we coated in a previous installment) was the final model earlier than a serious cut up.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb launched Holo UI, however it was a model made completely for tablets. Months later model 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich introduced Holo to the smaller shows of telephones. The ICS model of Holo was extra minimalistic, whereas Honeycomb had a contact of futuristic aptitude.

Flashback: thanking Android Jelly Bean for the buttery interface and multimedia improvements

Now that the look of the interface was settled, it was time to make it run clean – clean as butter. This work was executed below Project Butter, in fact. What it did was introduce triple buffering for the UI and utilized vsync timing to all drawing and animation. This made every thing run in lockstep with the display refresh cycle, a regular 60 Hertz at the time. To assist the {hardware} alongside, JB made the CPU go into its highest efficiency mode the second you touched the show, in order that it could replace the display as quick as potential.

Another main enchancment was expandable notifications. This allowed notifications to carry extra content material than earlier than, clearly, however it added a brand new characteristic too – they may present as much as three buttons, giving the consumer prompt entry to key actions. For instance, a missed name notification would provide you with the choice to name or message the one that known as you.

Jelly Bean additionally touched up the homescreen. It enabled reside wallpapers to be previewed earlier than making use of them and it launched resizable widgets.

Expandable notifications with actions
Resizable widgets that would rearrange automatically

Expandable notifications with actions • Resizable widgets that will rearrange mechanically

Android Beam was launched with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, however this preliminary model solely used NFC to ship hyperlinks – to web sites and even apps (with the hyperlink pointing to the Play Store). Jelly Bean added Bluetooth to the equation, permitting you to share pictures, movies and different recordsdata as effectively.

Beam was discontinued with Android 10 and there’s a battle for its throne. Google sees its Fast Share as the substitute, however it nonetheless isn’t fairly prepared. For instance, you possibly can’t use it to share a file with a Windows or ChromeOS pc. Recently, a bunch of smartphone makers have banded together in the various Mutual Transfer Alliance, to unify the in-house options they developed individually.

Flashback: thanking Android Jelly Bean for the buttery interface and multimedia improvements

Smart App Updates allowed the Play Store to ship delta updates, that’s to switch solely the bits that modified between variations, as a substitute of repeating information the telephone already has. On common (by Google’s calculations) this shrunk updates to 1/third of a full obtain. Later this yr Google will make a serious shift in how this works by requiring App Bundles to be uploaded to the Play Store as a substitute of APKs. These can shrink even the preliminary obtain of an app by skipping the components not wanted on a specific gadget.

Another change was to encrypt the belongings of paid apps utilizing device-specific keys. This made it more durable to, say, copy a sport from one gadget to a different.

Jelly Bean additionally considerably improved audio assist on Android, which was lagging behind iOS. It added assist for multichannel audio by HDMI ports, additionally the AAC codec grew to become supported by default (together with AAC 5.1 audio). Gap-less playback made telephones a lot better music gamers and the Media Router button gave a standardized technique to direct the audio to the headphones or to Bluetooth receivers. This model additionally included assist for USB Audio, which allowed exterior DACs to be plugged in.

All this and extra got here with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It was adopted by model 4.2 a couple of months later. It improved on Project Butter with a sooner hardware-accelerated 2D renderer, which leveraged the GPU.

4.2 additionally launched lockscreen widgets, which have been well-liked for some time, however have fallen out of favor since. Daydream, an interactive screensaver mode was additionally launched and alter dropped (the identify was repurposed for Google’s now-defunct VR platform).

Lockscreen widgets
Project Daydream (screensaver)

Lockscreen widgets • Project Daydream (screensaver)

Some options did stick round – 4.2 introduced correct exterior show assist. Previous variations may solely mirror the show, the second iteration of JB allowed apps to deal with every show individually. This is the foundation of desktop modes we see right now. Wireless shows have been additionally supported, utilizing the Miracast commonplace. Sound was additional improved with assist for low-latency audio.

External display support with presentation mode
External show assist with presentation mode

The complete Bluetooth stack was swapped out, dropping BlueZ in favor of an open-source undertaking co-developed by Google and Broadcom. This model launched many extra improvements to connectivity and safety.

Brand new Bluetooth stack
Brand new Bluetooth stack

4.2 improved the digital camera with HDR assist, an early step into computational pictures, which might go on to turn out to be the most necessary characteristic of contemporary smartphone cameras (extra necessary than even the sensor and lens).

The final model of Jelly Bean, Android 4.3 arrived in 2013. It added assist for Bluetooth Low Energy and the Audio/Video Remote Control Profile 1.3. Also, the graphics stack was improved with OpenGL ES 3.0 assist.

Perhaps most necessary of all was the addition of emoji assist. They have been fairly plain black-and-white emojis (shade was added with v4.4), however now you can swap the keyboard to emoji mode and keep away from pesky letters and phrases in your messages. You can see the Jelly Bean emojis here.

Flashback: thanking Android Jelly Bean for the buttery interface and multimedia improvements

There have been different modifications too. For instance, v4.3 included a VP8 encoder as Google was attempting to maneuver away from patent-encumbered codecs. Also, all three incarnations of Jelly Bean added incremental improvements to Right-To-Left (RTL) languages.

Improved RTL support for the interface and text input
Improved RTL assist for the interface and textual content enter

Google stopped publishing Android model distribution numbers a while in the past, however by 2019 all three variations of Jelly Bean had fallen to around 3% market share. The firm stated that they now account for lower than 1%, which is why it determined to cease updating Play Services for these older variations.

Android version distribution in mid-2019
Android model distribution in mid-2019

Here is a little bit of trivia – Jelly Bean was the final Android model to reach 50% market share. Despite Google’s arduous work at simplifying the replace course of for makers, no Android model since JB has managed to realize a majority share.

Anyway, units operating Jelly Bean can proceed working and even downloading apps from the Play Store, although they received’t see many (if any) updates for these apps.

Do you continue to have a functioning Jelly Bean gadget? Drop a line in the feedback to inform us what it’s and what you employ it for – and possibly think about retiring it or at the very least flashing a newer model of Android.

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