Android Version Names: Every OS from Cupcake to Marshmallow
Android and Dessert Names
Google's Android division certainly has a sense of humor: It named all of its version codenames after desserts (just as Intel names all of its CPUs after rivers). To celebrate a new version, a giant mock-up of the dessert that matches the codename is usually delivered to the Google Campus and put on display.
So what are the different versions of Android OS and the desserts associated with them? Let us go over a short history.
Android 1.0 and 1.1: Unnamed
There appears to be no codename assigned to versions 1.0 and 1.1 of Android OS.
Google bought a company called Android back in July 2005. Android was headed by several mobile big shots, including the former head of a big carrier, ex-owner of a phone maker, and more. After their buyout, Android went into stealth mode, and rumors spread that Google was working on a mobile phone.
The dam finally broke in November 2007, when Google suddenly announced that they were indeed working on a phone (Google Phone). More than that, they were also working on a brand-new mobile operating system called Android, based on the Linux kernel, to be used by the Open Handset Alliance, a group of 65 different hardware makers, carriers, and other mobile-related companies.
HTC was the first phone maker to get a real consumer phone out, the T-Mobile G1 (also known as the HTC Dream outside of US), on October 2008.
An update of Android, version 1.1, was released in February 2009. However, the first significant version of Android OS that really showcased the power of the platform was V1.5, codenamed "Cupcake."
As Cupcake starts with letter "C", many have suspected that 1.0 had a codename starting with "A" and 1.1 had one starting with "B," but no actual codenames were ever assigned.
Android 1.5: Cupcake
Technically Android 1.5 wasn't the first version, but versions before it don't seem to have received any codenames. Stories were told that it was supposed to be version 1.2, but Google decided to make it a major revision and made it 1.5 instead. Among the many changes with Cupcake, third-party keyboard and Widgets were enabled and phone could upload directly to YouTube and Picasa. The company codenamed the version "cupcake," which is how the trend of dessert names began.
A cupcake is a small, individually-sized cake baked in a cup-shaped mold. It is usually served with frosting on top.
Android 1.6: Donut
Android V1.6, codenamed "Donut," was released in September 2009. It fixed reboot errors in the OS, revamped photo and video features (i.e. camera interface), and featured better search integration. It also added support for larger screen sizes and is the first version to offer Google's turn-by-turn navigation feature.
A donut is a small ring-shaped friedcake. The ring is made of rich, light dough and deep-fried. Various sweet coatings can be added. Donuts are not to be mistaken for bagels, which are baked, much denser, and usually salty.
Android 2.0 and 2.1: Eclair
Android 2.0 was released in October 2009, with a bugfix version (2.0.1) coming out in December 2009. Android 2.1 was released January of 2010. Most people consider them a single release. Added features include Bluetooth 2.1 support, flash and digital zoom for the camera, multi-touch support, live wallpapers, and more.
Eclairs are usually described as oblong cream puffs. They are baked pastries with cream filling and chocolate coating on top.
Android 2.2: Froyo
Froyo is short for "frozen yogurt." It is a frozen dessert made from yogurt, so it is slightly more sour than soft serve, but also lower in fat.
Android 2.3, 2.4: Gingerbread
Gingerbread was officially released in December 2010.
On December 6th, 2010, Google officially announced the first phone with Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread. The phone was the Nexus S, which Google co-developed with Samsung. The phone was originally only available for T-Mobile, but was later made for Sprint and AT&T as well.
Gingerbread supports SIP internet calling, NFC wireless transaction capability (if hardware is present), more than one camera, and gyroscopes and other sensors (barometers, gravimeters, and others are possible). It also features a download manager, some tweaks to allow usage on Tablets, and other system level tweaks for programmers.
As a dessert, gingerbread is basically a ginger-flavored cookie. It is often made to celebrate end-of-year holidays in the US. The cookies are cut into festive shapes—often the shape of a man—and decorated with icing and candy.
Android 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2: Honeycomb
Honeycomb was released in February 2011, and was rapidly followed by 3.1 and 3.2 in July and August of 2011. Google posted a lot of previews and highlights on Honeycomb.
Honeycomb was made for tablets, which implied that Android OS 2.X was not. That did not stop Samsung and a slew of smaller manufacturers from putting out an army of Android 2.X tablets of various sizes before the end of 2010 as they tried to ride the wave of the iPad's success in time for the Christmas shopping season.
Motorola Xoom was the first Android 3.X tablet to be released. It has since been followed by many others.
Dessert-wise, honeycomb is a sheet of hexagonal cells bees build out of wax and fill with honey. Fresh honeycomb can be consumed as a dessert—some people chew or even consume the wax with the honey.
Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich
Ice Cream Sandwich was Google's attempt to synthesize Honeycomb, it's tablet-only platform, with its mobile platform. Released in October 2011, it featured a new design and default font, as well as the ability to monitor and limit mobile data usage and other upgrades. Many devices were slow to adopt Ice Cream Sandwich. Three months after Ice Cream Sandwich, only one phone (Samsung Galaxy Nexus) had been released to run it.
In real life, an ice cream sandwich is a layer of ice cream, usually vanilla, sandwiched between two cookies, usually chocolate. They are often rectangular in shape.
Android 4.1: Jelly Bean
Jelly Bean came out in 2012. Biggest changes included "Google Now," an AI assistant that anticipates your needs and better, more interactive notifications. Jelly Bean also allows "voice typing," a built-in speech-to-text engine that does not rely on Internet or data.
Android 4.4: KitKat
Google announced that Android 4.4 would be named KitKat on September 3, 2013. KitKat's parent company, Nestlé, was fully on board with the naming of operating system and launched an advertising campaign during KitKat's release. As part of the campaign, specially marked packages of Kitkat with Andy the Green Android on the package each contained a sweepstakes code that could win a new Nexus 7 Android tablet or Google Play store credit.
KitKat took the Google Now feature and took it a step further with "Ok Google." Ok Google allows people to access Google Now without even touching their phones—just verbally saying the phrase opens up the artificial intelligence assistant. KitKat also introduced Emoji to Google's keyboard.
Android 5.X: Lollipop
Android 5 is called Lollipop, and it featured a brand new runtime called ART that no longer relies on the older DALVIK runtime (which is somewhat based on Sun/Oracle specs). Lollipop also contains other UI improvements and has an excellent battery life on some devices.
Android 6.X: Marshmallow
Android 6: Marshmallow is already out for the Nexus devices and is believed to be coming soon to all flagship devices before end of the year, and to other devices by mid 2016.
Marshmallow introduced several changes that can have significant impact. App permission model is now opt-in (grant specific permission as requested) rather than opt-out (all is permitted, then use App Ops to run off individual permissions). Doze mode allows the device to go into hibernation when idle, cutting power consumption to virtually nil. Fingerprint sensor support is now baked into the OS rather the vendor support, and USB C is now fully supported. Finally, Marshmallow allows one to format a microSD card and adopt it as if it's internal storage and share the same internal security level.
Where Is the Latest Operating System for My Phone?
The problem with Android OS is each phone maker and/or carrier can customize the phone, and those tweaks mean each carrier/maker will need to retest the OS completely before it can be released. The process often takes several months, and ExtremeTech does a great job of explaining why.
Even then, it is not guaranteed that your device can be updated to the latest version of Android OS. Devices that came with V1.5 (Cupcake) or V1.6 (Donut) can be upgraded to V2.1 or V2.2, but will not fully support all the features of the OS due to hardware limitations. Some examples:
- Some of the earliest HTC Android phones, such as Legend, Desire, and Hero, do not support live wallpapers even when upgraded to Eclair (2.1) or later.
- The original Google phone, the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) only officially received the V1.5 or V1.6 updates. Some have developed later Android OS ROMs for the phone, but they require the phone to be rooted to use.
- Motorola Droid, even when upgraded to Froyo (2.2), does not support mobile hotspot.
In general, you will need to wait for the carrier to release the OTA (over-the-air) updates or wait for a ROM developer, such as Cyanogen, to get a ROM version working for your phone.
The way the process works is Google has to release the SDK and ROM for the latest OS. Then each carrier and phone maker will go off and test it on their phones, add any local improvements, and eventually release it over the air and push it to your phone. The process takes several months.
Android OS itself don't have any hard requirements, but there are some practical ones. I would expect a device with 512 MB of RAM and 1 GHz CPU to run Gingerbread, but anything less may be problematic. For Lollipop and Marshmallow you'd expect at least a quadcore with 2 GB of RAM, if not the latest octo-core with 3 or 4GB of RAM. The recommended device specs will only go up with future Android operating systems.
What Is AOSP ROM vs. Factory ROM?
AOSP, or Android Open Source Project, is the source of all actual Android code that is open source. While Google did develop and is still developing Android, it periodically releases bug fixes and new versions to AOSP to continue its development. However, AOSP versions of ROM are a very generic ROM and need to be customized for different hardware implementations. You can't just download AOSP stuff into your device and expect it to run.
Thus, many ROM developers take AOSP code, customize it to their purposes, specialize it for one platform/device, and voilà, AOSP-based ROM. Not all features may be supported by AOSP ROM as some hardware does not have open source support.
A factory ROM, on the other hand, is based on the original firmware from the manufacturer. It is basically a tweaked version of the original ROM, probably with bloatware stripped out and tuned for maximum performance. This is only possible if the manufacturer has actually released such a ROM.
For example, to get Jelly Bean on an older phone, such as Motorola Droid Bionic (aka Targa), one can take the official Motorola 4.1 Jelly Bean update, then load one of the tweaked ROMs based on it. Or one can just Cyanogen Mod 10.1, which is based on AOSP. CM10.1 doesn't have nav dock or lap dock support, as those are proprietary to Motorola with no open source support, but it has variety of other features not available on the factory or tweaked ROMs.
I hope you have enjoyed our little excursion into Android history.
So what's the next dessert that starts with L? Wonder what sort of dessert Google will pick next for its Android version codename? Stay tuned.