Android's greatest feature, Jelly Bean, turns ten years old.

Even while I obviously love Android, I have to confess that it took some time for the platform to find its footing. Android didn’t start to feel feature-complete in comparison to its (dwindling) competitors until Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. But the successive Android 4.X Jelly Bean releases were what really helped me start to feel at home with Android. It was a time of improving Holo’s UI and decreasing jank, the emergence of Play Services, and the heyday of Android ROMs. And today marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

A journey into Jelly Bean’s baby-blue fantasy world

Some readers may remember Android’s design from before Material as being a little darker. The stock Android environment was governed by the “Holo” UI, which had blue accents, sharp angles, and a gloomy atmosphere. It wasn’t a dark age, but large portions of Android were dark-themed in and of itself (before we all started clamouring for it as a feature).

I should emphasise that while Holo technically debuted with Android 4.0, it remained the look through Android 4.4. It makes up a substantial portion of how individuals will recall that historical period, however those memories may be motivated more by sentiment than by genuine beauty. The gaudy changes in contrast between apps and system components could be perplexing and a little distracting, blinding me erratically at night and always just making it harder to see and read details at random times, when I switched back to a Galaxy Nexus in 2018 as part of the Android anniversary (complete with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean).

Undoubtedly, HOLOYOLO, but it wasn’t all good. Recall the backdrop colour used in some areas, such as the notification shade, that was a blocky, awful grey gradient? Google did correct that soon, but the appearance was terrible. Even though you like the electric blue accents, they could be challenging to read at times.

Before Google landed on its more recent and rigid yearly release schedule, the previous Android era was a little less organised when it came to updates. The “fragmentation” issue with the platform was in full force, with significant feature discrepancies between various Android versions and Android phones.

The fact that the Jelly Bean moniker covered three major releases at the time may give the impression that it lasted longer than it actually did, but in reality, Google only published the three versions between July 2012 and July 2013, and Kit Kat replaced it in October 2013. Many third-party phones didn’t even receive the first Jelly Bean version until far after the third one because updates were an even bigger problem back then. That’s unfortunate because Jelly Bean undoubtedly brought about one of the largest improvements to the user experience the platform has ever seen.

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