Personality behind the Invention of Android Operation System II, by Professor MK Othman
The year, 2012 witnessed the unveiling of Android version 4.1, codenamed “Jelly Bean”, which signaled a new era for the Android OS. The most important feature of Jelly Bean was “Google Now” which was easily accessed with a quick swipe from the home screen.
This feature brought variety of information such as calendar events, emails, and weather reports — all on a single screen. The feature was really Google’s first major shot at a digital assistant, which laid the groundwork for future versions of digital assistants, including Google Assistant. Google Now is a feature of Android OS that transforms Artificial Intelligence from what used to be – a mere fantasy – to an integral part of real-life happenings using smartphones.
Google Now was code-named “Majel” — after Majel Barrett, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Google Now became the real seismic shift in Artificial Intelligence that was built on Google Voice Search.
Apart from Google Now, a number of other important additions were added to Jelly Bean, such as Refreshed font, expandable notifications, greater widget flexibility and Project Butter, which was aimed at drastically improving Android’s touch performance by tripling buffering graphics. This eliminated a lot of the stutter in Android and made it a much smoother experience overall and one of the biggest updates to Android OS up to that time.
With time, Google perfected her acts and continued to release different versions of Android OS on annual basis. From the year 2013 to the current year of 2018, Google released six Android versions; each was an improvement over the previous version.
In 2013, Android version 4.4, code-named “Kitkat” was released with a number of great features. The release was made to coincide with the launch of the Nexus 5 that uses the Kitkat. In addition to aesthetic changes in Android OS, KitKat brought things like the “OK, Google” search command, which allowed the user to access Google Now at any time. It also brought a new phone dialer, full-screen apps, and a new Hangouts app, which offered SMS support along with support for the Hangouts messaging platform. In 2014, Android version 5.0 named “Lollipop” was released alongside Nexus 6. Lollipop was the first to feature Google’s “Material Design” philosophy, several notification upgrades, the addition of RAW image and Android TV that brought Android to the big screen.
The year 2015 witnessed the released of Android version 6, code-named “Marshmallow”. This brought both design changes and changes under the hood. The most notable change was that of the app menu; Google used a white background instead of black and added a search bar to help users quickly find the app they needed. Android Marshmallow also brought the addition of the memory manager, which allows user to check the memory usage of any app used within the past 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours. Another notable change was in the volume controls. The user of Marshmallow has access to a more comprehensive set of volume controls; users can change the volume for the device, media, and alarms separately as desired. The security system of Android got a pretty big boost as part of the improvement of Android OS. For the first time, Android OS supported the fingerprint sensors beginning in Marshmallow. Request for “permissions” to download was also improved significantly. Instead of apps requesting all permissions upfront when downloaded, permissions were requested on a per-permission basis when they were required.
In 2016, Android version 7.0, called “Nougat” was released. Nougat was reputed to be one of the biggest upgrades to Android in its then ten years of existence. The most significant and notable change was the replacement of Google Now with the now much-respected “Google Assistant”. Along with Assistant, Nougat brought an improved notifications system, which tweaked how notifications looked and acted within the OS. Notifications were presented from screen to screen, and unlike previous iterations of Android, they could be grouped together for easy management. Multitasking also got a boost with Nougat; whether one is using a phone or a tablet, the user can use split-screen mode, allowing the use of two apps at once without having to exit out of each app every few minutes.
Android version 8.0 code-named “Oreo” was launched in 2017. Oreo took the Android platform to a higher level with a ton of multitasking features. Picture-in-picture and native split-screen both made their debuts in Android Oreo; meaning user could continue watching his/her favorite show on Netflix while browsing the web. Android Oreo also gave a whole lot more control over notifications. With Oreo, users were given the ability to turn notification channels on or off, meaning one could get super granular with which notifications show up and what happens when they appear. In particular, notification channels allowed users to sort notifications based on importance. Also notification-related, Oreo brought notification dots, and the ability to snooze notifications. A few other smaller features showed up in Oreo, too. For example, Oreo also gave an auto-enable Wi-Fi, a smart text selector, and so on.
The latest version of Google’s Android OS is Android 9 Pie released in 2018. This version embraces circles, rounded edges, Artificial Intelligence, and it genuinely attempts to care for the user’s digital well being. Dozens of small delectable features add up to a satisfying slice of pie that makes amiable to millions of Android fans. Adding to aesthetic change is the visual interface pie-shaped circle that was more colorful. This makes the OS feel friendlier and fluid to the user. Perhaps the most drastic change, however, lies in the navigation menu. Gone are the Android navigation buttons in favor of a single, pill-shaped icon. Like iOS on the iPhone X, Android is now all about gesture navigation: Using swipes instead of taps on icons. There are Slices and Actions Android Pie. The latter predicts actions a user is about to perform, and it will inject two buttons in the app drawer. For example, if a user is about to text a friend, it might offer a quick shortcut that can tap on what will open up a default messaging app and jump straight to the contact.“Actions” needs some time to learn user’s routines, but when it does, it offers genuinely useful shortcuts that save time and increase communication efficiency. Slices add more details when user searches for content and apps. Artificial Intelligence is not just a buzzword in Android Pie — it really works.
The actions perform on notifications in Pie is an improvement as “Reply” and “Mark as Read” are no longer divided separately, but instead they float in the notification bubble. The font changes here really help make the interface look cleaner, and so do the brighter colors. You can even see images directly in the notification so you don’t need to open an app to respond, which helps make notifications more useful than ever before. It truly does make multitasking on a phone feel faster. There are a lot of other changes that just improve the everyday usability of the OS. For example, Do Not Disturb is no longer a mess of confusing options. Instead, tap it once and the OS will completely block all visual and audio interruptions. Flipping the phone even face down turns this one easily. It is simple, and incredibly effective. These changes may be minor, but collectively they made giant improvement of the daily usage of Android pie.
Another very critical issue addressed by Google in Android Pie is how to reduce time spends on phones with a so-called “digital well being”. A recent survey conducted by Motorola, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that that more than 53 percent of respondents (born between 1990s and the early 2000s) described their phone as their “best friend.” This clearly shows that people spend too much time on phones at the expense of physical interaction with other people, and Google wants to address this with a few “Digital Well being” features in Android Pie. There are four key components of Digital Well being; the updated “Do Not Disturb” option helps completely block out all alerts so user can focus or pay attention to the task at hand. Then, there is App Timers, which let user set a limit for how long an app is used. After hitting the limit, the app’s icon goes gray-scale to remind the user of his time’s limit. This is quite a wonderful innovation in Android OS, but it requires a lot of willpower from the user to not override the limit.
In conclusion, both versions of Android and iPhone series are relatively comparable in advancing the frontiers of smartphone technologies. The personalities behind these smartphones spend sleepless night to outdo each other at the pleasure and benefits of their users while enriching millions of people along smartphones’ value chains.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.