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Why Jelly Bean was the best Android release ever

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia L Jelly Bean teaser
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We all have our favorite versions of Android. I know plenty of folk who still hate Lollipop and look back fondly on the days of KitKat, and probably aren't looking forward to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. These versions all had their good points, but my favorite Android release was Jelly Bean. Here's why.

To clarify, I'm talking about all three Android versions that were released under the banner of Jelly Bean: that's Android 4.1, Android 4.2 and Android 4.3. They all had a very similar look and feel, and updates between them were pretty incremental.

AndroidPIT Google lawn scultpures jelly bean
Android Jelly Bean is still my favorite Android version. / © Sony Mobile

One of the main reasons I love Jelly Bean so much is because of all the incredible new features it brought in. Android 4.1 not only introduced us to Google Now, including spoken queries and search results, it also delivered Google's Knowledge Graph.

Google Now on Tap is currently on the horizon, and while that's sure to be a huge deal, it's an improvement on the original incarnation of Google Now, which blew us away way back in mid-2012. I love improvements to great features as much as the next guy, but something truly new is always going to have more of an impact. 

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia L Jelly Bean google now
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean introduced us to Google Now. / © ANDROIDPIT

Then there's Knowledge Graph. If you're not entirely sure what Knowledge Graph is or does, it's the sum total of all that data that Google accumulates through search and other sources. When you search for something and you get a short Wikipedia entry at the top of the page along with some key facts and figures and links to other sources – that's Knowledge Graph in action. Most of us can't even remember Google without it.

But what else did Jelly Bean do to make me so fond of it, even this many years later? Remember Project Butter? That was Google's effort to make Android smoother and more responsive. Android 4.1 not only brought Android to 60 fps, it also killed off the lag that had been part of my Android experience since the beginning.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia L Jelly Bean quick settings notifications
Jelly Bean was also the first time we saw Quick Settings and expandable notifications. / © ANDROIDPIT

Expandable notifications, something we can hardly imagine living without now, also came in with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Then Android 4.2 introduced us to lock screen widgets and the camera shortcut, as well as Quick Settings and swipe typing, while Android 4.3 delivered Bluetooth Low Energy and restricted profiles. Are you starting to see why I think Jelly Bean was so important now?

Holo, everybody's favorite Android design language, actually came earlier than Jelly Bean, but with the various versions of Jelly Bean it was refined and improved to what most of us associate with the Holo theme now.

Jelly Bean was also the first major Android update I ever experienced. I was familiar with the OS but it wasn't until Jelly Bean that my love of Android really took root.

AndroidPIT Sony Xperia L Jelly Bean swipe typing
Swipe typing made its debut in Android Jelly Bean. / © ANDROIDPIT

These are my reasons for thinking Jelly Bean is the best Android version ever. A little bit of nostalgia, admittedly, but it's backed up by the major new features it introduced and huge improvements to system responsiveness.

When I think about everything that came in KitKat and Lollipop, it just doesn't give me the same excitement for the platform. They were certainly great releases, just as Android marshmallow will be, but for the sense of Android coming into its own, I can't go past Jelly Bean.

Let me know what your favorite Android release was in the comments.

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Kris Carlon

Kris Carlon
Senior Editor

Kris is a former AndroidPIT Editor who came to the team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

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  • Mullet man 5
    Mullet man Aug 27, 2015 Link to comment

    Funny, I was just thinking about project butter and how much i used to talk about it,, then it was all about material design.

    I always thought kitkat was my favorite.. but you're right JB brought so many features to the table.. It also brought a better way to multitask i believe

  • Junior Fornazi 45
    Junior Fornazi Aug 24, 2015 Link to comment

    I use Android since version 2.1 ( eclair ) and for me the Kitkat version is the best . But that revolutionized , was the android 4 ICS

  • 13
    Mark S. Aug 23, 2015 Link to comment

    I've been using android since cupcake....4.4.4 was my favorite release (thus far)

  • Francesco V. 20
    Francesco V. Aug 23, 2015 Link to comment

    Well, of course Lollipop introduced a buttery sucking experience that ruined most of the devices, but, well, oh, Material design! What else to ask from an OS other than a nice looking face?!
    Big jumps are dangerous things. M release will be fine, bringing us back some battery life, I hope, but then a trade-off is much expected... Maybe we'll lose the ability to navigate through the device filesystem as it already is the case on Apple locked money machines?

    Paul Warner

  • 9
    Paul Warner Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    Kitkat 4.4.4 was great on my 2012 Nexus 7 . Now it's running Lollipop 5.1.1 it's a real slow dog and now never gets used...

    Francesco V.

  • Nirjon Ahmed 6
    Nirjon Ahmed Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    Yes...jelly bean is best

  • Mark G. 28
    Mark G. Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I had a S3 running 4.3 and yes I loved it. The poor thing started to get dementia at the end but yea was a great OS. But.....

    My S5 running lollipop 🍭 5.02 and it's brilliant. I've totally forgot jelly bean. My brother has a S3 mini running 4.2 and it now feels clunky and yes a little dated.
    Yes I still occasionally try and use the home button for recent apps. Yes my home button is a bit redundant now as it's only used to bring me back to the home screen.
    Lollipop 🍭 is great, it's smooth fast and reliable, I know some have been havin problems with it, I guess I'd want Jelly Bean if I had problems.

    I'm glad that it looks like the S5 won't be getting Marshmallow or at least not for a while.

  • 19
    Moni Mihailov Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I had a S3 Mini on 4.1.2 and the two things i miss from it (now on S5 running 4.4.2) are the following : in jelly bean you could turn off gps entirely and the whether would still find your location and sync. On kitkat you must have gps set to power saving mode so if i want to use Sygic i gotta go into gps settings and change from power saving to high accuracy. Then when I'm done i don't just turn off gps toggle, i go to its settings again and set to power saving as i need my whether to sync every hour or so.

    The other thing i miss is the way recent apps panel was in jelly bean. If for example I'm in Firefox and hold the home key, it showed all open apps except the one I'm currently in (Firefox). So this way i could just hit close all and close everything except the app I'm currently in. In kitkat it ignored that I'm in an app and shows it in the recents so i gotta swipe apps one by one if i don't want to close the one I'm in.

    Other than these two meh things kitkat it better in every way. Lollipop and above are really bad as xposed doesn't work (on TouchWiz) and 90% of old small useful mods won't be updated to work on newer androids. :)

    Mark G.

    • Mark G. 28
      Mark G. Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

      I agree with the home button, and recent apps could have stayed the same as it worked well. Though I'm getting used to the new set up.

  • 9
    Oscar Rodriguez Murphy Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    yes of course jelly bean was great but I don't have a problem whit lalipop 5.1.1 working great on my metro pcs galaxy s5 and my s5 is a fine phone I hope to get March mellow also

    Mark G.

  • 7
    J Gabri-El Aug 22, 2015 Link to comment

    Nice! Great opinion. Like "contributor" latter, KitKat has my preference.: "improved" Jelly bean.

    Francesco V.

  • Greg1100 24
    Greg1100 Aug 21, 2015 Link to comment

    Jellybean 4.3 on S3 was for many a total disaster- well documented. Kit Kat 4.4.4 on my S3 works really well. All Samsung crud removed.

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