Android was initially released back in 2008. It has grown quite a lot since then, and gained many new features along the way. Android was quite unique from the get-go, as it offered features that its competitors didn’t.
We’re not here to talk about the very first version of Android, or anything like that. We will, however, talk about some of Android’s features in general. To be more specific, features that I personally found to be the most important over the years. The Android features that made me love Android.
These may not be the fanciest features that come to mind. In fact, some may seem so obvious at this point that they’re barely worth mentioning. But, at some point in time, they were the newest Android features.
For those wondering, I’ve used Android since the early days, Android 2.1 Eclair. I did use Android 1.5 Cupcake, but never owned a device running that version of Android. So, Android 2.1 Eclair was my first real experience with Android.
Anyway, let’s get to it. Here are the five features that I have fond memories off. Five of the features that helped make Android what it is today.
Most of you probably don’t even think of notification toggles as a feature at this point. After all, notification toggles have pretty much always been there.
However, notification toggles were not only useful to begin with but over time they’ve improved greatly. In fact, you can now even edit them on some versions of Android. You can even create new toggles via third-party applications.
And while other operating systems do something similar, they are worse solutions than Android’s quick toggles. For example, iOS didn’t have a quick toggle for mobile data until a year or two ago, while Android has had one for ages.
That goes for a number of other toggles as well.
Widgets may also seem like a given at this point in time. While they have been a part of Android since the very beginning, that’s not the case with other OSes. iOS introduced notification shade widgets a couple of years ago, and it also baked them onto a separate screen within iOS.
iOS never had a proper implementation of widgets, though. I’d actually say the same for Windows Phone, though that OS did have live widgets. While that was a different implementation, some people preferred it.
Widgets give users the ability to truly customize the home screen(s), and that’s why I loved Android since the beginning. I barely use widgets nowadays, but when I need one, it’s there. They can be easily created, and customized just the way I want them.
Android has come a long way and now so such customization is possible, but widgets have been there and extremely useful since the beginning. They were actually considered to be one of Android’s strong suits, for a good reason.
Android always had the best solution for notifications, in my opinion. At first, they were just basic notification alerts in the notification shade, but the feature evolved. Not only did Google improve the design of notification cards when it started implementing Material Design, but it also released quite a few new features along the way.
I was overjoyed when I received the expandable notification cards feature. Using two fingers to reveal your full notification (or in case it’s too long, the majority of a message) hit the sweet spot for me. I was also happy when Google enabled one-finger swipe as I often use my phone with one hand.
That’s not all, though. Another great notification card-related feature that landed later on was quick reply. Replying from a notification shade to a particular message turned out to be a great feature, for me. Not having to open the app that the notification came from is more productive. The same can be said about “mark as read” and other fast action options.
Notification grouping is something else worth noting. If you receive a ton of notifications from WhatsApp, for example, Android will group them all together, and let you use gestures to reveal them all in the notification shade. While iOS received a similar feature recently, it was a complete mess until then.
Android’s solution is still far more sophisticated, and it looks better as well.
Status bar notification icons
It’s no secret that Android shows you what apps have pushed notifications to your phone in the top-left corner of the phone’s display. In other words, you can see those icons at the beginning of your status bar.
And that’s not only another really useful feature, but also one that’s superior to the competition, in this case, iOS. This is a great way to make use of the status bar on Android devices, and if I’m honest, one of the reasons why I was so irritated when notches showed up.
The wider the notch, the less information you can see on both left and right sides of the status bar. Luckily, though, those notches are now shrinking in size, and they are becoming less of an issue.
Either way, notification icons in the status are great as they allow you to check the interest level of notifications while using your phone, without the additional taps and swipes.
UI animation controls
This is a more advanced feature within Android. In order to access it, you do have to activate Developer Options. Which is not a huge problem, as all you have to do is tap “build number” in the “About Phone” section a number of times. Once you do that, a separate menu will appear.
You can make some big changes with these advanced developer options, so you do need to be mindful of what you’re doing. Among those, you will find various options for UI animations. Those include: windows animation scale, transition animation scale, and animator duration scale.
These options have been a part of Android for a long time, maybe even from the beginning – I can’t remember. In any case, I find Android OS animations to be too slow for my taste, so I have a habit of speeding them up.
When you do that, your phone will seem to run faster, which is great. This will not impact your battery life in a negative way, quite the contrary, it may actually benefit it a bit. The phone won’t have to show animations every time you do an action (presuming you disable them completely).
You have a number of options for each of those animation settings. You can completely disable all animations and that’s how I’ve used my phones for a long time. Nowadays, I simply speed up those animations by tweaking the “animator duration scale” option.
There you have it. The five features that made me stick with Android through the years.
Of course, there are plenty of great Android features on offer, including features that are or have been exclusive to the platform. I’ve no doubt you have a different memory and experience of Android and due to this your list is likely to look considerably different to mine.
If you’d like to share those memories with us, and tell us what are the five defining Android features for you, hit us up in the comments.