Should you upgrade to the newer operating system? Take a look at how the two versions compare. Either way, you’re running a pretty sweet OS.
Gingerbread. Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean. The yummy names given to successive versions of the Android operating system can surely make you hungry. But they don’t tell you much about whether and when you should upgrade to the latest iteration.
You can generally assume, of course, that some bugs were removed and slick new features were added. But let’s take a closer look at Jelly Bean—Android’s latest and greatest version—and see if there have been changes substantial enough to make upgrading a no-brainer for you.
What hasn’t changed
For the most part, Jelly Bean is what the version numbers (4.1 and 4.2) suggest—a moderate upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). It retains a similar look and feel to its predecessor. The status bar at the top and dock at the bottom have changed little, for example, and app icons are identical.
You won’t notice much, if any, difference in the way your apps behave in Jelly Bean, either. App developers also need to please those running earlier versions, and while Jelly Bean is gaining rapidly in popularity, its user base is still relatively small. (As of early December, only 6.7 percent of Android phones were running Jelly Bean, versus 27.5 percent running Ice Cream Sandwich.)
The emerging consensus is that Jelly Bean is noticeably faster than Ice Cream Sandwich on many devices, in almost every area of operation. Apps open faster and web pages load more quickly. Overall, Jelly Bean appears to be faster, because it has enhanced technology driving graphics and is able to change what displays on your screen much more quickly.
Slick graphics also accompany simple tasks, such as opening and closing apps. You can rearrange widgets and icons on your home screen more easily with Jelly Bean, by simply dragging them to where you want them; on Samsung devices like the Galaxy Nexus, the other widgets and icons move, if necessary, to make way. Almost all widgets are resizable, as well.
Jelly Bean also introduces Google Now, your new personal assistant. Based on your settings and your Google searches, this feature keeps tabs on almost everything: your appointments, local weather, favorite sports teams and flight departure times. Helpful “cards” prompt you with all the useful information you need to get through your day.
To upgrade to Jelly Bean or not
If you rely heavily on the non-phone aspects of your device—use lots of apps, watch videos often, take tons of photos, etc.—upgrading to Jelly Bean is likely a good move. Not all Android phones can run Jelly Bean, though, so in that case you might consider upgrading to a new device.
If you do consider a new smartphone purchase, be sure to find out which flavor of Android the device comes with and whether you can upgrade it.