Last Updated: August 29th, 2012

We're back! If you are somehow just joining us, where have you been? This is Getting To Know Android, the series where we milk every little detail out of the latest version of Android and put other change logs to shame.

Expect this version to be heavy on the pictures because, honestly, we're getting down to the bottom of the barrel here. There won't be much left to cover after this. To make up for the sparse commentary, we're getting a two-for-one deal this week: Calendar and Settings!

The usual formatting applies, ICS is on the left, Jelly Bean is on the right.


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We're kicking it old school this time and checking out the "About" screens first. As usual, the built-in apps mirror the Android version numbers. That means the old one is 4.0.4, and the new one is 4.1.1.

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Left: ICS. Center: Jelly Bean. Right: Desktop Calendar

Right off the bat, you can see they fixed my biggest problem with the old calendar: event colors finally match the desktop version! Blue is blue, brown is brown, red is red. It's beautiful, and more understandable too. The matching colors let you more easily mentally parse the events. Blue is always my personal calendar, brown is always work. Simple.

There's another new thing in this screenshot: the "Today" button in the action bar switched from being a generic calendar icon to displaying today's date. That's handy.

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Lots of text changes here. The year is no longer displayed, and "Eastern Daylight Time" has been shortened to "EDT." The result of all this character cost cutting is that everything fits on one line now.

You can also see the new, out-of-proportion back button icon, which is the same calendar icon I complained about in Part 1.

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They added a little sun to the time zone! It's daylight saving time. Get it?

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There are suns all over the time zone picker, too. They also changed the name of "Eastern Standard Time" to "Eastern Daylight Time." I'm not really sure what's going on here - I guess they fixed a bug in ICS. Both phones know it's daylight saving time, but ICS mislabels it and JB doesn't.

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Just like the texting app, Calendar has quick responses now, too. This time they're for quickly emailing guests you have listed in the "Guests" portion of an event. I'm not really sure if anyone ever uses this, but it's there.



The bottom of the Wi-Fi settings is significantly uglier and harder to understand. Most of the ugliness comes from the Wi-Fi Alliance's horrible looking WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) icon. That's the thing that looks like your browser's refresh button.

"Add Network" is now a much more ambiguous plus sign, and every screen has a proper back button in the top-left with a back arrow. There is also a help option in just about every overflow menu.


The overflow menu is now much more populated. "Scan" has been demoted here, along with a Bluetooth-style Wi-Fi Direct menu. You'll also see the new help option I was talking about earlier.


The"Advanced" menu is now sporting an "Avoid poor connections" option, which is great for when you are just on the edge of Wi-Fi range.

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Data usage now has an option for "Auto-sync data," which I thought would display data used from background syncing, but it is actually for turning syncing off altogether.


"Wi-Fi direct" is no longer in this screen in 4.1, it was moved to the menu button on the main Wi-Fi settings (check out the second set of Wi-Fi screenshots).  They also added a menu button specifically for "help."

If you're wondering what a help page actually looks like, it just loads a web page in the browser of your choice. It's very comprehensive, and does a great job of explaining everything if you're ever confused.

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The "Apps" section switched from big, tappable tabs to swipable ones, and they added that ugly blue, "funnel" design to the storage bar. It also corrected what was probably the most absurd placement of an overflow menu in Android. Yes, that 720 pixel wide menu button down there was actually a real thing.

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JB also adds a "reset app preferences" option to the menu. This will wipe out all your defaults and disabled apps. So if you've disabled the wrong thing and broken your phone, you may be able to fix that here.

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"Accounts & Sync" is just gone and the individual accounts now get their own section in the main settings screen.

There is also now this interstitial screen (right) between you and your sync settings that puts privacy controls front and center.

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You can now choose an external, Bluetooth-connected GPS source instead of the internal antenna. I'm drawing a total blank for uses for this. What are you people doing with your phones?!


Developer options got a complete overhaul. Almost everything changed position, and there are many new options - almost all of which frighten and confuse me. I'll save the explaining for actual developers.

The most handy addition is the On/Off button in the top-left; now you can jump back to "normal mode" without having to uncheck 37 checkboxes, and it saves your settings for your next hacking session.

And, of course, this is the one option screen that doesn't have a help link, yet it's certainly the screen most in need of one.

That's it for now! Enjoy them while they're here, you won't be getting too many more of these for a while.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.facebook.com/gabriel.feron Gabriel FĂ©ron

    I already know all of this, but I HAD TO read the entire article just to make sure I didn't miss something. Thanks for a nice read!

  • RedPandaAlex

    Request: Can you do something on the "smart" widget resizing that was introduced in JB, where widgets display content differently depending on how big they are? As far as I can tell, the only widget that actually uses it is the Google Play - My Library widget, but I'm really interested in that feature.

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      All the widgets should use it - it's worked a couple of times for me using the Gmail and clock widgets.

      On a related note: I love the bouncing effect icons and widgets have when they auto-move!

      • RedPandaAlex

        They're not bouncing. They're wiggling. Do you want us to get sued?!

        • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

          Ohhhhh dear :D :D

    • http://pctonic.net/ Ashutosh Mishra

      Any resizable widget should be able to take advantage of that feature, but the fact is there are very few resizable widgets around.

      • RedPandaAlex

        No, not the new feature where they move and resize to make room when added to a crowded home screen. I mean where they intelligently change how content is displayed based on the widget size. See the weather widget example close to the bottom of the page here for a good example of how it SHOULD work:

  • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

    Great, thanks Ron! Love this series. Look forward to it every time a new version of Android gets released.

  • http://twitter.com/HairoR Hairo R. Carela

    Well, about the GPS thing, the only use i can see for it is using it with some GPS stations (something like this: http://www.topconstore.com/content/hiper-gr-3 ), connected via bluetooth, having the power of a good gps station and the flexibility of android may come handy... and IIRC it's been on cyanogenmod since 7.2... trust me, i'm a land surveyor...

    • Daniel Wiggins

      I remember reading a while ago about some people trying to trick their tablets into using their phone's gps for navigation, because the tablet didn't have a gps radio. But i am assuming this will not be the case with any tablet supporting JB...

    • jammer

      See my new reply

  • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

    Developer options also has something very important now that you missed: A scary explanation/warning, that these settings aren't to tweak Android (a lot of users thought it would be a good thing to turn on forced GPU acceleration, which actually kills performance in some cases and doesn't actually improve anything because, well, it's a developer option for testing apps and not a hidden setting to boost performance. Now it is much more clear that these options aren't for the normal user.

  • http://twitter.com/strifejester Justin Ellenbecker

    Isn't the WiFi back button in the top-left?

    • Ron Amadeo

      Yep. I'm a dummy.

  • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

    keep in mind that JB is not just for phones. there are all kinds of devices that Android is installed on, including car stereos, tablets (with no GPS) and cameras. So some of these settings like "external GPS" may seem like overkill but it's not if you are on a certain device.

  • Brfield

    I think the external GPS thing is for the people who don't want aGPS. It would be useful if you have offline maps and are in the middle nowhere but need a reliable GPS without cell service.

    • Sorian

      Or have a phone with a non-reliable aGPS.

    • Freak4Dell

      Yup, or a tablet with no built-in GPS (or only aGPS that requires a data connection). I could see it being useful in cars, too. Depending on where your device is positioned, it might not get great GPS reception. I've seen a few of the hardcore CarPCers put their GPS antennas outside instead of inside the car for this reason.

  • squiddy20

    "'Add Network' is now a much more ambiguous plus sign, and every screen has a proper back button in the top-left with a back arrow."
    "You can also see the new, out-of-proportion back button icon..."
    I'm curious as to why the back button in the top left is necessary in the stock apps, when then there's a *universal* back button that's *always* there in the bottom left corner (on the Galaxy Nexus anyway). Seems just a tad redundant/superfluous to me. Anyone got any insight into this?

  • Freak4Dell

    I hate that WPS logo. I figured it was a graphical representation of Scan, but I thought it looked terribly out of place with the rest of the UI. Only when I clicked it did I realize it was for WPS.

    I think your pictures are out of order for "Wireless and networks", by the way. Looks like 4.1 is on the left, and 4.0 is in the middle.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Oh crap! I totally screwed that up, but the pictures are in the right order (Anything with a top-left back button is 4.1).

      Wi-Fi Direct got moved to the menu button in the main Wi-Fi settings. (See the second set of Wi-Fi shots.

      I'll update. Thanks!

  • Mike

    What is that AdFree app you have installed? Does it actually remove all ads from websites on your browser?

  • Nathaniel

    Does anyone know what the animator duration scale does?

  • Sootie

    Data usage now has an option for "Auto-sync data," which I though would display data used from background syncing, but it is actually for turning syncing off altogether.

    I think you mean thought

    I'm with you on the wifi options too and with another commenter have hit the WPS button trying to do a re-scan

    • Ron Amadeo

      whoops. fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Gelder/100000550520370 Roger Gelder

    Given the rapidity with which Jelly Beans is being up-dated for many mobiles, it is a pity that the Galaxy Note N7000 is not included, although under-standable with Note (2) coming out.

  • jammer

    So I just found that I had an option in addition to internal GPS listed when I looked at the GPS source menu. Since I have paired my phone with my car multimedia which includes an XM satellite radio I can apparently use my vehicle's GPS. I haven't tried it yet, but feel free to reply to my message in a day or so to see how it went. I'm guessing this could give a stronger GPS signal, quicker fix or even some battery savings. Might need something like tasker to automate the switching between sources since it probably has to be selected manually every time.

    • jammer

      Nope. Didn't work. Would be awesome if it did. I wonder who's court the ball lies in to get this setup going. Does XM put their hardware in Toyota's radio or does Toyota do it all? Oh well, it was worth the try.

  • Nujad Bolivar

    There is just one thing I can't seem to find. It comes from the official change log. "
    Calendar will now remember whether you've chosen to hide or expand controls so you have a consistent experience viewing Calendar whenever you open it." What is this referring to?

  • Al_H

    HI, is there any way to create a TOTALLY local calendar (not linked to a google or exchange account)?