29
Jun
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Yesterday, we reported on an alleged Android 4.3 Jelly Bean ROM originally posted by SamMobile. Since then, we have – in usual style – been digging away, looking for goodies. In the midst of that search, Ron noticed something – the Roboto files in the ROM were up to 30% bigger than the versions found in 4.2.2.

My first guess as to what would cause a file size difference was the presence of additional glyphs. When looking at the new files closely, there appeared to be 15 extra glyphs. But something even better became apparent.

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Roboto got a facelift! What follows is my attempt to catalogue (in a coherent fashion) some of the changes in the new Roboto. Grab a snack.

What's Different

The short answer is "a lot." These differences aren't immediately noticeable to the naked eye, especially if you're viewing the font on a 4.7" screen, but there are a lot of them, and they combine to make Roboto just a bit more refined, balanced, and dynamic than before. Don't worry though, it's still the humanist sans serif made for high resolution screens you've come to know and love. If anything, its "friendly and open curves" have been enhanced, while maintaining overall logic and consistency of style. For the sake of brevity, we'll take a look at two weights that best demonstrate the changes – Regular and Thin.

Roboto Regular

First, we'll look at Roboto Regular. The regular weight is what you'll see most often, and its changes are more indicative of the stylistic evolution of Roboto as a whole, where the Thin weight shows several issues with the way the font was built that are now fixed. But we'll get to that.

I could do a full run-down of all the 1000+ glyphs in the set, but we'll just take a look at a few notables.

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lower

Red: New, Black: Old

Many of the adjustments are very subtle – minor changes to curves in lowercase letters, a few width adjustments, the legs of the capital "A" moving outward just a bit, the arms of the capital "E" and "F" growing a tiny bit longer (while maintaining staggered lengths), etc.

A few interesting things are happening though, too. For one thing, the (what I like to call) boot heels on the lowercase "b" and "d" (as well as on the top of "p" and "q") have straightened out a little. Also of note: the bowls on the lowercase letters (which Matias Duarte lovingly refers to as "racetrack" shapes) have been trimmed ever so slightly.

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The bowl of the uppercase "B" meanwhile has calmed down significantly, giving it a little more balance, where before its voluptuous curve gave it a certain bottom-heaviness.

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Of course, the letters aren't the only thing that got updated. Punctuation got some changes too. The most obvious change is in the commas. Roboto's old commas were all about the "geometric" skeleton of Roboto past (not to say geometry is gone, it's just … softer). It was made purely of angles. The new comma has a really nice curve, and looks great in high resolution.

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So much smoother!

Other punctuation marks didn't undergo such a dramatic shift, but were subject to the tightening of curves and narrowing of widths seen elsewhere.

Roboto Thin

The changes in Roboto Thin are an even more interesting story. Those of you who follow me on Google+ might have caught a post I did several days ago about Roboto Thin.

Basically, I was playing around with the font in Illustrator, and noticed that up close, there were a lot of problems. Many of them had to do with curves overlapping stems resulting in extra anchors and weird little bumps. The primary culprits were the lowercase "u" and "n" along with "p," "d," and "m". In the end, I concluded this was probably due to the way the thin weight was created – if it was simply a transformation of the regular weight, it would be easy for these issues to crop up. Here's the quick graphic I originally posted:

run

Out of curiosity, I looked at the Thin file from the Android 4.3 build and, what do you know, someone already fixed all these issues!

image image

ahh

The issues with the aforementioned letters all seem to have been cleared up. Strangely, one thing wasn't fixed – the capital "M". Here's a before and after.

1148_38795_4o65qi7tcktfvoh_upload

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Before, the peaks were uneven – the left higher than the right. Now, the right is higher than the left, but just slightly. Just like its Regular weight counterpart, the Thin "M" also has a more subtle, refined set of angles inside its peaks.

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With most of its pesky issues resolved, Thin has become a much better option, though – at the time of writing – it's an extremely rare sight on devices. With the rise of higher-resolution displays, though, this may change.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the stylistic changes to Roboto seem to point to an effort to make the typeface more balanced. Rhythm, as the specimen book explains, is extremely important to Roboto's form, and bringing on more pleasing curves and widths that at least balance out the individual glyphs contributes to that goal.

As much as the typeface strove for a mix between humanism and geometry, it's achieved that goal on a new level with the 4.3 refinements. Things are more subtle but more organized. Softer but more logical. And, best of all, the Thin weight is less burdened by weird errors.

Though Roboto initially faced some significant tension when it debuted with Ice Cream Sandwich, it's getting better and better. It's great to see that the typeface is still being tweaked, worked on, and improved.

Love it or hate it, if you like typography, Roboto is interesting. The fact that changes are still being made makes it a great font to look at up close, and I for one can't wait to see how it looks in a new version of Android. Want the font for yourself? Hit one of the mirrors below.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Sven Joy

    You guys really notice everything.

    • Ezzy77

      Unfortunately they also make "news" about everything...

      • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

        We cover things we believe are relevant or interesting to our audience. No one's at any obligation to care about what we write, though.

      • Adit Sharda

        You can always filter what you don't prefer bro. That's the power of the internet. :D

      • Badda Madda

        Ezzy77, you suck so terribly much that I have never imagined it was possible! Wow!

      • Tyler

        If you don't like it don't click it is a good rule of thumb.

    • Derek B

      They're Police, they are supposed to notice everything.

    • mesmorino

      I disagree with that assessment. No one at AP seems to have noticed that the Google+ share button on the website AND the android app is stupid and does not look like it's supposed to.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        What are you even talking about? What site? What Android app? Which button?

        • mesmorino

          So... What part of my comment was unclear or difficult to parse? The Google+ share button on the website-

          Which other website would I be talking about here, if not the Google+ website? It's the only context applicable option.

          And the android app- Again, what android app could I possibly be talking about? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.

          Or would you rather I had typed "the Google+ share button on the Google+ website AND the Google+ android app"?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            You could be talking about the AndroidPolice site (which is what I thought you were talking about) or the Google+ site.

            And if you're talking about the latter, I still have no idea what you're on about.

          • Derek B

            I agree, I thought he was talking about the AP website also.

          • mesmorino

            Now I'm confused- AP has an android app? Or a share button? It's a +1 button, if I remember right.

            In any case I get the feeling you're either being facetious or deliberately obtuse. You know the google+ website? Right, on posts, they have a share button. This button is stupid, and does not look like it's supposed to (in my opinion).

            In addition, on the google+ android app, the share button looks like the the one on the website (which as i said, is stupid). This is an even more egregious error, because here we have a google app ignoring the android share button.

            I don't know how to make it any clearer. Go to the google+ website. look for the share button under a post, any post. Then open the app. look for the share button under a post, any post. That share button is what i'm talking about

          • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

            What, if you don't mind, makes the share button look bad? The arrow looks a little off center because of its curved tail, but otherwise it looks fine.

            As for the Android app, I think it makes sense in this context. The app, like the website, is based on tiles that contain posts or activities. Keeping the tiles' experience consistent across platforms, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.

          • mesmorino

            It's not bad (or even stupid, that was just hyperbole), it's just... Odd, different, weird. It is somewhat reminiscent of the iphone share button, which doesn't do it any favours, but otherwise, my main beef with it is that it doesn't look like *any* other share button in Google's ecosystem/suite of apps.

            As for the app, I actually appreciate its conformity with the website, except that I already dislike the website's share button, so... yeah. It's a choice between being consistent with other apps (like YouTube, for example), or the google+ website.

            Overall, I'd rather have it be consistent with the apps but of course, that's just me.

          • spacehunt

            > it doesn't look like *any* other share button in Google's ecosystem/suite of apps

            The action performed by share button inside Google+ is not the Android share intent though. It specifically shares content inside Google+, not to other Android apps.

          • Mobile Phones Fan

            > What, if you don't mind, makes the share button look bad?

            Point of order.

            He didn't say the button looks 'bad'; he called it 'stupid' and suggested it 'does not look like its supposed to'...whatever that means. And these insightful comments stand apart from his lack of specificity as to the website in question.

            This, from a guy who accuses others of being 'obtuse'.

            .

          • mesmorino

            Not only have I clarified which website I was talking about ( it's obviousness notwithstanding), I have not been obtuse anywhere in this conversation. If you think I have, point it out.

            Incidentally, I have also explained my dislike of the share button.

          • Mobile Phones Fan

            > I have not been obtuse anywhere in this conversation. If you think I have, point it out.

            Seriously?

            Dude, if you don't see your initial remarks -- the wording of which (later 'explanations' aside) you've defended repeatedly and argumentatively -- as unclear *per se*...well, then I'd suggest there is simply no explaining it to you. Not even with lots of arrows or other visual aids. :-)
            .

          • mesmorino

            I didn't think initial comment was unclear- Like i said to Artem in my reply, given the context what other website/app could I have been talking about? And when he explained where the mixup was, I clarified it immediately. Unintentional ambiguity is not being obtuse.

            I have indeed repeatedly defended the wording, but I have not done so argumentatively. And even if I have, that is *still* not being obtuse so to reiterate, I have not been obtuse anywhere in this conversation.

          • Liam Higgins

            I think he meant because it doesn't use the same share icon as the android system... Which doesn't seem very stupid to me as they're two different products...

          • Simon Belmont

            Um. Isn't this technically unrelated to Android 4.3?

            The Google+ app can be updated independently of the OS. I don't see what all the hubbub is here.

          • mesmorino

            There isn't one. I was just pointing something out, Artem misunderstood, and I'm attempting to clarify.

            He could be yanking my chain though.

          • TY

            You are right, though next time please learn not to take exaggeration literally...

          • iamnotfan

            Man I still didn't get you , it's k since your talking to AP staff

        • Martim

          On the subject of noticing stuff, has anyone here also noticed the insane way the scrollbar behaves on Android? The size of the scrollbar grows and shrinks depending on the current item's length (e.g. a comment on a G+ post). This happens in any place where the auto-hiding scrollbar shows up, and it bugs me to no end...

          Has Ron noticed this too?

          • Crispin Swickard

            This has bugged me to know end forever. It has to be something they did intentionally for whatever reason, but I wish the would kill it with fire.

          • mrflipnote

            Scrolling is indeed still a pain in the ass on Android. I've noticed this scroll-bar thing before, too, and once I'd seen it the first time, I started noticing everywhere every time (I even searched for ways to entirely turn off the scroll-bar). But, as said, scrolling is a pain in the ass on Android, I don't know whether you've been aboard the Android train long enough to have witnessed the horror of scrolling that is Gingerbread...either way, believe me, they've come a long way, even despite this bug.

  • WestFiasco

    LOL

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      When I saw the post, my first thought too was to laugh out loud. It's hilarious.

      (Not really.)

      • WestFiasco

        That's fine, however i found the subject and the length of the article amusing as it signified the fact, It really is the weekend and there's little mobile news to report on.

        • Simon Belmont

          No. The length and subject means that AP staff leave no stone unturned.

          Besides, one could have always read this on Monday. Cheers.

        • Razormike

          How are you even complaining about this? I love the fact that Android Police analyse so much stuff. That is exactly what puts them ahead of all the other Android blogs.

          • WestFiasco

            Oh i'm not complaining, i just wish there was generally (Not with AP alone but the mobile tech world as a whole) something else (Big News) mobile related going on for readers like me.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

    YES! We will leave no detail uncovered!

    http://i.imgur.com/JmJ3M90.gif

    • Sven Joy

      Thats why AP is the best blog of them all!

    • Tony Sarju

      Fantastic eye for detail. Glad I took a break from cleaning my desk to update my FB company page and refresh AP. Not a lot of people out there appreciate articles such as this. Keep up the good work!

  • Lupe Fiasco

    It's post's like this that show why Android Police the best.

  • impure

    So how does this compare to, say, Helvetica Neue Ultra Light?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      Great idea for a follow up post!

      • Joshua

        I agree! I'll be keeping an eye out for that article.

    • Larizard

      Obviously, Google is planning to pull "an iOS7" and change all Roboto Regular to Roboto Ultra Ultra Light for Key Lime Pie.

    • Yossi Cohen

      i love android and imo the roboto itself is mostly helvetica with fixes.
      it looks almost identical but all the problems in helvetica were fixed!
      google: roboto vs helvetica neue.

  • Zargh

    Ah, so I wasn't just nuts when I thought the text in SamMobile's 4.3 screenshots looked cleaner somehow.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      REALLY? Wow. That's impressive.

  • HebeGuess

    I'd believe Googlers will fix the M soon. Cause you know they are peeping around AP for this kinds of issues.

  • Adit Sharda

    The Roboto Thin font has been one of my favourites ever since I've been using Android 4.2. I normally replace the Regular file with the Thin Font to make the screen look better. Thank God there are more people who prefer it that way! :D

    • enoch861

      How do you do that?

  • http://surrenderat20.net/ frostyNinja

    I for one have started forcing Roboto on pretty much every website I visit on a daily basis (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc.) and almost every new website design I work on. It's an outstanding font and is my favourite for the time being. Good to see them improve on it and good on you guys for covering this for us typefreaks.

    • akshay7394

      Do you know how to do this with Chrome?
      I used to do it with every version of Firefox I've ever used but in Chrome I just can't seem to find the right option (or extension.)

      • http://surrenderat20.net/ frostyNinja

        I use Stylish, it's a pretty simple but functional extension.

        • akshay7394

          To change fonts? I thought it could only change appearances; what style do you use?

      • Gandalf_Teh_Gray

        How you do it on firefox?
        I had to switch from Chrome and theme my FF to look like Chrome.

        • akshay7394

          Just go into the options and under 'content' there's the option to force fonts :)

  • Adrian O.

    Wow, they (fu**ing finally) fixed the issues with "Ț" & "ț" characters for romanian language. I don't have to modify the fonts myself. It took them ... well, since roboto was released. Thanks for the new fonts.

  • pato

    How about the ligatures? So far only "fi" is implemented.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      As far as I can tell, no new ligature pairs have been implemented yet.

    • perfectlyreasonabletoo

      Fi ligature > Midna ligature

    • Tarun Pemmaraju

      Are ligatures really that useful on a mobile font?

  • Rob

    To install this on my Android device do I need to install each .ttf file separately? I don't seem to recall that being the case with the last version of Roboto. Thanks.

  • Humberto Hernandez

    You are not called Android Police for nothing, ah?

  • Simon Belmont

    Outstanding write-up. You guys are find every miniscule detail, which I absolutely love.

    Looks like Android 4.3, as predicted, will be mostly more refinement of the existing Jelly Bean platform behind the scenes. Nothing wrong with that, and it gives us bigger changes to look forward to with KLP in the fall.

  • nawa

    I hope they've fixed curillic letter Щ too, it has no tail in present version of Roboto Light.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      There's one with and without a tail in the new Roboto Light :)

      • nawa

        These are two different letters – Ш and Щ :) And lowercase one has tail too?

        • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

          Ah, I'm not an expert on Cyrillic glyphs just yet. But yes, lowercase versions are accounted for!

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Nice. That was a pretty big oversight on Google's part. It'd be like making j and g the same letter.

          • nawa

            Awesome, thanks!

  • Joshua

    I think you mixed up the colors on the comma image--isn't red supposed to indicate the new shape?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      You're right! I fixed it. Thanks for the note!

  • cy_n_ic

    Fontastic post! Muahahahaha!

    • Brian Utne

      I see what you did there!

  • Sean Donovan

    so.. does this verify that the alleged 4.3 rom is real..?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It's definitely real, but we don't really know how final it is.

      • Sean Donovan

        right, as in it can very easily be only a few modifications from 4.2.. well i hope 4.3 has more stuff in stock then just fixing the font x_X

  • George Av

    this artical was actually quite interesting for being about damn text lol.

  • http://tomdoggett.net/ Tom Doggett

    Any way I can bribe a Google font developer to include the few extra glyphs for polytonic Greek? Oh well, a man can dream. A man can dream.

  • mahendru1992

    sorry for being a noob here but how do i install all the ttf files to my s3?

  • http://www.failuretodream.com/ lostboardmayhem

    I love Roboto, but I wish they would have changed the bold hour : not bold minute crap because that is annoying

  • elpopi

    this article is a perfect example of why android police is miles ahead of the rest of android blogs

  • Arthur

    You guys did an amazing job with this article.

    How can I install the font? being a .zip, I'm guessing flash it or copying it into a system folder?

  • Idon’t Know

    Roboto is an obvious Helvetica clone.

    • Tarun Pemmaraju

      X sans serif font is a Helvetica clone.

  • TylerChappell

    OH GAWD YES DAT FONT, OH YES GIVE IT TO ME

  • Brian Utne

    Anyone know if project Roadrunner is gonna come with 4.3? Or was that a 5.0 project?

  • http://mwinter.in/ Yan Gabriel Minário

    And that's why I love Android Police.

  • mrflipnote

    I absolutely love these teardowns

  • andrew__des_moines

    I haven't had this much fun reading about fonts since the blog analyses leading up to Dan Rather's firing!

  • James Jun

    Definitely a step into the right direction. More humanistic is the right direction. Whether it stands up to the general-purpose legacy Helvetica has amassed remains to be seen (and probably won't be). iOS7's Helvetica Neue Ultra Light is way too thin too be legible; too many typographers and designers are complaining about it. I wish we had more typographers on board for Android to speed things up in refining it even more

    That being said, Avenir is one smexy UI font.

  • Shawn Cheever

    Great post. It's amazing how much attention to detail is going on (on Google's part and AP!).

  • Philip Kahn

    I can't wait until they add proper subpixel font hinting to this gorgeous font. Get rid of the jaggies.

  • GraveUypo

    nice job spotting those changes, but... at the risk of sounding like a jerk, i literally could not care less.

  • brucetonbryfield

    This made very interesting reading. I absolutely love the Robot font - so much better than Droid Sans! I have actually used it in a client project, as it is available via Google fonts.

  • http://www.zone38.net/ codeman38

    Looks like they fixed two other annoyances of mine:

    * The 'straight' quotes ('") and the closing 'curly' quotes (’”) no longer look identical. (It's possible to enter both from the Android keyboard, but they're visually indistinguishable! Which is really annoying when you're dealing with sites that completely mangle curly quotes.)

    * The asterisk is no longer centered. Maybe it's just me, but that always looked incredibly awkward. (Of course, YMMV.)

  • Alex

    Is there any way to install this without root?

  • ruzzel01

    These are characters are commonly used. http://www.spectra.com

  • Moosa Mahsoom

    I need to buy high res screen for my PC. But, first of all I need a capable machine.