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Why Android Named Their Operating Systems After Confectionery and Why They Abandoned the Practice

Starting from 2009, Android’s operating system (OS) versions were affectionately christened with the names of delectable treats, commencing with ‘Cupcake’ for Android 1.5. This delightful tradition persisted for over a decade and became synonymous with the Android experience. The latest installment, Android 13, was affectionately referred to as ‘Tiramisu,’ and two more iterations, internally designated as ‘Upside Down Cake’ and ‘Vanilla Ice Cream,’ were already in the pipeline. In 2019, Google opted to cease employing these sugary monikers in their public releases. Below, we delve into the reasons behind this change.

The Inspiration Behind Candy Names

So, what prompted Google to embrace candy and confectionery as the inspiration for naming their Android versions? This creative naming convention originated with project manager Ryan Gibson, who envisioned using unofficial codenames when presenting their OS to the public.

Whether it was meticulously planned or simply a playful idea that gained traction, the confectionery-themed names left an indelible mark on Android’s brand. It’s not uncommon for non-edible products to draw from the colorful and enticing world of sweets for marketing purposes, a strategy that has been employed across various industries. For instance, the iGaming sector, which offers online casino games featuring diverse themes, utilizes candy-related aesthetics to enhance the appeal of their slot machines. As an example, visitors to iGaming platforms can indulge in games like ‘Sugar Rush’ at Paddy Power Bingo, where the vibrant slot game caters to both visual and sensory cravings. Similarly, the tech hardware realm often opts for sweet monikers for micro-computers, exemplified by single-board computers like Raspberry Pi and Cotton Candy.

Once this naming convention gained momentum, Google naturally faced inquiries regarding the rationale behind naming software after confections. However, the answer doesn’t reside in a marketing handbook; in fact, Google has never provided a concrete explanation. Over a decade ago, a company spokesperson cryptically remarked, “It’s kind of like an internal team thing, and we prefer to be a little bit—how should I say—a bit inscrutable in the matter, I’ll say.”

They Follow an Alphabetical Sequence

While Google has remained reticent about divulging their motives, there is a discernible method to their whimsy. Android 1.5, being their third iteration, bore the name ‘Cupcake.’ Following this alphabetical naming convention, each successive Android release received a moniker commencing with the next letter in the alphabet. Below is a compilation of known Android versions, current as of this writing:

  • Android 1.5 – Cupcake
  • Android 1.6 – Donut
  • Android 2.0 – Éclair
  • Android 2.2 – Froyo
  • Android 2.3 – Gingerbread
  • Android 3.0 – Honeycomb
  • Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Android 4.1-4.3 – Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.4 – KitKat
  • Android 5.0 – Lollipop
  • Android 6.0 – Marshmallow
  • Android 7.0 – Nougat
  • Android 8.0 – Oreo
  • Android 9 – Pie
  • Android 10 – Quince Tart
  • Android 11 – Red Velvet Cake
  • Android 12 – Snow Cone
  • Android 13 – Tiramisu
  • Android 14 – Upside Down Cake
  • Android 15 – Vanilla Ice Cream

This comprehensive list underscores that the names are not limited to mere sweetness—each moniker represents a dessert, favoring baked goods over other, more overtly sweet alternatives. Hence, the prevalence of cakes and ice creams in the list, even when other sweet options were available to maintain the theme of sweetness and brand continuity.

Over the years, it became a tradition for Google to commission statues resembling the named treat following a new Android release, unveiling them at Google HQ to capture the world’s attention. This level of dedication persisted despite Google’s reluctance to provide a clear explanation. To this day, the best answer for why Android adopted sweet names is simply that it worked. These names proved memorable, garnered media attention, and perhaps left us all with a bit of a sweet tooth.

Why Sweet Names Were Discarded

Around 2019, coinciding with the release of Android 10, reports began circulating that Google would discontinue the use of dessert names for future iterations of the software. CNBC reported that Android 10 marked a departure from the sweet nomenclature of the past, opting for the straightforward ‘Android Q’ instead. As evident from our list, ‘Quince Tart’ remained an internal codename that never saw the light of official public relations. Likewise, all subsequent names after ‘Quince Tart’ remained internal, never becoming associated with new Android releases in the public eye.

The rationale behind this change was outlined in Google’s official blog post, emphasizing the suitability of simplifying the naming convention for an international audience. After all, not every country is familiar with the concept of a ‘quince tart.’ Google also highlighted the potential language and pronunciation barriers that longer, more complex names could introduce, suggesting that a single-letter solution would mitigate confusion. While this logic is sound, it did bring an end to a decade-long tradition that had accompanied Android throughout its formative years.

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