Software I Miss from Earlier Versions of Android

My love of Android waxes and wanes according to how much the software feels like it is fighting me. On a good day, I can flash the OS and install whatever apps I want. On a bad day, I can't remove bloatware and I'm forbidden from changing the internals.

I started using the latest Google version of Android on their Pixel 8 Pro. I say "their" because it never really felt like the device was mine. Google kept popping up and asking me to do things which were clearly in their interest; not mine. There was very little way to remove Google's features. I was beholden to them. Forget that noise! I flashed GrapheneOS and regained some control.

But there are still some things missing from the modern Android experience. Things which I'm sure used to exist on earlier versions, but have since been scrapped or severely restricted.

Here's what they stole from us.

Customised Fonts

I can't remember which version of Android I first had which let me change the font to Comic Sans. But that ability doesn't exist any more - not without rooting your phone and severely monkeying with its internals.

Google's Noto font is, sadly, abandonware. Aside from new Emoji, Google show no interest in putting a modern font stack into Android. So we're left with a fairly dull and incomplete corporate font.

Button Swapping

Android originally had the back button on the right of the screen. Then, in Google's infinite wisdom, it was swapped to the left. Why? Fuck your muscle-memory, I guess?

Nevertheless, Android used to let you swap the order of the on-screen keys. This is not a particularly challenging software requirement - yet seems beyond modern Android.

Call Recording

Google is indecisive on whether call recording should be allowed. It is legal in most parts of the world, and used to be well supported by Android.

Nowadays you have to flash a ROM to get this basic functionality back.

SIP Built-in.

You used to be able to add VoIP / SIP calls to Android for free! But the latest version doesn't let you do that any more.

Custom Ringtones and Vibration Patterns

I'm sure that I used to be able to set a different vibration pattern for different sorts of alerts. But I can't find that functionality anywhere these days. Same for different alert tones for different people.

Task switcher clear-all button

If I want to close all my open apps, I have to go to task switcher then scroll all the way across. It was handy when there was a "close all" button at the bottom of the screen.

Data SIM switcher

I have multiple SIMs. They can both receive calls and texts, but only one can be used for data. There used to be a button I could press to flip between the two. Now I have to go into the settings, and fiddle with a bunch of options. Annoying!

And the rest

What software do you miss the most from old versions of Android?

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4 thoughts on “Software I Miss from Earlier Versions of Android”

  1. says:

    Not from Android per se, but from the Google assistant omniscient app: it used to allow translating arbitrary text from the current screen. It worked by launching "Google Now" (or "Google Assistant", or whatever it was called), which would then capture the current screen, and offer on-screen text translation. More powerful than in-browser translation because it also worked on any app.

    If you're visiting a foreign country, or if you just moved to different country, it was an extremely useful feature.

  2. said on

    @Edent The version of Android I'm using on my Pixel 7 can swap back button from left to right, and I've installed a SIP app which just works (but, admittedly it's not as easy as configuring the phone app). I seem to recall font changing was a Samsung thing, none of the others I've had could do it. It's not software I miss, it's Hardware, specifically the slide-out keyboard. RIP G1

    Reply | Reply to original comment on
  3. Martin Cross says:

    I think most of these things are still available in Samsung's Android builds. Though I wouldn't recommend them for other reasons (bloatware, privacy)


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