It’s true that I’ve not paid much attention at all to Android–or Tamil cinema, for that matter, but that’s another story–being, after all, a native iPhone user. But this week, I so-belatedly realized two things. First, that I share a celebrated birthday with Android: the first product of the Open Handset Alliance was launched on November 5, 2007, the very day I turned 37. Second, that new releases of the Android mobile operating system have since 2009 been code-named after confections and sweet treats in alphabetical order: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), Honeycomb, Jellybean, and now KitKat.
A birthdate and a love of sweet treats? Suddenly my connection to Android was not just personal, it was primal.
Android’s website explains its sweet naming practices thus:
Android is the operating system that powers over 1 billion smartphones and tablets. Since these devices make our lives so sweet, each Android version is named after a dessert: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean. As everyone finds chocolate so tempting, we decided to name the next version of Android after one of our favourite chocolate treats, the KitKat®!
And there are more such food/eating metaphors quite everywhere in the mobile/software developer space: dogfeeding [when a software company uses its own products in order to generate testimonial advertising], candybar phones [those basic bar phones with keyboard and screen on the front-face that roughly resemble candy bars], and Project Butter [released with Jellybean and designed to make phone graphic movements as smooth as “butter”]–and even the Linux kernel.
Speculation had been that the K-code for the next anticipated Android release would be Krispy Kreme, or Key Lime Pie (as in the pre-KitKat infographic above). KitKat® arrived instead as full-blown metaphor. As the first trademarked OS code-name, it arrived with a commercial tie-up with Nestle, the actual manufacturer of the KitKat candy bar. This had two consequences, one less interesting than the other.
On the less interesting side: a cute-but-conventional Charlie and Chocolate Factory move which invites KitKat candy bar purchasers to search for the Android robot inside the wrapper and a chance to win a Nexus 7 tablet.
On the more interesting end: a playful elaboration of the future of confection via the mobile OS interface. A series of visual descriptions on kitkat.com describe the candybar as though it were the next new mobile gadget, and the mobile gadget as though it were the candy bar–making it difficult to disassociate the chocolate from the phone that runs on the KitKat pack. Sweet. [See the full series here]
Two things happen simultaneously: the UX of the KitKat brand is transposed onto mobile UX, and the association with Android mobile transforms KitKat. And the two become practically indistinguishable in a nerdy-foodie finale that makes Android the perfect KitKat, and KitKat the perfect Android.
Could I ever look at chocolate the same way again? Probably not. Add KitKats to the long list of techno-inflected foods that extend our cyborg existence. It’s not just that the future is mobile. For as long as Android keeps up its code-naming practice, mobile is the future of confection, too.