Admit it, sometimes when you read this blog you find yourself utterly confused by acronyms and other “Androidese” phrases.

Knowing and using the proper jargon is one-half of the requirements for being a true Androidphile. That’s why I’m giving you the uber-secret, traveler’s guide to the galaxy of Android, phonics edition. This simple guide will help you understand, and just maybe, fit in with the Android geeks — at least you can sound like you know what you’re talking about. Welcome to “Android Jargon 101.”

Android flavors

Part of the wacky fun of Android is knowing all of the “flavors.” The many different versions of Android each have different names based on popular desserts.

Android 1.5 = Cupcake

Android 1.6 = Donut

Android 2.0 = Eclair

Android 2.2 = Froyo

Android 2.3 = Gingerbread

Android 3.0 = Honeycomb

Android 4.0x = Ice Cream Sandwich

Android 4.1x = Jelly Bean

Android 4.4 = KitKat

Android 5.0 = Lollipop

Did you notice the pattern? The versions move alphabetically up the diabetic coma food chain.

Common phrases, acronyms, or other statements (aka “Geek Speak 101”)

  • ADB: “Android debug bridge”; a command line tool that lets you communicate with a connected Android-powered device.
  • Android: a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices
  • AOKP: “Android Open Kang Project”; a custom ROM distribution for many Android devices
  • AOSP: “Android Open Source Project”; led by Google, and tasked with the maintenance and development of Android
  • .APK: “application package file”; Android application file format
  • Beta: is the software development phase following alpha; the software is not fully complete for public release, but is available for testing and troubleshooting
  • Beta-tester: individuals tasked by a developer with testing applications prior to public release
  • Bloatware: software or applications preinstalled on a device but are unwanted/unneeded by the end-user
  • Bluetooth: a wireless technology for connecting devices over short distances (usually < 30 feet)
  • Cyanogenmod: an open source replacement firmware for smart phones and tablet computers based on the Android mobile operating system
  • Droid: a specific line of Android-based devices marketed by Verizon Wireless
  • Factory reset: the process of returning a device to its original factory settings
  • Flash: the process of removing a base ROM (usually one already install) and replacing it with a custom ROM
  • Force Close: when a program closes on its own, usually because of a software glitch
  • Fragmentation: different versions (Android 1.5 to Android 4.4) of the Android operating system; also used to describe the variations between Android devices (size and specifications)
  • GSM: “Global System for Mobile Communications” (originally Groupe Spécial Mobile); a standard set developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe protocols for second generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile phones
  • Hard reset: see factory reset
  • HDMI: “High-Definition Multimedia Interface”; a compact audio/video interface for transmitting encrypted, uncompressed digital data (usually video)
  • Launcher: the part of the Android user interface on home screens that lets you launch apps, make phone calls, etc.
  • Linux: Android foundational operating system; developers created the Android mobile operating system using Linux
  • LTE: “long-term evolution”; one of the “true” methods of 4G data (even if it technically isn’t). First rolled out by Verizon in late 2010, by AT&T in late 2011, and Sprint in mid-2012
  • Kernel: the computer programming which tells the central processing unit how to perform a function; machine code executed in kernal space gives commands directly to the hardware
  • MicroUSB: the specific type of cable used to connect most Android devices to a computer
  • Nexus: devices (tablets and smartphones) which run “pure” Android and receive operating system updates directly from Google
  • NFC: “near-field communication”; short-range communication between your phone and something else
  • OEM: “original equipment manufacturer”; usually a company that produces a component or entire device for another company
  • Open Source: software with publicly available source code; Android is distributed as “open source” software in its design, development, and distribution
  • OTA: “over the air”; the method Google or device manufacturers send Android upgrades to a device for installation
  • Port: the process of taking an app designed for one operating system (usually iOS) and reengineering the app to work on Android operating system
  • PPI: “pixels per inch”; how we describe “pixel density”
  • Project Butter: software enhancements introduced in Android 4.1 to improve the smoothness of on-screen transitions and animations
  • Rooting: the process of allowing users to attain privileged control within Android’s subsystem
  • ROM: the Android operating system, usually customized version of the base Android operating system
  • SDK: a set of software development tools that allows for the creation of Android applications
  • Sideloading – the process of installing an application outside of Google Play or an app store by uploading the program to the device
  • Stock: the process of keeping the operating system in default form
  • Superuser/SU – a special user account used for system administration acquired by rooting an Android device
  • Tethering: the process of connecting other devices to a phone’s cellular data connection via WiFi
  • USB: “universal serial bus”; a method of connecting devices to a computer
  • Widget:  an “at-a-glance” view of an app’s most important data and functionality that is accessible right from the user’s home screen
  • WiFi: “wireless fidelity”; a popular technology that allows an electronic device to exchange data or connect to the internet wirelessly using radio waves (generic); specifically, see this.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Russ Bowen · November 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

Finally a glossary of sorts I can refer to when the meanings of this new jargon has escaped me, I see these thrown around daily so Thank You for cleaning up this scattered array of terminology. 1.5 years into Android (newbie not a noob) & discovered (of course) “The more you know the more you realize you don’t know” so this is a very helpful step into the intriguing world of Android. Enjoy your daily insight. Thanks Again!

    Jeffrey Taylor · November 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

    No problem! Hope this list helps everyone out.

Mark J. Olberding · November 16, 2013 at 9:49 am

Jeff, you forgot some of the most important jargon used when working with Android, indeed any technology. However, since most of it is not repeatable in polite company, I guess I can understand why.

    Jeffrey Taylor · November 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Yes, I intentionally left off the most common four letter words, but you can find their definitions here and here.

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