Jelly Bean: is it really as smooth as butter? [Poll]


When Google announced Android 4.1 they introduced a very intriguing feature. That feature would be called Project Butter and it would attempt to bring the smoothest experience we’ve had for Android yet. Using hardware acceleration, increased frame rates, and several more optimization measures Google promised an experience that was as smooth as butter — you can see how its name came about.

But is it really butter? Does this update really bring a substantial change in the feel of the operating system? I, for one, didn’t have such a smooth experience with my first use of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Things seemed smooth at first but eventually got bogged down. I immediately thought of the gentlemen in those ads citing that one famous line: “I can’t believe it’s not butter!”

But I refused to believe this was what to expect with so many other people raving about it. I must admit that I was on an early stock ROM built from source when I first tried it, and things likely weren’t perfect. Fast forward to some point last week and I decided to flash an updated version.

My stance has changed and I’ve taken a complete 180 degree turn: yes, this is butter. Butter personified. It’s still not quite as smooth as Windows Phone and iOS, but for Android and its unfortunate limitations due to being run inside virtual machines this definitely impresses. I must ask, though: do any of you feel the same?

Is Project Butter everything you’d hoped and expected it to be or does your device not seem to benefit from it for whatever reason? Do you think this is a permanent solution to fix the smoothness and fluidity of Android or will Google need to do more than work around current limitations of the Dalvik virtual machine? Let’s hear your thoughts in the poll below.

[polldaddy poll=6411012]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. It’s still not anywhere near the iOS smoothness, but damn… has it come a long LONG way since 2.1. I’m really excited for Google to develop it more

    1. 2.1! My Motorola cliq xt had 1.5 cupcake and that wasn’t bad. I now have my Nexus running jb and boy is it buttery smooth!

    2. I disagree because I have a Nexus7 and an iPad3. Equally as fast. I would actually consider Jellybean faster since it does way more behind the scenes. Such as true multitasking.

    3. I also have both an iPad3 and Nexus 7. I consider the experience on the Nexus 7 to be equal or better in most cases. This is, hands down, the best tablet experience I’ve had. (Previous tablets: Galaxy Tab 7″, iPad2, iPad3, ASUS Transformer, Motorolla Xoom)

    4. I use my iPad2 daily. Just got Nexus 7 and there is no doubt it is just as responsive as the iPad2. When you consider the iPad’s main ui does nothing but list icons, where Android has widgets, live backgrounds, true multi-tasking, etc. it is a feat what Google did to make JellyBean feel so fast and responsive. I also have a Galaxy Nexus phone and installed JB 4.1.1. It is like a new phone compared to ICS. Android has finally reached the place that its responsiveness is no longer a significant issue. In my opinion, that issue is solved.

  2. I have an iPad 2 and a Nexus 7 and they appear to be about the same in responsiveness. The only time I see a difference is when the Nexus is downloading and running multiple things in the background. Of course my iPad doesn’t even give me the choice to truly multitask so we’re not comparing apple to apples in that case.

    1. I see what you did there!

    2. wow, so jelly bean’s worth the wait…

  3. OS-level animations seem pretty smooth, but individual apps still hiccup. Even Google-created apps like Google+ can stutter.

  4. the only time i can make my nexus 7 “stutter” is trying to switch home screens when an app is actually in the “installing” (not downloading) process and when using some live wallpapers.

  5. Heres my opinion on the matter. It is much smoother than previous iteretions of Android however Galaxy S III still appears to runs smoother. And this is in comparison with JB on a GNexus and CM10 on my GS III. Stock GS III just seems to run smoother.

  6. Go into Developer Options and change all the animation scales to 0.5x and you’ll believe in Project Butter even more

    1. Always my first step in any rom since ICS fist came into being.

      1. thanks for reminding me to do this, i always forget!

        1. Frankly, I’m amazed more ROM devs aren’t setting this by default.

          …gotta find a script or something to do this.

    2. Just when I thought butter couldn’t get any better. That’s not even margarine-ally better. That’s night and day. Thanks for the tip.

    3. oh yeah…try the 10x! wow…is that ever slooooooooooow. looks really cool, but it feels like you are caught in a space time warp.

    4. Wow, thanks! 0.5 is definitely the sweet spot. I tried “off” but I missed some of the eye candy of the transitions, even though it was lightning-fast.

    5. What does it do, exactly?

    6. I really like all the transitions, but I have to admit this speed is nice. However, the screen off animation is totally invisible.

  7. The “Smoothness” is a very noticeable upgrade from even 4.0.4. I been using it on my Nexus (Bugless Beast) and Xoom (EOS) for about a week and I love it.

  8. I believe the ones who chose NO in the POLL are just crApple fanboys!!!

    1. shut your mouth.

      1. You shut up!

        1. Hell yea let me jump into this no YOU SHUT UP!!

          1. lol

          2. no you shut up!

    2. god forbid any android fan could be objective and provide constructive criticism in the hopes of Google improving on its features

      1. Exactly! I’m no Apple fanboy but I think that the loss of push notifications for Google apps like Gmail and Google+ is a major step back and does not make for a smoother experience in Jelly Bean.

        1. Wait what? Push notifications aren’t gone. What are you talking about?

    3. actually i chose no because i honestly thought ics was just as smooth and when i tried a rom of jb i couldnt really notice the difference. it really threw me off when they said they made the os smoother cause i was like “orly?” i didnt notice it needed to be smoother but thxkbye!?? so either im the biggest android fanboi or i need my eyes checked fer real lol.

  9. The only downside of project butter is that outdated apps suck even more then they use to on ICS since now they look even slower in comparison to the rest of the system. Take tweetdeck, netflix, flixter… These apps where obviously not build with butter in mind, more like sand paper I would say!

  10. It took me a few days to really comprehend the difference between ICS and JB. Yeah, it’s much smoother.

    1. A few days?
      You can see the difference as soon as you open the apps launcher or the multitask page.

      1. the biggest difference is when switching tabs in the app drawer, on ICS that took a good 15 ms to render now its half of that

  11. I can’t believe it’s not butter.

  12. It is very smooth. it’s not perfect though but you can easily see the difference when you compare it to an older version of Android like Gingerbread.
    Even iOS/ipad 3 lags(ex. when swiping to the spotlight search screen)…
    What I am more excited about is that more app developers to optimize their apps for JB.

  13. On my Nexus S, the difference is noticeable. There’s still the odd hiccup when the system is bogged down, but overall things look much smoother.

    My biggest performance complaint is still that some apps (Chrome, Twitter and Facebook, notably) tend to consume all my RAM after a while, and then when I hit home, I face a long wait while the launcher reloads. Oh well, the Nexus S only has 512 MB of RAM, and software never gets smaller. No doubt newer devices don’t have this problem.

    1. pfft…

      Nexus S…

      You should see it on my Fascinate, man… ;-)

  14. when I got my Nexus with ICS I thought the ui was sluggish compared to my Bionic running gingerbread. Now with JB it seems at least as good.

    1. You must have been taking some sweet ass drugs. Where do you buy your stuff?

  15. His name is Fabio.

  16. -1 for poor poll choices.

  17. on my nexus s it seems to run the exact same as ICS

  18. Not sure why Dalvik in the mix. Code is now JIT compiled to native code.

  19. Nexus 7: Chrome still lags like a mofo. If a page is loading, scrolling is difficult if not impossible. Everything else is like melted butter. The 7 is *blazing* fast.

    Nexus S: I see the improvement, but compared to the 7, it’s a 3-legged dog. Painful, actually. I’m frankly surprised that a 1GHz processor with a decent video chip can’t perform crisply. Will be upgrading to a new Nexus this winter.

    1. Chrome? Try Opera Mobile. That’s where the game’s at :)

  20. I haven’t seen the “polls” show up in months :( why can’t I see them phandroid?? I want a voice!

  21. So I must be in the minority here but my GSM Galaxy Nexus doesn’t feel much smoother than pre-JB. Granted I only ran ICS for about two weeks (bought the phone beginning of July, updated mid-July), but it still stutters regularly when I swipe left or right, especially the first time. Open the app drawer, hit the home button to close the app drawer, swipe left or right on the homescreen – guaranteed stutter. I have no widgets, static wallpaper, stock launcher, and only about 10 third party apps, all of which should be innocuous.

    That being said I just implemented the trick about changing the animation scales from a previous comment and it doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’ll wait and see. But failing that, is my phone just a lemon? Or am I expecting too much?

  22. I’d love to experience Jelly Bean, specifically Project Butter… meanwhile my 1 year old Android phone is still running 2 year old Gingerbread. Thanks Google.

    If I ever buy another Android phone, it’ll be a Nexus. NOTHING else.

    I have however played with a friends VZW Galaxy Nexus running a 4.1.1 ROM from Rootzwiki and it felt extremely smooth. I say Android is finally on par in smoothness and responsiveness as my old 2007 OG iPhone with a 400MHz cpu.

  23. I bought the Galaxy Nexus just for the faster updates. Too bad Google won’t update it. Turns out it isn’t the carriers. It is google. They held up the update for the Nexus S to ICS on Sprint too. They really need to get their act together. From the looks of it us paying customers on Sprint and Verizon will be waiting until the 3rd quarter. By then it might be time to give Apple a chance. I have had an android phone for 3 years. Of that time, I have had the latest version for…wait for it…..2 months.

    1. and why would google want to hold back on updating their devices again, cause your comment pretty much show that it is the carriers that are fucking you over?

  24. The choices in this “poll” are a false dichotomy. Yes, JB is the smoothest yet. No, it isn’t yet iOS or Win7 smooth. I have a Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7. Lag, missed swipes (especially Chrome on the N7), strobing with slow scrolling and general jitter still taint the Android experience.

    Is it smoother? Yes. Does scrolling still suck compared to iOS? Also yes.

    1. I hav both and the nexus is as smooth as butter, but the nexus 7 can become lag central

    2. Iphones have lag in their scroll too. o.0 I was watching someone in the breakroom at work try to read a fully loaded Wikipedia article on her iphone 4s and it was lagging/stuttering constantly. My Galaxy S ll on ICS scrolls just fine.

  25. I have a galaxy nexus and a gs2. They don’t appear any different from each other.Galaxy s2 running 4.04.Many apps still stutter when scrolling, especially chrome

  26. My JB still stutters occasionally, but that is while I am updating multiple apps concurrently from play, watching a youtube vid and have another 15 apps open (avail from the quick launch) – I’ll take that compared to IOS or Windows (though not sure re the latter in terms of handling multiple apps, etc.)

  27. JB is way smoother, but it still sucks at loading images.
    Just a few tiny thumbnails in Currents is enough to make it stutter.
    Let’s not speak about Google+…

  28. Makes a huge difference. I almost sold my Kindle Fire and bought a Nexus 7 but after rooting and installing Jelly Bean on my Fire, I decided not to. Night and day performance on my Fire now. Besides missing the FFC, mic, hardware buttons, and Tegra 3, the Fire is a very capable and fast tablet now.

    1. So… besides missing basically every hardware feature of the device besides the screen? I’m not sure a custom rom is worth that.

      1. actually Fire’s screen is also worse than nexus 7’s :-/

        1. I sold my Kindle fire a few months back when the rumors of the N7 started to hit. I only lost 20$ on it. Upgraded double the performance for around 50$. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

      2. Meh. Saves me some money. I can live with lack of those features as I have my Galaxy S3. All I need is just Jelly Bean on the GS3 now.

  29. I wouldn’t know, I can’t even get Verizon to update my freaking phone to ICS!

  30. Its for sure a improvement but still some hiccups thou. In the time Android been out its a huge milestone. Can’t compare iOS to Android. Android has a lot more for it then iOS. Easy to be fast and smooth when you control everything of the phone.

    1. and without true multitasking, natch!

  31. It is called MULTI-TASKING. Try that with your underclocked, over priced locked down glass made I-Phone you pack of gullible sheep. The I-Phone is all but history, once the rest of the flock has nuts to disobey the flock leader they might just realize what they are missing. Then maybe they won’t, once a sheep always a sheep. baaaaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  32. Has anyone noticed nexus 7 is no where near as smooth as Galaxy nexus, I think its due to the different chip sets, but I definitely think the galaxy nexus is smoother.

    1. I don’t know exact reason why it is, but this may have something to do with the thing you said.

      Tegra3 in Nexus7 (or other devices )has 4 core A9 CPU, but has only 1MB L2 cache
      (Ti OMAP4460 in Galaxy Nexus has 2 core A9 CPU and 1MB L2 cache)http://www.nvidia.com/object/tegra-3-processor.html

      Ti Japan says they found that for ideal operation,
      quad-core ARM A9 CPU needed 4MB L2 cache because of a lot of L2 cache mishit in some apps, and also needed wider memory bandwidth.

      if what Ti said is true, Tegra3 is short of L2 cache and bottlenecked by that
      then in some operation, Tegra3 could be slower than 2 core OMAP4460.

      1. Wouldn’t surprise me nvidia, would do some thing like this, seeing specially how the tegra 2 didn’t have neon support and had trouble with h.264 playback. Interesting!!!!!

  33. Jelly Bean is certainly faster and smoother than ever.but it still has some more work to do to be pleasantly smooth.
    if you look at several apps (e.g. Google+ app), “scrolling stuttering” while loading some data is still there. and that is not an ideal experience for people.
    so, they need to prevent UI thread from being blocked by app heavy load.

  34. Yes Fabio your butter has nothing on this jelly bean

  35. but, but… all the Android fans have for ages preached that there was nothing wrong with Android’s GUI performance. Is it possible people here have been blowing smoke in the wind? Say it ain’t so!

    1. Have you considered that this isn’t proof that there was something wrong and it is rather an improvement. This argument makes no sense. ICS was smooth, but JB is smoother… get it?

  36. In my one week experience with my nexus 7, I only saw it lag slightly about 3 times. Project Butter doesn’t seem to have as much of an impact on third party applications though.

  37. It’s not that smooth. Please, people, grow up! I have both the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus 7 (and an iPhone 4S, Blackberry PlayBook and Nokia N9). I always find myself holding my breath and praying that the Android team rid itself of the stuttery janky jerky scrolling that completely destroys the end-user experience (since Android Issue 6914 – http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=6914).

    The problem is that in order to achieve smoothness and flawless fluidity, you need a consistent 60FPS. To achieve this, you need to refresh the screen every 16ms. Unfortunately, due to Java’s inefficiencies (it’s bloaty and heavy and an abomination that doesn’t belong in the mobile space) it struggles to do “all the work” necessary for a screen refresh within that 16ms time slot, so you still get the jerky jank stutter for many scrolling operations (note I have said “many” – not “all”!!).

    Another problem seems to be with lazy loading operations. For reason unbeknownst to me (at this point in time), whenever a lazy loading operation needs to perform a network read/write, the main UI thread is blocked momentarily (few milliseconds – still noticeable). This is immediately apparent when you go into the Play Store, click on Apps, then side-scroll to “Top Paid” or “Top Free” and then perform vertical scrolling. You can also witness this in in Google+ – scrolling works fine until it has to fetch data, and then the stutter/jank/lag occurs.

    While Jelly Bean is a step in the right direction, it is far from perfect. Scrolling through the homescreens is definitely smoother and fluid, but in most places, the legacy Android lag lives on. There is much room for improvement, but I fear the only way to eliminate the lag/stutter/jank is to move away from Java (something that probably isn’t possible).

    Having said all that, please be fully aware I’m not a hater. I love the ethos behind the platform. I’m just saddened that the problem isn’t completely resolved, although I’m quietly hopeful that the Android team won’t stop here, and that they’ll dedicate time and resources to fix this problem once and for all. I should also add that thanks to Project Butter I’m now using my Galaxy Nexus handset as my daily driver, and while I’m not completely satisfied with my band new Nexus 7, it is “usable”.

    Please, Android Team/Google – go the extra mile! The job is only half finished.

    That is all.

  38. My girlfriend’s Nexus S just got the Jellybean update and it made the phone VERY slow and unresponsive compared to ICS. Honestly 4.0.4 is all the phone should have gotten, and I’m probably going to reflash it back to ICS soon because many apps are just too slow to be used normally now.

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