What do a zombie gingerbread man, creepy octopus and cats all have in common? Do they make up the terrifying fabric of an existential dread-laced fever dream? It’s a good guess, but not quite. They’re all, in fact, examples of easter eggs that Google has sneakily slipped into the nether regions of Android’s code over the years.
These fun little interactive secrets have provided countless minutes of distraction for Android users who took the time to go to Settings > About Phone, and tap on Android Version.
The very first one featured in Android Gingerbread, way back in 2010. It was a simpler time. Corona was a mere beer, Tik Tok was a smash song by Ke$ha as opposed to… whatever the hell it is now, and the Nokia N8 was making quite the splash.
Join us on a little trip down memory lane, where we take a look at all of Google’s Android easter eggs from times gone by, as well as how you how to unlock the most recent easter egg in Android 11.
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Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Android's first easter egg was a rather spooky picture of a zombified gingerbread man in front of a horde of undead, standing alongside the classic green bugdroid mascot. We’re not entirely sure why the zombies are wearing matching black tie attire, but if you’re curious you can always drop the original artist Jack Larson a line. A friend of Diane Head (who was the head of the Android framework team at the time), he painted the picture specifically for the occasion.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb
Honeycomb was the first tablet-centric Android OS, and is generally regarded to be a failure, along with the Android tablet experience in general (sorry Android fans, but you know it’s true). Still, its easter egg was rather nice, taking over your home screen wallpaper with different backgrounds, including a rather glorious blue bugdroid bee.
Android 4.1-4.3 Jelly Bean
Jellybean’s easter egg team kicked things up a notch, with a two-stage affair. Initially tapping the Android version causes an invasion of brightly colored jelly beans to infiltrate your home screen. Tapping them gives them an adorable smiley face, while long-pressing one allows you to interact with and fling the individual beans around the screen. You could call it a mini-game, we suppose, though there’s no real objective, points, or an end. Not a bad way to impress boring easter-eggless iPhone users though.
Android 4.4 KitKat
Android KitKat’s easter egg cranked things up further. The first stage seems rather bland, with a simple letter K on a black background, which you can spin around. Hold it down though, and you’ll be greeted with a red KitKat-like Android logo. Another long press then transforms the screen into a collage of brightly colored tiles, each stamped with previous Android logos. The tiles themselves flip around with rather nice animations, and tapping them makes them swap out randomly with other tiles. Gadget fans will spot the strong resemblance to Microsoft's now-defunct Windows Phone OS.
Android 5.0 Lollipop
Google’s devs went all out with Lollipop’s easter egg. Another two-stage affair, long pressing an on-screen lollipop fires up a Flappy Bird-like game in which you have to see how far the bouncing Android bot can make it along a side-scrolling level of lollipop obstacles. It’s just as frustrating as the game it’s inspired by, but full marks for effort.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Either that, or change a few skins and call it a day. Whatever the motivation behind Marshmallow’s easter egg, it’s essentially the same Flappy Bird-style game, with a few design changes — namely, you're now dodging marshmallows on sticks as opposed to lollipops. Having said that, you can press a ‘+’ button to add up to six other players on the screen at the same time, which is about as disastrous as you’d expect.
Android 7.0 Nougat
Nougat’s devs really rolled their sleeves up and put some serious work in. One of the most complicated examples to date, this easter egg allows you to add a special option to your swipe-down Quick Settings which eventually attracts (virtual) cats to your phone, so that they can join your collection. Okay, when you put it that way it sounds a little creepy, but if you’re a cat fan and like collectables, you’re in for a treat.
Android 8.0 Oreo
Oreo’s easter egg is a little disconcerting. It starts out normal enough, with an Oreo-esque logo, but unlock the second stage and you’ll be greeted with a Slender Man-like octopus that just… stares at you with its wide, white eyes. We’re not a fan of the way its inky body glides through the deep blue depths, though there’s some relief found in the ability to drag it around and stretch out its limbs — if you’re brave enough to face any potential repercussions, that is.
Android 9.0 Pie
Android Pie kicked things off slightly differently thanks to a second Android Version box to press, but most Android fans worth their weight in micro-USB cables figured this out straight away. The first stage summons a rather snazzy P logo, surrounded by psychedelic circles. Hold it down, and you’ll enter a basic drawing app which lets you choose different colors and brush sizes. Nothing major, but a decent way to kill time while you wait for a bus.
Android 10 takes things more seriously. No more dessert names, no Lovecraftian creatures, no cats. Instead, you can mess around with the logo, rotating the ‘1’ to overlap with the ‘0’ to form a queue — a puzzle that Nic Cage himself would be proud to solve. It can take a while to find the right way to do this, and we’re not going to enable you. Give it a go, and look it up if you give up (like we did). Once that’s done, you’re presented with a special puzzle known as a Nonogram. Fill in the cells according to the numbers on the left, and you’ll be presented with an image. Think paint by numbers, with extra steps.
Android 11 cranks things up across the board, and its easter egg is no exception. It’s a return of the cat collecting game from Nougat, except this time you’ve got to put more work in before your virtual feline friends device you’re worthy of their presence. There are quite a few steps involved, so we’ve listed them out for clarity below. Happy cat collecting…
How to find the Android 11 easter egg
- Open ‘Settings’, then go to ‘About Phone’
- Tap ‘Android Version’
- On the following screen, repeatedly tap ‘Android Version’
- Turn the volume dial that appears all the way to 11. It’s the number just after 10, but before 12. You can’t miss it.
- After a few attempts the number 11 will appear, along with a small cat emoji at the bottom of the screen
- Hold down the power button
- Choose ‘Add controls’
- Select ‘See other apps’ at the bottom
- Choose ‘Cat controls’
- Pick the water bubbler, food and toy
- Go back to the power menu screen
- Select the down arrow next to ‘Home’ and select ‘Cat controls’
- Swipe across the water bubble to fill it up, tap the food bowl, and tap the cat
- Sit back and wait. You’ve done all you can. Your fate lies in the paws of your potential feline visitors.