The History of Android

The History of Android is long and storied. It began from its humble beginnings, to its feud with iOS and finally its domination of the world. Android is the most popular OS in the world today, more than any other OS both on mobile and PC.

Android’s popularity is due in part to its open sourced nature and easy customization. This open nature has encouraged software developers to make apps for android, introducing new features not found on other OS. This easy customization has pulled in hundreds of millions of users who enjoy being free from the restrictive nature of other OS.


Read: The history of mobile operating systems


This post intends to discuss the history of Android in full.

Android inc. was founded in 2003 in Palo Alto, California by Rich Miner, Nick Sears, Chris White and Andy Rubin. It was originally designed to pair digital cameras to PCs for cloud storage.

In 2005, it was bought by Google for $50 million (US Dollars). Rubin stayed at Google as head of Android. He left in 2013 and returned with the Essential phone in 2014. In 2007, Google helped form the Open Handset Alliance which included HTC, Motorola, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, T-Mobile etc.

OHA (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

The Open Handset Alliance then adopted Android as its operating system. The answer to Apple’s iOS and subsequently the iPhone.


The history of Android updates

Android public Beta was released for testing by developers in November of 2007. The next year, the first phone running Android 1.0 was released. Its name is the HTC Dream. It had a keyboard and looked more like a BlackBerry phone. The original Android version had Maps, Youtube and HTML browsers. It also supported Android market (an app store), email, gallery and allowed users to change the wallpaper on their home screen.


Android 1.5 Cupcake

Cupcake UI

Android 1.5 Cupcake is the third version of Android. It was named by the project manager Ryan Gibson as it did not have a name before. Others had called the previous Android 1.1 ‘petit four‘.

This would start a tradition of naming android versions after sweet treats. Irina Blok designed the Android logo.

The first Samsung Galaxy as well as the HTC Hero ran on Android 1.5 Cupcake. This Android version was released in September 2007. It allowed users upload to YouTube, had support for widgets, video recording, screen rotation and use of third party keyboards.


Read: What are software platforms?


Android 1.6 Donut

Android 1.6 Donut is the fourth version of Android. It became available in September 15th of 2009.

Donut

It had support for improved CDMA (2G) technology. There was also voice and text entry search enhanced to include bookmark history, contacts, and the web. Other important updates here are the inclusion of control widgets for managing WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS as well as integrating the camera, camcorder and gallery into one app.


Android 2.0 (2.1) Eclair

The next major update for Android came a month later in October of 2009. It was named Eclair.

Eclair

Eclair came with feature updates such as text-to-speech, live wallpaper support, improved maps navigation, pressure sensitive touch, improved optimization for hardware etc. There were also numerous camera updates, improved typing speed, refreshed browser UI and support for Bluetooth 2.1 as well as bigger screen sizes.


Android 2.2 Frozen Yoghurt (Froyo)

On May 2010, Android 2.2 aka Froyo was released.

Android Froyo UI

Froyo was loaded with lots of massive new features such as speed, memory, and performance optimizations. There were also improvements in the UI as well as in the app launcher.

It also brought support for WiFi hotspot and USB tethering, Adobe flash, file upload in the browser app, alphanumeric passwords, high ppi displays etc. Users for the first time, now had the option to disable data connection on a mobile network as well as install apps to the SD card.


Android 2.3 Gingerbread

Four months later, an update known as Gingerbread would be made available for Android phones.

Gingerbread UI

Major new features included NFC, multi camera support and video calls. It also had support for extra large screen sizes as well as higher resolutions. The keyboard/typing is faster and the copy-paste is now available.


Android 3.0 Honeycomb

The honeycomb (3.0) was designed for tablets and other mobile devices with large displays.

Android Honeycomb

The first device to run on Android 3.0 is the Motorola Xoom tablet. It had a redesigned UI and introduced the system bar with recent apps menu. Major updates include support for multi-core SoCs, USB OTG, keyboard and game controllers.


Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

This update became available in October of 2011.

Ice cream sandwich

One of the biggest features here was the addition of the three soft buttons at the bottom of the home screen. Other major ones include screenshot, face unlock, swipe-to-dismiss recent apps, data monitoring, 1080p (FHD) video recording and camera app improvements. It was during this period that Android market was renamed to Google Playstore.


Android 4.1 Jellybean

After an 8 month wait, the Jellybean 4.1 update was made available in June of 2012.

Android Jellybean

This update however did not boast a lot of new features. That being said, some important Android features came with this one.

They include support for: Bluetooth 4.0 (low energy), USB audio, external displays (screen casting/mirroring), OpenGL ES 3.0 (for improved game graphics), 4K resolution support etc. Chrome browser was also now fully supported as well.


Android 4.4 KitKat

I have a very fond place in my heart for this very version as it was my first android experience.

Android KitKat

It was released in September of 2013. It was optimized for phones with 512MB of RAM. OK Google, the precursor to Google Assistant was introduced for voice assisted Google search.

New features for this version include NFC, wireless printing, screen recording, infrared blaster support etc.


Android 5.0 Lollipop

This android version became available as an over-the-air (OTA) update in November of 2014.

Android lollipop

This is the first android version to support 64bit SoCs. The main new features included OpenGL ES 3.1 support was now available for GPUs, lock screen notifications, official dual sim support, High Definition voice calls, Google smart lock, device protection, OTA device updates etc.


Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Codenamed Android M, version 6.0 became available on August 17th, 2015. For the first time in the history of Android, updates were now a yearly event.

Marshmallow

Some of the more popular features include a vertically scrolling app drawer with apps arranged alphabetically and finger print unlock. There was also support for USB C and Android Pay.


Android 7.0 Nougat

This is the 7th major version update of Android and it became available in August of 2016.

Nougat

Google Assistant became a fully fledged AI entity in this version. This version introduced features such as split screen, quick app switching, JIT compiler (to speed up apps), Vulkan API (faster 3D rendering for Graphics), virtual reality, battery usage alerts etc.


Android 8.0 Oreo

Named after a famous cookie, the stable version of 8.0 was finally released in August of 2017.

Android Oreo

Notable new features include Picture in picture support, Auto-fill API for passwords and Google play protect. There is also faster boot time and downloadable system wide fonts.

Android Oreo Go for devices with low RAM was also introduced and users could now view the battery level of connected Bluetooth devices.


Android 9 Pie

This version officially showed up in August of 2018. By now it was already an established trend that Android updates are a yearly event.

Android 9

Android 9 brought gesture navigation, which is something I can no longer do without. The UI was also redesigned, call recording was officially disabled and support for Vulkan 1.1 was added.


Android 10

By the time Android 10 rolled around, Google decided to ditch the naming scheme of using tasty treats. From now on, all Android versions would be addressed by the numbers.

Android 10

Android 10 became available on September 3rd, 2019.

This version introduced improved gesture navigation, full support for system wide dark mode, smart app permissions, support for foldable screens etc.


Android 11

This is the current version of Android. It was released in September of 2020.

Android 11

This new update introduced performance updates, better system wide dark mode, improved navigation and chat bubbles.

I’ll say that whilst the performance updates are very good. I do not the new chat bubbles.


Android 12

This version is yet to be released but there’s already been a lot of talk about Android 12. The previews are already available for download.

Android 12

The full list of features isn’t out yet, but known available ones include easier WiFi sharing, better gesture navigation, performance boosts and improved battery efficiency.


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