As of 2019, Android has an 86 percent share in the market of the smartphone operating system. Clearly, Android is the most used operating system in smartphones. Its only competitor in the smartphone operating system market now is Apple’s IOS. But Android is not that old. The first Android smartphone was launched in September 2008 and it did not take much time for Android to suppress all its rivals, except the IOS of course. In these years, a number of Android versions were released with better features that made it the top smartphone operating system. In this article, we will discuss the history of Android and the evolution it had. The android versions clearly had a role in the evolution of mobile apps.
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In October 2003, Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White founded Android.inc Palo Alto, California. The main intention of the company at the time was to build an advanced operating system for digital cameras. But soon the company realized that there is no big market for digital cameras and thus, they shifted their intention to develop Android as a mobile operating system. Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile were the main targets for them as rivals. But still, there were no investors for Android. A close friend of Rubin, Steve Perlman gave ten thousand dollars to him and this resulted in the growth of Android. It was in July 2005 that Google acquired Android for 50 million dollars. Most of its key employees, including few founders, also joined Google as part of the deal. The team at Google started working on Android with Rubin as the team lead. At the time, Google did not reveal much about its Android project.
The early prototype had a resemblance to blackberry’s smartphones. It had a QWERTY keypad and no touch screen. This did not go well because Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007. Soon other rivals, Nokia and Blackberry also announced the arrival of touchscreen in their smartphones. Google realized they need to switch their product to one with touch function if they want to compete with other companies. Below is the evolution of the Android mobile operating system through its different versions, starting from 2008. Nowadays, Android powers not only mobile phones or tablet PCs and ebook readers, but also IoT devices and even smart bicycles, which would not even have been in the wildest thoughts of Android project founders, Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White back then – where they originally touted it as a smart operating system for digital cameras.
The first smartphone with an Android operating system was launched in 2008 and its name was HTC Dream, also known as T-Mobile G1. It had a pop-up QWERTY keypad and a touchscreen display. The smartphone did not go well it had many flaws. It had Android 1.0 in it and the beginning of Android’s journey started with it. This version of Android (in fact the first 2 versions) did not have any official names or code names.
Even though the first two public versions of Android (1.0 and 1.1) did not have any code names, Android 1.1 was unofficially called Petit Four. This was released in February 2009, ie just 4 months after the launch of Android 1.0 version, but there were no major changes than in the previous version. However, one important thing that turned in favor of Android with this release was that it was able to prove the easiness to users to install newer updates with incremental features, as no other platform had that sort of a capability then. This was evident later, when Android released 4 versions in the year 2009 itself, including the version 1.1.
It was version 1.5 that came with the name Cupcake and this pattern of naming Android version is opted by Google till now. The cupcake was released in April 2009. Many features and improvements were included in it. Few of its features available on Android even today such as the ability to upload videos to YouTube, support for third-party keyboards, and feature like automatically rotating phone’s screen to the right positions.
The first Samsung Galaxy phone had the Android 1.5 cupcake.
Google launched the next version just five months later. It was Android 1.6 Donut. The main feature included in Donut was that it supported carriers that used CDMA based networks. This was a big plus point, as it allowed all carriers across the world to sell smartphones with Android OS.
It also included features like quick switching between the Cameras, Camcorder, and Gallery that could streamline the image-capture experience. It also introduced the Quick Search Box. Also, there were features like Power Controlling widget that could manage Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Global Positioning System (GPS), etc.
One of the smartphones, Dell Streak had Donut operating system. It had a 5-inch screen that was huge at that time. It was not well received by the public.
In October 2009, Google launched the second version of Android and named it eclair. It was the first Android version with text-to-speech support. It also introduced multiple account support, live wallpapers, navigation with Google Maps, and many other new features.
The first smartphone with the Android 2.0 version was the Motorola Droid, which was also the first Android phone that was sold by Verizon wireless.
The next version, Froyo, short form for Frozen Yogurt was launched in May 2010. It was in this version that Wi-Fi mobile hotspot functions was introduced. It also included many other features such as flash support, push notifications via Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) service, and more.
Google’s Nexus one earlier had Android 2.1 but quickly it was updated to Android 2.2 Froyo.
The Android 2.3 Gingerbread was launched in September 2010. A number of features were included in this version updated UI design that provided increased efficiency and ease-of-use. It had support for extra-large screen sizes and resolution. More features such as native support for SIP VoIP internet telephones, improved text inputs using the virtual keyboard, better text suggestions and voice input capability were added. One of the key features was its support for using NFC (near field communication) functions for smartphones.
The first Android smartphone with this version was the Nexus S. It was co-developed by Google and Samsung. This version also laid the foundation for a selfie. In this, multiple cameras were supported and also had video chat support within Google Talk.
The next version was something special. Android version 3.0 Honeycomb was launched to be installed only for tablets and mobile devices with larger screens. It was launched in February 2011. Androids rival, Apple launched iPad in 2010. Honeycomb was a direct response to Apple. Google aimed for features that could not be handled by smartphones with smaller screens. But Honeycomb ended up as a version that not really required. Most of the features of Honeycomb were integrated with the next major version of Android.
Ice Cream Sandwich was launched in October 2011. It had many features. Features of the previous version, Honeycomb, were integrated with the Ice Cream Sandwich version. This version was the first to introduce the support the feature to unlock the phone using its camera. This feature will evolve a lot in the upcoming years. Other notable changes with Ice Cream Sandwich included support for all the on-screen buttons, the ability to monitor the mobile and Wi-Fi data usage, and swipe gestures to dismiss notifications and browser tabs.
Google launched Android 4.1 with the Jelly Bean label on June 2012. Two more versions under the Jelly Bean label, Android 4.2 & 4.3 were released by Google in October 2012 & July 2013, respectively. The notification part was improved a lot in this version. Full support for Google Chrome (Android version) was included in Android 4.2. Android’s touch responsiveness was also improved. Jelly Bean was collectively the first Android version to support emoji and screensavers that are natively done.
Nexus 7 tablets had Jelly Bean installed in it. Many Android smartphones still use this version of Android.
Google contacted Nestle, the maker of KitKat chocolate, asking if they could use the chocolate bar’s name for the next version of Android. Nestle agreed to this and Android 4.4 KitKat was launched in September 2013. KitKat did not have many features. But one main feature was that KitKat could run on smartphones with even a 512 MB RAM. It was because KitKat used the Android Runtime (ART), though experimental, instead of the DVM (Dalvik Virtual Machine) originally used by Android. This expanded the market share of Android to the next level. The phone makers could now run Android on cheaper smartphones.
Google’s Nexus 5 had the KitKat version of Android. KitKat still runs on many smartphones around the world.
Android 5.0 Lollipop was launched in June 2014. Google’s new Material Design language was first introduced in Lollipop, which brought some major aesthetic changes to Android UI. It included changes in UIs like a revamped navigation bar and better-style notifications for the lock-screen etc. It brought the Flat Design concept into play. Google created more enhancements to Android devices’ battery life with a Doze mode where background apps are killed once the show is turned off.
Google’s Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 tablets were the first to use Lollipop.
First, the Android 6.0 version was to be called Macadamia Nut Cookie, but it was released as Marshmallow in May 2015. It included many new features like an app drawer which was vertically scrolling, along with Google Now available on Tap. This was the first version that had native support for unlocking of the smartphone with biometric; fingerprint authentication. USB Type C support was included and Android pay was also introduced in Marshmallow.
Google’s Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X smartphones were the first smartphones that had Marshmallow.
Android 7.0 Nougat was released in August 2016. It came out with multitasking features, especially for smartphones with bigger screens. It included split-screen and fast switching between apps.
Many changes behind the scenes were also made by Google such as switching to a new JIT compiler that could speed up apps.
Google’s own smartphone, the Pixel, and Pixel XL, and LG V20 came out with Android 7.0 Nougat.
This was the second time Google used a trademark name for it’s Android version, first being KitKat. Android 8.0 Oreo was released on August 2017. It included many visual changes such as native support for picture-in-picture mode, new autofill APIs that could help in better managing the passwords and fill data, notification channels, and much more.
The next major version was released in August 2018. It came with a lot of new features and improvements. The new home-button was added in this version. When swiped up, it brings the apps used recently, a search bar and suggestions of five apps at the bottom. There was a new option added of swiping left to see the currently running apps. Improvements in battery life were also made in this version. Shush, a new feature was also added. It automatically puts the smartphone in Do not disturb mode. Many more features were also added.
Finally, Google opted to drop the tradition of naming the Android version after sweets and desserts. It was launched in September 2019. A number of features were added such as support for the upcoming foldable smartphones with flexible displays. Android 10 also has a system-wide dark mode, along with the newly introduced navigation control using gestures, the feature for smart reply for all the messaging apps, and a sharing menu that is more effective. The control over app-based permissions is also more in it.
From the idea of creating an advanced operating system for digital cameras to the leading market share of smartphone OS, Android has covered a long distance. There were troubles in the beginning. But today, except IOS, Android has wiped out all its rivals including Windows, Blackberry and Nokia. There is no doubt and IOS is not going anywhere but still, the majority of the smartphone OS market share is with Android only. With every update, new features are included and improvements are made. Android is evolving at a rapid pace and in the future, It does not look any other OS is going to affect its position.
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