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Android has been around for a while now, and there are endless apps and developments for the platform. It’s interesting to look back at everything and understand exactly where the mobile OS came from and where it might go.
And there’s a lot to go through. There have been 11 major versions of Android so far this year (and counting), and even more if you include patches and changes in the middle version. Along with this, devices and other applications and programs have also evolved, many of which have their own rich histories. If you look at the first and last Android devices, you might be mistaken to think that they are completely different operating systems, except for the usual applications.
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While we can’t go into every changelog and reasoning behind every system tweak, we can provide some general information and background history that should pique your interest and give you a better understanding of Android history.
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Before Android became known to the public, Android Inc. It was founded in Palo Alto, California in 2003 by Andy Rubin, Chris White, Nick Sears and Rich Miner. It had been around for a few years, but funding was difficult for the company. Google eventually bought it in 2005 for $50 million (a worthwhile investment). At that time, the main decision was the choice to use Linux as the basis for the OS and the overall focus on smartphone technology.
As development continued and Google promoted the project, they began talking and negotiating with phone manufacturers such as HTC and Motorola. They hoped to compete with the then-dominant Apple. Development continued under the direction of Google (the founders worked for the company) until the 1.0 beta version was released in November 2007.
The first version of Android was released in 2008 and lacked most of the features we know today. However, it supports YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, etc. easily pairs and integrates with apps like The first phone to run the Android operating system was the T-Mobile G1, also known as the HTC Dream. While the device itself has received mixed reviews at best, the OS will continue to integrate other Google products and create the Android Market, an app store.
After the first version, there were many other major updates, most of which were code-named after dessert. They are generally released annually, with additional patches and versions released as needed. What’s interesting about updates and development in general is that Android, with its huge range of potential hardware and devices, isn’t easy to develop for. There’s a constant balance that comes with development, and while it’s ubiquitous, it seems only a tech giant like Google could make an OS as advanced as it is today.
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To give you a better idea of Android development since 2008, here are the major versions and some notes about each:
Version 1.5, called Cupcake, was a big step forward for the OS and introduced many features and frameworks that people love today. Rotating displays, the ability to download YouTube videos quickly and easily, and support for third-party keyboards all come with Cupcake. There’s also predictive text and a built-in dictionary (though maybe not as sophisticated as it is now), copy and paste functions in the web browser, and more. Released on April 27, 2009.
Only a few months later, on September 15, 2009, the developers released the next step called Donut. While not as significant as some of the other updates, Donut improved the camera and camcorder integration with the phones, giving quick access to the phone for those easy-to-miss shots. It also introduced a power management widget that provides faster access to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controls, among other things.
General improvements include changes to the Android Market (it was easier to view screenshots in the market), vastly improved search functionality, and some technical support that touches VPN and CDMA/EVDO.
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Released just a month and a half after Donut, versions 2.0 and 2.1 (2.1 consisted mainly of minor tweaks and bug fixes) introduced text-to-speech support and live wallpapers. It also increased the functionality of the contact page, allowing people to text or call someone by simply clicking on their photo. Android’s dictionary and virtual keyboard have also been improved, and some new camera features have been thrown in for good measure.
Version 2.0 was also the first to feature multiple account support and Google Maps navigation, both of which were huge steps forward for the OS. There have also been many minor changes, some of which have become essential or required features for apps or future versions.
Version 2.2, known as Froyo, was released in May 2010. The release boasts speed improvements and lots of technical support. Bluetooth functionality has been expanded, there are more options for mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and more. Added support for Adobe Flash, which would impact the Internet for the next few years, and many other minor support features.
Gingerbread was a smaller update, but still worth mentioning. It added support for multiple cameras (think of the standard selfie camera on your phone) and updated the user interface, optimizing for speed and simplicity. There’s a new download manager, improvements for game developers, and added support for sensors and sound effects. It was released before the latest versions of Froyo and caused some overlap.
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Another significant update was Near Field Communication (NFC) support, which allows Android phones to read NFC tags. The technology had limited use at the time, but is now used in contactless payments, initial connections and identity verification.
Rather than a standard update, Honeycomb (released on February 22, 2011) was primarily intended for tablets and larger devices, allowing these devices’ interfaces to better align with the Android system. This could be a quick reaction to the iPad, or it could have been in development for a while when tablets came out.
However, Honeycomb also brought more support for multi-core processors, the ability to encrypt all user data, and the use of browser icons on tablets. It has larger screens, as well as an improved keyboard and system and action bar.
The last version to support Flash Player, but still a significant improvement, Ice Cream Sandwich, released in 2011, integrated many of Honeycomb’s features into smartphones. There were Wi-Fi Direct support, automatic synchronization of the selected Chrome browser, improved sound integration and many improvements to individual applications in the OS.
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Ice Cream Sandwich also included a favorites bar on the home screen and allowed users to unlock the lock screen with a picture of their face (biometric verification has improved significantly over time). Those on tighter data plans may be interested to know that Ice Cream Sandwich has introduced a Data Usage section in settings that you can use today.
Jelly Bean, or Android versions 4.1-4.3, didn’t add many new features or capabilities, but were notable for their improved user interface. Android has added more notification features and action buttons with this update. Animations in the OS became smoother and faster, which made touch controls feel more responsive and easier to use. While it may not be immediately apparent, anyone trying to come back today will notice the difference.
Others include first-time multi-channel audio, expandable notifications and other user accessibility features. Jelly Bean was first released in June 2012, with updates released in October 2012 and July 2013.
Android version 4.5, nicknamed KitKat, was the first codename to use the brand name. KitKat was an update consisting mainly of optimizations. With this update, the OS has been optimized to run on systems with only 512MB of RAM (not much when it came out in September 2013, and certainly not much now).
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With KitKat, we also saw the introduction of Google Hangouts on the OS and the ability to keep different messages together in one app. Emojis are now available on Google Keyboard. Not much to note apart from different color schemes and minor feature changes.
Released on November 12, 2014, Android 5.0, nicknamed Lollipop, was a significant visual change for the operating system. Using Google’s Material Design language, 5.0 focused on using more shading and lighting changes to give Android a more paper-like feel. On top of that there were some UI changes and the usual tweaks that come with every Android update.
On the back, Android 5.1 added multi-SIM support. In addition, HD voice calls and device lock policy have been implemented to prevent thieves from accessing stolen devices.
The next update, Marshmallow, was released on October 5, 2015. Marshmallow includes a new app bar, easy access to Google Now, support for biometric fingerprint unlocking, USB Type-C, support for Android Pay (you might know it as Google Pay). today) and several other fixes and improvements.
The Evolution Of Android Over Years| Mindster
Some of the other introductions were the ability to switch apps to standby mode, 4K display mode
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