A Brief History of Android


Android is an operating system which is maintained by Google, and is used for mobile phones and tablets. Over the years, there have been multiple versions released each with its own name. Android’s standard layout involves a series of “Home” screens, which contain shortcuts to apps, in addition to widgets.

Since the inception of the Android in 2007, there has been numerous releases on the operating system. With each new release comes new upgrades and features, as well as improved functionality. The following is a brief overview of past versions of Android:-

Android 1.0 – Launched on the HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 in 2008

The primary new feature launched with Android 1.0 was the notification toolbar, which users could access by pulling down the menu to preview all notifications. Google Sync was also introduced in this version, which synced Google account calendar and contact information from the user’s phone.

The multiple Home screen format was also introduced, which has basically remained in every version of Android to follow this release. Widgets were also added, which gave users easy access to information with a single tap of the finger.

Android 1.1 – Launched in 2009

The second release was Android 1.1, which was primarily designed for refinements in Android 1.0. The main purpose of the release was to fix a number of bugs that were present in Android 1.0, with a few minor features and adjustments added. Aside from these updates, most of the other functions remained the same.

Android 1.5 (Cupcake) – Launched in April of 2009

This operating system initiated the following versions of Android named after a sweet confection.

In this release, the camera was introduced with the capability to upload videos to Google Picasa and video sites, such as YouTube. Additionally, this version of the Android operating system contained the first copy and paste function in the web browser.

Android 1.6 (Donut) – Launched in September of 2009

This version of the Android introduced new support for higher resolution screen displays.

The design of the operating system was simplified and included an updated Google search function. This allowed users to easily search the device for apps, contacts, and Internet data. It was in the Android 1.6 operating system that the Gesture Builder development application was also added.

Android 2.0/2.1 (Éclair) – Launched in October of 2009

The release of Android 2.0/2.1 introduced improved typing functionality on the Motorola Droid with auto-correction. This was accomplished by offering a significant improvement in the keyboard functionality.

Support for HTML5 was also first introduced in 2.1 along with additional camera functions, a new interface for the browser, and Bluetooth capability.

Android 2.2 (FroYo) – Launched in May of 2010

The release of this version of the Android marked the inception of the Nexus smartphones, starting off with HTC Nexus One.

Additional features were added to the camera functionality. Other capabilities included tethering via USB, new mobile hotspot functionality, support for Adobe Flash, and the ability to use Android Market, which is now Google Play, to automatically update apps. The User Interface was also upgraded to increase device performance.

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) – Launched in December of 2010

The Android 2.3 operating system was launched on the second Nexus smartphone which was produced by Samsung, Samsung Nexus S.

It was at this point that a few primary features were introduced such as support for Near Field Communications (NFC), improvements in the User Interface which enhanced device performance, Internet calling capability, and an enhanced keyboard for faster typing input. 2.3 also provided for enhanced screen resolution, as well as support for a front facing camera.

Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) – Launched in February of 2011

This version of the Android operating system marked the first operating system designed for a tablet. It was this operating system that first introduced on-screen buttons for tap functionality. The apps were also redesigned for better viewing on a larger screen, along with the first web browser with multiple tab capability.

Multitasking was also improved, which made it no longer necessary to switch apps. Instead, users could simply bring apps currently open to the front of the screen with a single tap of a button.

In the final update of 3.0, support for Google Wallet was added in addition to a multi-core processor, which increased performance and device efficiency.

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) – Launched in October 2011

Android 4.0 was released with significant improvements in the interface; the main one being the removal of hardware buttons, replaced with onscreen buttons to continue what Android 3.0 started. The Android music player was also replaced with a new Google Music app.

Other new features introduced in this version of Android included management for apps running in the background, swipe to dismiss notifications, Android Beam which is a secure platform for sharing content, the new Roboto typeface, WiFi Direct, and the capability to rearrange folders.

Android 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 (Jelly Bean) – Launched in June 2012, November 2012, July 2013

This version of the Android operating system offered a brand new interface, which provided smoother and faster performance. Google Voice search was also improved in this version with enhanced Accessibility options and support for Braille input.

The Android Beam sharing feature underwent an upgrade to include the option to easily transfer videos and photos. Additionally, Google Now was introduced along with actionable notification improvements to the Notification Center. Jelly Bean also offered new security enhancements such, as Smart App updates and App encryption.

Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) – Launched in October 2013

One of the most important updates to Android 4.4 Kit Kat is streamlined performance, named Project Svelte. Svelte is Google’s attempt to lower the system requirements as opposed to increasing them. Typically, when users go from an older version of an OS to a newer one, the system requirements usually increase. Instead, the newest version of Android runs smoother, faster, more efficient, and more responsively on devices with as little as one half GB of RAM.

Also, with the new release of 4.4 is the introduction of new APIs, in an effort to help developers make great apps that will run smoother and more responsively on more devices, especially on the older devices with lower specs.

There is also a new built-in setting called Process Stats. In past versions of Android, users could see exactly how much storage each app was using on their device. Process Stats is an app that functions in a similar fashion by allowing users to see how much RAM the individual applications are using, which gives users an accurate read on whether or not they will be needing more RAM.

Design Update

kitkat_multitaskingThe new design update is all about the appearance of the operating system. Google has changed a number of the elements that Android fans have gotten used to since the inception of the Android 4.0. The look is much simplified, such as the new transparency of the buttons along the bottom and the notification bar up on top. Also, the new time and battery icon and all of the new indicators up on the top of the screen are now white in color.

There is also a slightly adjusted system wide font. All the different apps are updated with a new clean design and the touch responsiveness on the bottom buttons is much more subtle.

So overall, the new design shows a much simpler design, and also an improvement in the fluidity of the whole OS.

The Dialer

The dialer feature has significantly improved in Android 4.4, both in terms of functionality and design. The design is different because it organizes your most frequently contacted people up at the top of the screen by default for optimal convenience.

The dialer functionality has also been upgraded and now acts as a convenient search box. If users would like to search for a local business such as a coffee shop, users can now simply type in “coffee” and it will find all of the coffee shops near the user from Google Maps along with the phone number and address.

Another minor improvement is whenever users receive a phone call from a business number which Google has it in their vast directory, it will automatically pull an image relevant to that business and display it in the Caller ID, even if the business is not in your Contacts list.

Host Card Emulation

This feature allows any device running 4.4 to emulate NFC-based transactions so users can read and write NFC, regardless if the device has an NFC chip or not.

A lot of the new devices that are equipped with Android 4.4 will probably have an NFC chip, but when it comes to lower-spec devices which do not have NFC chips, they will be able to take advantage of this new feature.

Google Search and Google Now

On the Home screen in the launcher, users are able to swipe all the way to the left and access Google Now (only available on Nexus 5). Users can also swipe up from the bottom button to access Google Now. Also on the Nexus 5, users can use voice command such as “Ok, Google”, and it will automatically open the Google search feature. There are also new cards and optimizations in the Google Now feature, which tie many of the Google applications together.

Google Hangouts

kitkat_messagesGoogle Hangouts is being redesigned with both SMS and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) support. In the latest version of Android, Google Hangouts is actually the default messaging app.

Google Cloud Print

When users enable Google Cloud Print, users can print anything to virtually any type of printer.

Other features

There is also a new Download app, which is much more organized than the previous version. Additionally, Android 4.4 will now also support pedometers, IR blasters, and a variety of other low powered sensors, which results in a lot of minor improvements behind the scenes.


About Allistair Lee

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pocket Insider. Allistair has been a tech enthusiast since he was at the age of 15. His current interest includes Android smartphones and tablets, among many other devices.

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