Android – A brief History

Android - A Brief History

Fig: Android Bot


Android and Apple iOS – are two of the most famous and widely used mobile operating systems in the world – where smartphones can be ubiquitously found in almost everyone’s pocket. Both of these operating systems are considered an important aspect of the telecommunication industry. However, this article will primarily be focusing only on Android OS – the go to mobile operating system of the masses.

Android – an open source operating  system – is used in running more than 2 billion devices around the world. As a result of this, it is the predominant choice of phone manufacturing companies. Being chosen by many big manufacturers, Android OS has become the de facto standard in the telecommunication industry. If the smart-phone you use isn’t Apple, it is safe to assume that your phone – irrespective of the company (Samsung, Oppo, Huawei, LG, HTC etcetera)  – is running one of the versions of Android OS.

This article will divulge key information about the operating system along with a few more details. You will also find the answers to the questions such as:

  • History of Android Inc.
  • What is the Android Operating System?
  • What is the framework of Android OS made up of?
  • Origin of the name of the bugdroid – ‘Andy’
  • Evolution of Android – versions and updated functionality
  • Future of Android

In order to understand the impact that the operating system has had in our lives, we must first understand how the system came into existence. To answer this question, we must first learn about the company and the people behind the company who developed this revolutionary technology. 

History of Android Inc. 

Android Inc – a small tech company, located in Palo Alto, California was established in 2003 and had the financial backing of Google Inc. The company was the brainchild of: Andy Rubin (co-founder of Danger), Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire Communications, Inc.), Nick Sears (once VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (who led the design and development of the interface on WebTV).

Initially established to create a high end system, capable of determining the user’s location and preferences via a mobile phone – making it user friendly. Once the co-founders realized that just making the system more user friendly would not be enough to gain notiarity, the company’s core value has changed / evolved multiple times since then. Secondly, they tried their hands on the development of an advanced operating system for digital cameras, which could connect to a PC – making it easy to view, edit and share the picture with ease. Once again, in just a few months they realized that the demand for digital cameras were miniscule, which would eventually render their effort obsolete. Thus, Andy Rubin in 2004, decided to shift gears and redirect the company’s focus in creating a system which would eventually challenge Symbian and Windows Mobile phones. Only when this change was solidified did the company come into its own. 

In August 2005, Android Inc. was fully acquired by Google. The acquisition was made public only in November 2007.  When the acquisition of the company was fully complete – work on the development of a standalone stable mobile platform began earnestly. The new system was to be open source like Linux. It was not until 22nd of October 2008, when HTC made the first Google Phone – that the dream of creating a self sustaining mobile operating system was realized. Thus began the reign of Android OS. 

Now that we know where the system got its beginning, let’s find out more about the system itself. 

What is the Android Operating System?

Android is a Linux-based operating system and software platform for mobile phones. The idea was to have a flexible and upgradeable software that would suit different devices. Despite being the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world today – it is not an idea that someone came up with one day, instead, the Android that we know and love today emerged little by little – one update after another. The process has been going on for more than a decade and will continue to evolve for many years to come. 

The key part that makes Android OS so popular is that like Linux – is an open source platform – allowing manufacturers, operators and developers to add more functionality to their respective smartphones. Furthermore, besides being free, it is also a multiplatform system. By multi-platform it is understood that the operating system could be used in different platforms – running with a combination of various hardware and software working in tandem to run an application. This also created the opportunity of running a Java-based application, which communicated with the hardware via various Google libraries.  

In its simplest form it consists solely of an operating system, an architecture – or a combination of both. Android attains its popularity because the system can be installed free on almost any mobile device. To date, more than 1 million applications (apps) are created (where two thirds are free) and can be obtained from Google Play, the virtual store for Android applications. There are, however, unlike Apple, which maintains tight control over its virtual store (unless the user jailbreaks the system), other virtual stores such as the Samsung Apps, which enables people to obtain the app that is most desired by them. 

What is the framework of Android OS made up of?

The Android framework is made up of apps that run in a Java (object-oriented) environment, mostly based atop core Java libraries in a virtual machine called Dalvik. The virtual machine communicated with various Google Libraries during the running of the application. The Android operating system has about 12 million lines of code (LOC) altogether. This includes 3 million LOC in  XML, 2.8 million LOC in C and 2.1 million LOC in Java and 1.75 million LOC which are written in C++. With various languages integrated within the system, it makes Android versatile, unlike its counterpart Apple iOS.

Origin of the name – ‘Andy’

The name – ‘Android’ is believed to be obtained from the novel by Philip K. Dick: ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ – which was later adapted to the cinema as Blade Runner. Both the book and the film focus on a group of androids called Nexus-6 model replicants. Besides this, there are also theories that the design for the logo was adapted from R2D2, a famous droid in the Star Wars saga. The logo of the Android was christened as – “Andy”. Neither theories have been confirmed nor denied by Google. 

‘Andy’ – a green bot is the official mascot for the operating system. It was first used in 2005 and since then has become the reference image of Google’s Android operating system. The initial design for ‘Andy’ was created by Irina Blok.

Fig: A preliminary design for the Android logo (left) and the final logo (right), 

Evolution of Android – versions and functionality

Google’s operating system has been around for almost two decades. During this time we have witnessed the operating system evolve with leaps and bounds – leaving its rivals Apple iOS, Microsoft far behind. Each iteration or update of the operating system – their version numbers are almost always accompanied by a desserts name following an alphabetical order. Now we are going to review the different versions of Android and the changes that have been introduced in them.  

  1. Android v1.0 – 1.1, aka- Apple Pie, Banana Bread
Android v1.0 - Apple Pie
  • Release Date: September 2008, 2009
  • Updated Functions:
    • Drop-down notification window
    • Widgets on the home screen
    • Gmail integration
    • Android Market
  1. Android v1.5, aka – Cupcake
Android v1.5 - Cupcake
  • Release Date: Early 2009
  • Updated Functions:
    • Inclusion of Third Party Widgets
    • Improvements to the clipboard
    • Video capture and playback
    • Some more changes
      • Uploading videos to YouTube
      • Sync across multiple accounts is added.
      • First version of copy & paste is introduced
  1. Android v1.6, aka – Donut
Android v1.6 - Donut
  • Release Date: Fall of 2009
  • Updated Functions : 
    • support for CDMA networks
    • Support resolution QVGA, HVGA, WVGA, FWVGA, QHD and 720p
    • Search for content specific to the phone (contacts, applications, etc.), even by voice.
    • New camera interface with better gallery integration.
  1. Android v2.0 – v2.1, aka – Eclair
  • Release Date: 26th October 2009
  • Updated Functions:
    • Capability to support Multiple Accounts
    • Integration of Google Map Navigation
    • Integration of Drop-down Menu
    • Third Party Keyboard Integration
    • Voice to Text conversion
    • Capability of setting Live Wallpaper
    • New lock screen with ‘Slide to Unlock’ and ‘Unlock Pattern’ capability
    • Faster Browser Refresh with zooming capabilities
  1. Android v2.2 – v2.2.3, aka – Froyo (short for ‘Frozen Yogurt’)
Android v2.2 - Froyo
  • Released Date: May 2010
  • Updated Functions:
    • Redesigned Photo Gallery
    • Integration of Wi-Fi Hotspot 
    • Improvement in Copy and Paste function
    • Incorporation of Microsoft Exchange 
    • Improvement in Video Calling
    • Memory Expansion capabilities
    • Addition of only Pin Unlock capabilities
    • Adobe Flash support capabilities
  1. Android v2.3 – v2.3.7, aka – Gingerbread
Android v2.3 - Gingerbread
  • Release Date: 6th December 2010
  • Updated Functions:
    • Improved Keyboard (Native and Third Party)
    • Integration of Development Management Tools
    • Front Camera Support
    • Integration capabilities of third party games
    • Other In-built Features:
      • NFC Technology 
      • QR Code scanning capabilities
      • Google Wallet integration
      • Barometer or Gyroscope Measurements capabilities
  1. Android v3.0 –  v3.2.6, aka – Honeycomb
  • Released Date: 22nd February 2011
  • Updated Functions:
    • Developed to be used for Tablets
    • Integration of Virtual Buttons
    • Improved Multitasking capabilities
    • Quick access permanent application bar in Home Screen
    • Other In-built features:
      • Flash and Divx Support
      • Customizable Home Screen
      • Browser Improvements
      • Multi-core Processor capabilities
      • Hardware Acceleration capabilities
  1. Android v4.0 – v4.0.4, aka – Ice Cream Sandwich
Android v4.0 - Ice Cream
  • Release Date: 18th October 2011
  • Updated Functions:
    • On-screen Navigation 
    • Data Transfer via Android Beam
    • Screen Capture capabilities (Screenshot)
    • Face Unlock capabilities ( 6 years before Apple)
    • Delete Notification by sliding to the left
    • Modified Virtual Keyboard
    • Email Application added 
    • Capability to view the Data Usage and obtain report
    • Third-party Calendar application integration
  1. Android v4.1- v4.3.1, aka – Jelly Bean / Gummy Bear
  • Release Date: 9th July 2012
  • Updated Function:
    • Bug Fixes for system 
    • Capability of rotating screen 
    • Richer Notification settings enabled
    • Quick Settings access via drop-down notification
    • Pinch Zoom capabilities
    • Gesture Navigation via Google Maps
    • Support for emoji
  1. Android v4.4 – v4.4.4, aka – KitKat
Android v4.4 - Kitkat
  • Release Date: Late 2013
  • Updated Functions:
    • Hands-free Voice support (OK, Google)
    • Lighter Background customization capabilities
    • Transparent Status Bar
  1. Android v5.0 – v5.0.1, aka – Lollipop
  • Release Date: Fall of 2014
  • Updated Functions:
    • Integration of Google’s Material Design
    • Improvement in hands-free voice command via ‘OK Google’
    • Lock screen notification display functionality
  1. Android v6.0, aka – Marshmallow
Android v6.0 - Marshmallow
  • Release Date: 5th October 2015
  • Updated Functions:
    • Fingerprint Reader Support
    • Granular App Permission Setting Update
    • Support for USB – C
  1. Android v7.0-v7.1.2, aka – Nougat
  • Release Date: 22nd August 2016
  • Updated Functions:
    • Launch of Google Assistant
    • Performance Update
    • Split-Screen Mode
    • Notification Organization / Customization Setting
    • Data Saver Feature (Mobile Data)
  1. Android v8.0 – v8.1, aka – Oreo
  • Release Date: 21st August 2017
  • Updated Functions:
    • Integration of Project Treble (Modular System to make the system faster)
    • Adaptive Icons Capabilities
    • Ability to Mute Notification
    • Form auto-complete API integration
  1. Android v9.0, aka – Pie
Android v9.0 - Pie
  • Release Date: August 2018
  • Updated Functions:
    • Limited use of Background camera use by apps
    • Launch of the Well-being Digital App – to monitor the app usage and suggest ways to decrease screen-time. 
    • Fully functioning Gesture navigation for navigation bar
  1. Android v10
  • Release Date: 3rd September 2019
  • Updated Functions:
    • Reimagined Gesture navigation via Swiping instead of pressing the back button 
    • Customizable navigation – with either three-button navigation or swipe navigation
    • Updated permission system
    • Control over third party apps requesting location data
    • Launch of Focus Mode – which shuts off certain apps to keep you focused in a task until the specified time.

Future of Android:

There are many analysts who make predictions about the future of the smartphones and the operating systems they use. There are those who skew their results sometimes because they have preferences over one system or another. There are those who believe, for example, that the iOS is so fantastic that the competition will never catch up with them, but the hard numbers seem to tell another story.

For example, according to figures from International Data Corporation (IDC), the Android operating system is already in three out of four phones that were sold in the third quarter of 2019, seeing a growth of a staggering 91.5%.Apart from Android, the other operating systems that showed year-over-year growth were iOS and Windows Phone 7, the latter growing from a pale 1.2% to 2.0%. With only 3.6 million units sold, it was surpassed by Symbian, even considering that it suffered one of the worst losses in this area (-77.3%).

Kevin Restrivo, Senior Analyst at IDC says: “The decline in operating systems (not to mention iOS) since the introduction of Android is not a coincidence. The operating system of a phone is not an isolated product, it is a crucial part of a technological ecosystem. Google has a multifaceted portfolio of products, while many of its competitors do not. This factor and others, have made them lose participation of the competitors in general, except for their honest exceptions ”. 

So while iOS continues to stay in the fight, it is clear that Android is the platform that dominates and how things are going, it will continue to dominate in the months / years to come. It seems that history repeats itself: Apple will remain with its loyal followers while open systems (as it was in the case of the PC), will dominate the market.

Suraj Aryal
Suraj Aryal helps businesses expand their digital footprint, devise engagement plans, and handle escalation of customers' marketing issues. For Suraj, helping the company grow and helping its clients realize their digital dream is the most rewarding part of the role. Outside of the office, Suraj enjoys reading books, travelling, cooking, watching movies and series and rocking out to some sick tunes.

More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts

Latest posts

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)

What is the Internet of Things? When your eyes pass these few saturated pixels on the screen, there is...

What is Dropshipping and Why Should you be aware of it?

Are you interested in working for yourself, own your own e-business and start churning out money without having...

Smartphones – A holistic view of its Evolution

The world has been technology reliant ever since Alan Turing created UNIVAC - the first electronic computer. It was used to crack...

Want to stay up to date with the latest news?

We would love to hear from you! Please fill in your details and we will stay in touch. It's that simple!