Android is all the rage these days, smartphones and tablet PC’s both use this versatile operating system and deliver fantastic performance that only gets better with each successive update. So how did it come to be? Currently it is developed by The Open Handset Alliance, an alliance of 84 firms to develop open standards for mobile devices. It includes mobile handset makers, software developers, chipset developers and many other firms including LG, Intel, Motorola, Dell, Nvidia, HTC and much more. The OHA was established on 5 November 2007 and is led by Google. Android is the brainchild and flagship product of this alliance. The first mobile device to use Android was the HTC Dream, also known as T-Mobile G1, released in October 2008. In its short lifespan Android has become extremely popular and is now the bestselling smartphone platform in the world! With so many Android versions out, we tell you everything there’s to know.
Android Versions – Until Now:
Android uses a modified Linux kernel, its application programming interface is written in C and application framework is based on Apache Harmony, which itself is a open source implementation of Java. Majority of the apps available for Android devices are Java based. Although the parent company Android inc., started out as an independent venture in 2003, the namesake operating system wasn’t actually developed until Google acquired Android inc. in 2005. Soon, Google designated a team to work on mobile phone platform, this would be the beginning of Android as we know it. Google sought to develop a mobile platform was was flexible, easy to use, customizable and most of all, open source. It showed prototypes to manufacturers around the world and made partnerships with various hardware and software manufacturers to develop this new platform, with varying levels of co-operation, which would go on to be named Android. Needless to say, investing in a brand new open source platform wasn’t what most companies were looking for. Thus these previews, so to speak, helped Google test the waters and also gain feedback from some of the respected companies already in the mobile devices game. In 2007 the OHA was established and finally their flagship product, Android was unveiled.
As a side note, all the Android versions are named after dessert items, starting from 2.0, named Eclair. This quirky naming policy is also interesting because successive versions and/or builds are in alphabetical order (Banana bread, Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread etc.).
After much speculation, preview builds and whatnot, the first commercial version of Android was released in 2008. HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 was the first phone to use Android, version 1.0. This version had all the basic functionality of a smartphone, camera, media support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, messaging etc. It also included Google apps like Google Maps, Sync, Mail and the like. The next version, 1.1 (Banana bread) just added a few fixed and minor features. Version 1.5 (Cupcake) was the first update that added new features and UI updates. It introduced virtual keyboard support, widgets, video recording and playback, additional Bluetooth functionality, photo and video uploading and animated screen transitions. Version 1.6 (Donut) included new features like voice and text search, better integration for the camera, gesture recognition, support for higher resolution screens and support for newer communication and mobile protocols.
Next came version 2.0 (Eclair), it included an updated UI, a more functional web browser with HTML5 support, support for Bluetooth 2.1, new camera functions, animated wallpapers and several fixes that enabled the OS to run more efficiently and optimize operation times. Version 2.0.1 and 2.1 were minor releases that mostly included API changes and bug fixes. By this time Android was already a force to reckon with. It was efficient, customizable and had fun features. Also, it was user friendly and minimalistic. Version 2.2 (Froyo) had more speed, memory and performance optimizations, along with various other new features. The most significant of those features were USB tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality, Adobe Flash support and support for HD screens.
Version 2.3 (Gingerbread), the current version as of today, had even more system optimizations for more efficiency, an updated UI, better power management, new audio effects for the player, a new file system (ext4), support for more sensors like gyroscopes, barometers and enhanced audio/video input for developers. The next versions 2.3.3, 2.3.4, 2.3.5 and 2.3.6 were just incremental updates that included bug fixes.
So the main reason for Android being so popular is accessibility. You have a platform that can rival any other, but you aren’t limited to buying only a single product. There’s choices of so many handset brands with different colors, screens, keyboards, features etc. The consumer has choice, and choice drives competition. Moreover, Android is open source, so one can customize it as one sees fit. The whole idea of your phone adapting to you instead of you adapting to it is a fantastic selling point. With new apps that offer so many functionalities available on the Android market and new apps pouring in all the time, there’s always something for everyone. Plus, the OS itself is open source, so you’re not going to pay for the software. You pay what the phone handset is worth, an efficient and flexible platform, regular updates & bug fixes and vast user generated content, what else would a consumer want? If you have any queries on the Android versions, please leave a comment below.