There is absolutely no denying that the Android mobile operating system has gone through a lot and climbed to new heights within a few years of its existence. Today, some sources claim that all versions of Android combined currently take up a larger market share than iOS.
Indeed, the story of how Android came to be and evolved through the years is something any geek will be interested in as Android’s popularity didn’t happen overnight. After many doubts and hopes for the operating system, it’s finally showing that it is very capable and that it has a very bright future in store, which is something iOS can’t say with all of its heart.
Android 1.0 is where it all began. With the HTC Dream as the first Android phone in the world (sometimes better known as the T-Mobile G1), it set the framework for what Android could do. It enabled camera support, WiFi, Bluetooth, folders, a web browser, notifications, voice dialing, YouTube, alarm clock, gallery, instant messaging, media player, and the whole Google apps array and Android Market. It really was the basic beginning, and already fulfilled a lot of what smartphones should be able to do.
The Android 1.x releases after that weren’t nearly as major as Android 1.0 itself, but they are still worth noting. After the big initial release, Android 1.1 focused mainly on fixing bugs and improving the API. The only noteworthy new feature was the ability to save attachments in messages. For the next update, we jumped straight to Android 1.5, which allowed you to use different keyboards, introduced widgets for your home screen, picture and video recording in different formats, copy and paste, auto-rotation, and more.
It was also the first release which had a codename, dubbed Cupcake. Android 1.6, the last release of the series and dubbed Donut, included numerous updates to text, voice, and searching. The release also supported WVGA screen resolutions, which is equivalent to 800 x 480. Throughout the whole series, the look of Android remained largely the same.
Android 2.0, codenamed Éclair, brought in plenty of changes. Those included extended account sync for multiple accounts, exchange email support, Bluetooth 2.1, new camera features, an improved Android keyboard, optimizations for speed, a revamped user interface, a refreshed browser with HTML5 support, and support for live wallpapers. Android 2.1 served mainly as a bug fix release which included a changed API, so it shared the Éclair codename.
11 months later, Android 2.3 was released with the name Gingerbread. This release also brought plenty of improvements, but some of the cooler ones included support for resolutions of 1280 x 768 and higher, SIP Internet calls, support for multiple cameras, enhanced copy and paste functionality, revamped UI, voice and video support for Google Talk, garbage collection for increased performance, and support for near field communication. Notably, the 2.3.7 release offered Google Wallet support for the Nexus S 4G.
Android 3.x, where all the releases in this series were dubbed Honeycomb, were meant for tablets only. This series had a completely different look with an entirely new user interface. Many of the improvements made were meant to make using a tablet easier and to use its resources more efficiently. As tablets are bigger than smartphones, there’s more space to pack in better hardware, and Android needed to take advantage of this additional processing power.
Android 4.0. nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS for short, was the next major version for smartphones. The look of the user interface was completely overhauled, and the release also introduced the ability to use software buttons on the touchscreen instead of hardware buttons for things like Home, Back, and Menu. Performance was also significantly improved, and the UI portion of the operating system was hardware-rendered. It also introduced WiFi Direct and 1080p video recording. More Android 4.0 features can be found here.
After all this progress, we finally arrive at the recently revealed Android 4.1, codenamed Jelly Bean. This release aims to improve the user interface and performance, using items such as touch anticipation, enhanced vsync timing, triple buffering in the graphics pipelines, enhancements to Android Beam, addition of Google Now, multichannel audio, and USB audio. The overall experience is supposed to be “buttery smooth” so that the user feels the device responding to input immediately.
Android has indeed come a very long way, but the road which it has traveled down has been quite a successful one. No matter what you may think about Google, Android would not have come as far without its backing and development effort, and I give Google some big props for staying committed to a project like this. I’m very excited to see how Jelly Bean will feel when it will hopefully get pushed to my phone, but I’m also excited about what else Google can conjure up in future Android releases.