An overview of Android

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  • In 2003, four sharp-witted tech geniuses decided to venture into the booming software industry and leased a single room office to launch their ideas. From such humble beginnings, Android has grown exponentially to become the tech magnate it is today. It’s simplistic UI, incessant desire to constantly upgrade the OS and satisfy their customer’s needs have made it stand out from their competitors. Launched in 2008, Android has seen 14 upgrades already with one more just around the corner. The open source software has been hailed for its user-friendly interface and third party support, which has resulted in constituting 85% of mobile phone users while its closest competitor is Apple with a mere 11%.


  • Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears and Chris White started Android in October 2003. Initially, the goal was to develop an advanced operating system (OS) for digital cameras. However, the modest market for cameras meant that the venture will not turn out to be highly profitable. With the company being out of ideas and facing a fatal lack of funding, Steve Perlman, a close friend of Rubin, turned out to be their guardian angel and funded them from his pocket. Android then redirected its efforts to develop an OS for handheld devices and was acquired by Google in July 2005. An early prototype of an Android mobile had no touchscreen and a QWERTY keypad but with the release of the iPhone in 2007, Google decided to revamp the project to support touchscreens. HTC Dream, the first commercially released device to use the Linux-based Android OS was officially announced on 23 September 2008 and released a month later.


  • Since its launch, Android has seen numerous updates with the most recent being Android Oreo, the 15th version. The 16th version, Android P (yet to be named) was released in its beta phase on May 8, 2018. Over the course of a decade, there has been a number of vast improvements and upgrades in the software. The original version, Android 1.0 did not have a specific codename and was presumably far less developed than the ones we’re accustomed to. However, it had several groundbreaking innovations at the time. Android 1.0 supported home screen widgets, introduced the pull-down notification window and the Market (now Google Play Store) and had a deep integration with Gmail. The third version, Android 1.5 (aka Cupcake) was significant for a number of reasons. Besides being the first to be named in the confectionery theme, which has since become the norm, it was the first to have an on-screen keyboard. It also supported third-party widgets and video recording. However, the next update, Android 1.6, called Donut, had a much more significant upgrade. Donut brought Android to millions of users by adding support for CDMA networks such as Verizon. It was also the first to support different screen sizes and introduced the quick search box, which is now considered an Android staple.


  • Android 2.0, dubbed Eclair, brought some substantial changes, some of which are still present in the latest iterations. Éclair introduced Google Maps, which would prove fatal to the in-car GPS unit, HTML5 supported web browser with the ability to play videos and the now ubiquitous lock screen. Android 2.2, called Froyo aimed at refining the Android experience with a few under-the-hood improvements such as supporting mobile hotspot and PIN lock screen. Android 2.3, referred to as Gingerbread, saw a total overhaul of Android’s stock widgets and home design. But the most significant upgrade was the support of front cameras, which set off the craze for selfies amongst the general population. Android 3.0, known as Honeycomb, aimed at improving the Android experience for tablets. The most notable change was the elimination of physical buttons for home, back, and menu and replacing them with virtual buttons on-screen. Android 4.0, called Ice Cream Sandwich, brought all the updates available to tablets in Honeycomb, to smartphones. Notably, it also introduced the face unlock feature.


  • Android 4.1, named Jelly Bean, signalled a new era for the OS. It saw one of the biggest updates to Android with a total revamp of the Android experience, most remarkably the introduction of Google Now, a rudimentary version of Google’s new Google Assistant. Android 4.4, dubbed Kit Kat following a partnership deal with Nestle, saw the biggest aesthetic change, modernizing the look and replacing the stock colours with lighter shades. It also featured the ‘Ok, Google’ search command for the first time. Android 5.0, called Lollipop, featured Android Runtime, which could boast of ahead-of-time compilation. It also introduced another version of Android, dubbed Android TV, which is still in use. Android 6.0, named Marshmallow, saw a total redesign of the app menu and introduced some new features such as comprehensive volume controls, memory manager, and supported fingerprint sensor. Android 7.0, dubbed Nougat, replaced Google Now with Google Assistant and allowed split screen viewing. This was followed by the latest version of Android (8.0), Oreo which introduced picture-in-picture viewing and added over 50 fully redesigned emojis, while promising higher battery capacity, faster boot times and quicker launching of apps.


  • The upcoming Android 9.0 also promises a lot of new and exciting features. Some notable ones include ‘Lockdown’ mode which disables bio-metric authentication, rounded corners across the GUI, ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature which discourages excessive usage of your phone and a new gesture-based system interface, similar to the one on the iPhone X. With several updates on the horizon, there is a lot to look forward to. It has been a long journey from less than a million users for Android 1.0 to over two billion monthly active users today. In a world filled with uncertainties, there is but one thing that is certain- Android is here to stay.