The popular Android mobile operating system has been on the smartphone market for almost 14 years. Versions of the system change one after another, and it is difficult for a simple user to keep track of them and understand: what’s new was added this time? How it all began, and how the Google product went its thorny path from the next Symbian competitor to the most common mobile OS in the world – we will tell in this material.
Back in 2003, during the rapid development of push-button phones and the beginning of the gradual mass distribution of smartphones on the Symbian OS, programmer Andy Rubin and his friends registered Android Inc., which started developing a new operating system for smartphones. In the heyday of the Symbian mobile operating system, it was very difficult to bring something to the market that really competed with it. After two years of development, Andy’s team simply ran out of funds, without which it was impossible to continue further work.
In 2005, Android Inc. unexpectedly interested mega-corporation Google, which bought it from the owners for $ 50 million. Two years later, on November 5, 2007, Google announced the creation of the Android open source mobile platform, and a week later released the first version for developers to the public. It is this day that is considered to be the birthday of Android, although the first devices on this OS appeared a year later.
It just so happened that every version of Android was named after some kind of sweetness. The first two versions were originally named after robots. But due to licensing problems, Google abandoned this practice, changing the code names of the first two and all subsequent versions of the systems to “sweet” names.
Initially, Android did not impress the imagination with its capabilities compared to the most popular mobile OS of that time – Symbian, and the recently appeared iPhone OS (iOS in girlhood) looked somewhat more interesting. But the developers did not waste time in vain, and over time they introduced more and more new features into the system, simultaneously eliminating bugs and shortcomings.
Android 1.x (2008–2009)
In September 2008, Google announced the first smartphone based on the new operating system, the T-Mobile G1. The device was intended for the American market and was developed jointly with HTC. The smartphone on system version 1.0 offered the user the Android Market application store, multiple home screens, arbitrary placement of folders and shortcuts on the home screen, notifications, multitasking, and support for the first version of the OpenGL ES graphics API. The international version of the device, dubbed the HTC Dream, originally shipped with system version 1.1 released on February 9, 2009. It contained many minor improvements and fixes.
On April 27 of the same year, version 1.5 was released, which brought with it many things familiar to us today – such as screen rotation, video recording, folders for application shortcuts and widgets. And, most importantly, support for virtual keyboards. In the first versions of the system, this function was absent, and it was mandatory to use the physical keyboard of the device.
Six months later, on September 15, a new version of Android, 1.6, was released. It removed the screen resolution limit of 320×480 pixels – now devices could be equipped with panels with a resolution of up to 800×480. The work with the Play Market has been improved, where more and more various third-party applications began to appear. The system has received improvements to the gallery and camera interface, allowing for more convenient and intuitive management.
Android 2.x (2009–2010)
The first “big” Android 2.0 update, released on October 26, 2009, brought HTML5 support to the browser, new GUI acceleration features, and a large number of minor improvements. It was the mass distribution of the “second” android at the beginning of 2010 that marked the beginning of the sunset of devices on competitive Symbian with Windows Mobile, and the gradual emergence of the “green robot” as the most common mobile operating system.
Version 2.1, released on January 12, 2010, added support for “live” wallpapers. It was beautiful and unusual for mobile devices, if not for one drawback – they significantly reduced the operating time with their increased battery consumption.
Android 2.2, which was released on May 20 of the same year, despite the “non-circular” figure, was a fairly large update. The developers have made a great optimization of performance and memory consumed by the OS, as a result of which the work of programs has been accelerated and the smoothness of the interface has been increased. Added support for HD-screens with a resolution of up to 1280 pixels on the larger side, as well as the ability to use a smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot or USB modem. The OpenGL ES graphics API has been updated to version 2.0, greatly enhancing the graphics capabilities of new games when using the right hardware.
On December 6, an update of version 2.3 of the system was presented. If the last update focused on improving performance, this one focused on optimizing battery consumption and improving battery life. There is support for NFC, multiple cameras, Internet telephony, as well as new sensors – a barometer and a gyroscope.
Android 3.x–4.x (2011–2013)
A special branch of the third version of the operating system, released in 2011, was intended for tablets. The source code of the Google system, for the first time in the history of Android, decided not to publish. Among the changes was the optimization of work with high-resolution screens, improved multitasking, support for external input devices – keyboards and mice. All changes and innovations migrated to the next, fourth version of the system. With its release, Google recognized the experiment with dividing the OS into device categories as unsuccessful, and again came to a universal system for smartphones and tablets.
On October 19, 2011, a new, in every sense of the word, version of Android, 4.0, was introduced to the world. The changes affected both the appearance of the system and its internal structure. The new redesigned interface has become more intuitive, offering more options. System improvements include redesigned multitasking, new camera features, Wi-Fi Direct support, and a host of other minor tweaks.
On June 27, 2012, a revised version of the system version 4.1 was released. Since Android 4 has become more demanding on hardware, the updated version has introduced a new interface technology called Project Butter, based on the work of vertical synchronization with triple buffering – now the system has become much smoother. A new interface has been introduced for tablets, more in line with the concept of a single OS version for all devices.
With version 4.2, which was released on October 29 the same year, the use of profiles on all devices became available. Now it was possible to give the device to another person for use by simply changing the profile account, similar to the user system on the Windows desktop OS.
Version 4.3, released on July 24, 2013, introduced support for the OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics API, which enabled more beautiful and graphically advanced games on the Android platform.
The final stage of the fourth version of the system was Android 4.4, which celebrates its birthday on October 31 in the same year. It was in this version that the famous “OK, Google” command appeared, which allows you to command the smartphone to perform some simple actions – find information on the Internet, turn on music or send E-mail. But, what is much more important in technical terms, it was from this version that the Android Runtime (ART) environment became available to users as an optional instead of the previously used Dalvik.
Android 5.x–7.x (2014–2016)
The next page in the history of Android opened on November 3, 2014. Version 5.0 brought with it a new redesigned Material Design interface, the goal of which was to make user interaction with the device simpler and more convenient. The ART runtime, designed to speed up application launch by unpacking applications once during installation, has become the only one for the system – the older Dalvik, which unpacks application resources at each launch, has been removed.
On May 28, 2015, Android 6.0 was released. For the first time in the history of the OS, the new number did not mean a fundamentally redesigned version of the system, but just a small update. This scheme has continued in the future. The sixth version received expanded control over the rights of applications, power optimization thanks to the Doze function, as well as support for Android Pay and support for fingerprint scanners at the platform level – previously it fell on the shoulders of device manufacturers.
The seventh version of the system was released on August 22, 2016. New features include split screen, background task switching, support for picture-in-picture, virtual reality features, and app action shortcuts.
Android 8.x–10.x (2017–2019)
In the eighth version, presented exactly one year later, Google updated the interface. The design of notifications has changed, dynamic icons and event icons have appeared on them. A neural network API has been added to the system, which allows you to use the computing power of smartphone processors to improve photo and video shooting. From this version, a branch of the Android Go system appeared – a simplified, optimized version designed for budget smartphones with a small amount of RAM.
Android 9, which was released on August 6, 2018, added interface adaptation to screens with various cutouts, optimized system performance, and taught the OS to recognize rarely used applications and revoke permissions from them.
In the tenth anniversary version of the OS, released on September 3, 2019, we added support for flip phones, redesigned the notification system, and expanded support for interface customization using themes, icons, and fonts.In the eleventh version of the system, 5G support was introduced, and support for clamshells and neural networks was improved. This update was released on September 8, 2020.
And finally, in the current version of Android 12, released on October 4, 2021, the biggest innovation was the revised Material Design interface concept called Material You. Its essence is that the color scheme for system menus and applications is created using the colors of the wallpaper. This allows you to organize a single space for the user without sharp changes in different colors. In addition, icons have been improved and changes have been made to system animation, making it smoother and more natural. The control over background applications has also been strengthened – now the charge should be spent a little more economically.
Despite the fact that the last fixes and optimizations were made in the system only two months ago, in a small update to Android 12.1, a new version of the system is being announced this month. As you may have guessed, it will be called Android 13. Of the innovations, we should expect a slightly redesigned user interface, advanced settings for accessing media files, as well as an improved mode for switching between users and new language settings. Now it will be possible to set the available applications for the “Guest” user, as well as select the interface language of each application at the system level, independently of the others.
Experienced users who have been using the Android OS since the first releases will say that now the changes added annually are far from being as large as at the very beginning of the development of the system. And they will be right. However, the fact that at the moment almost the innovations of Android are centered around the appearance and small improvements suggests that the system has reached its maturity. The first versions of Android were daily overgrown with the necessary functionality and internal changes with each new release, but after Android 5, the rapid growth ended, and finer work began on minor improvements and annual system updates.
On the one hand, the slow “growth” of the system is now even a plus. Until now, you can comfortably use all the old versions from Android 5 and higher – almost all applications are written taking into account exactly version 5 as the minimum. If only the performance of your gadget was enough for comfortable use.
Google has made it a rule to release a new version of its operating system every year. What awaits us in the next Android 14? There are only rumors about this so far. But we can definitely say that it will not do without the next improvements and improvements. The system tries to keep up with modern times, and constantly offers users something new, while remaining open, flexible and customizable to the wishes of the owner of the gadget. This is why Android remains the choice of millions of users around the world.