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Android through the ages: the history of Google's operating system for smartphones

In the beginning there was Cupcake

2008, when pinch-to-zoom was a right reserved for iPhones and BlackBerrys were still the company, a new kind of smartphone came on the market: the Android smartphone.

From version 1.5 for public consumption, Android was launched on the HTC Dream (known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US), a QWERTY keyboard slider phone. Android offered something completely different than the iPhone, based on a modified version of Linux: freedom.

Android 1.5 screenshots

An open source Cupcake

Unlike iOS's heavily-regulated, locked operating system, Android came up with the promise of open source everything. Google had free access to the Android Market (now called Google Play Store) and users could even customize their home screens with widgets, with in-app functionality from that home screen, without the need for an app opening.

With Android 1.5, codename Cupcake, a new way was born.

Android 1.6: donut

Is it an albatross? Is it a jumbo jet? No! It's the Dell Streak!

Version 1.6 of Android, Donut was announced in 2009, and it is the update we have for the gigantic phones of today that do not really fit in normal pockets.

Although Android tablets on this point had not really got off the ground, Donut was a step ahead and laid the foundation for the & # 39; phablet & # 39; and introduced support for more screen sizes than Cupcake.

Big screens ahoy!

The aforementioned 5-inch Dell Streak, for example, despite being small according to current standards, was a real beast when it was launched, and it had its big screen thanks to the progress that Donut has introduced.

Other innovative features introduced in Android 1.6 include a text-to-speech engine, universal search function, and a more complete screen for battery usage, so you know which apps drove your smartphone.

Android 2.0: Eclair

Android 2.0 Eclair

Who knew that there was a time when you could not have multiple Google accounts on your Android smartphone? We did!

Eclair, named after the French pastry piece, the elimination of account restrictions and more.

Multi-touch me

But multiple accounts was not the highlight feature of Android 2.0 – oh no. Eclair has finally introduced multi-touch to smartphones that have not been made by Apple (although that in itself has already created a hoo-ha.)

Take a photo, open it, squeeze it to zoom in … Android and iOS were now in a horse race and Android was catching up.

Eclair also introduced Google Maps navigation, as well as additional camera modes, live backgrounds and Bluetooth 2.1 support.

Android 2.2: Froyo

Froyo, also known as frozen yoghurt, is clothing number four and Android version 2.2. Loaded on classic phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Incredible S, this marked the moment when the Android hardware started to become more premium, and finally did justice to the OS operating system – from Super AMOLED screens for better display of the LCDs of iPhones to excellent industrial design of for example HTC.

Buy some Froyo at that hotspot

Version 2.2 also introduced a feature that could make Android phones more attractive than iPhones for everyday users – Froyo's most practical highlight was definitely mobile Wi-Fi hotspotting.

Although Windows phones previously had Bluetooth and USB hotspot tools, the idea was to use high-speed Wi-Fi tethering to share the (then lightning fast) 3G data from your phone with a laptop or even another smartphone, for Android fans around the world.

Apple would take a whole year to get the function on iPhones, while many providers block the iPhone tethering for some time.

Android 2.3: Gingerbread

Android 2.3 gingerbread

Android Gingerbread did not get a new look or feel compared to Froyo, but got a whole series of new features, including support for new sensors, including NFC. Other highlights were internet calling and a new download manager – but those were not high points.

Copy, paste, get Apple

Oh no – our highlight was the seemingly rudimentary and highly anticipated copy and paste function that gave iPhones the text editing edge above Androids for over a year: selection of a single word.

Android copy was inconvenient before Gingerbread, because only full text boxes could be selected. In 2010, Google saw the gap close, pressed a word for a long time and selected only that word, and showed a pop-up menu with copy and paste options, just as we have on Android phones today.

Android 3.0: Honeycomb

Think of the Motorola Xoom? No, not the Microsoft Zune – we're talking about the Motorola tablet that introduced Google & # 39; s tablet version of Android, code-named Honeycomb.

The most striking difference between the and every version of Android that we had seen before was the interface. Introduction to & # 39; Holographic & # 39; UI elements, Google went a bit Tron here – all illuminated lines, gradation halo highlights around objects – and although it did not look timeless, it looked cool.

Navigation on the screen, the shape of the things that are coming …

Android phones are nowadays rarely navigation buttons for sports hardware; that is, the buttons for back, home and recent apps at the bottom of the screen of the largest phones are now in a navigation bar – for example the Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Huawei Mate 20.

Funnily enough, we did not thank a mobile operating system here – it was first introduced in Honeycomb, with the buttons for back, home and recent apps displayed in the lower-left corner of the home screen.

Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

So long physical buttons, hello united Android font!

Ice Cream Sandwich was probably one of the richest updates Android has seen. Available on the Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X, it brought an excellent in-gallery photo editor to the table, as well as a data limiter within the settings.

The whole look and feel was refined, in line with the design direction of Honeycomb, and it yielded a much richer experience than Android 2.3 ..

Swipe to ignore

In retrospect, the most penetrating feature introduced in this version was the swipe to ignore a gesture.

Although it was previously used by other smartphone manufacturers, Android users made it famous everywhere thanks to this small fetching movement.

Swipe to remove interaction has since been shaped, for example, in the processing of e-mail and text messages, influenced the touchscreen notification management of Windows 10 and is a fundamental part of everyone's favorite dating app, Tinder.

Android 4.1: Jelly Bean

Android 4.1 jelly bean

Jelly Bean was a story of three parts: 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3.

4.1 was all about refinements. It took Ice Cream Sandwich and made it smoother, introduced improved support for multiple languages, and automatically took the size of widgets that fit your home screen.

Android 4.2 was a further refinement, this time polished the look and feel, creating an excellent looking tablet user interface that was well displayed on the Nexus 10, complete with Miracast support for wireless projection screens.

The last episode – Return of the Jelly Bean, if you want – was a developer's corker, gave them tools to improve UI flexibility, used the latest version of Bluetooth and limited profiles on devices with multiple user accounts – useful for both parents as companies.

Expandable notifications

Our Jelly Bean highlight? Drag down with two fingers for extensive notifications. This feature gave users a look at the details of their most recent updates. So if you mention & # 39; 3 new tweets & # 39; would read, dragging down with two fingers would extend the message and show who the tweets were, with a fragment of the message itself.

Simple and still in Android today.

Android 4.4: KitKat

Android 4.4 Kitkat

Emoji's on the Google keyboard, lower RAM requirements that pave the way for Android phones with a limited budget, and NFC security is countered to make mobile payments – all this and more is loaded into the Android 4.4 KitKat update.

• Okay Google, will this ever catch on? & # 39;

But it was Google Now, a voice assistant who paved the way for today's world of talkative phone assistants and smart speakers.

The always-on microphone and the & # 39; OK Google & # 39; command were introduced with KitKat in October 2013, using the power of Google Search.

It cleared the way for Apple & # 39; s Siri, which would follow in June 2014, and the two-week mobile OS race was about to burst into a separate smartphone and a vote for voting assistants, where Google became the first.

Android 5.0: Lollipop

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Material design, the flatter interface of Google with fewer slopes and a cleaner look than Jelly Bean, debuted on Android 5.0.

Support for 64-bit architecture was also introduced, allowing Android to achieve near parity with desktop operating systems when it comes to energy potential, as well as improved reporting handling on lockout screens.

Set the scene for wearables

But the hidden gem in Android Lollipop was support for Bluetooth LE or low energy.

This feature meant that wearable technology could finally exist without running the battery of your phone dry. With lower battery requirements, Bluetooth LE also enabled manufacturers to create smartwatches and fitness trackers with low-capacity batteries, small enough to fit into a device that looked good and comfortable to wear.

Android 6.0: Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Launch on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, these Marshmallow devices introduced USB-C ports and fingerprint scanners on the Nexus line.

As far as the software is concerned, the security of apps was tightened with element-specific permissions that forced users to grant access to apps that had to use things such as their camera, phone, etc.

Android 6.0 also supports the integration of MicroSD cards into internal storage – useful for phones with less than 16 GB of storage, although this feature has now been removed.

Doze mode

For the second time in a row, a battery-saving feature is our Android highlight.

If you have left your Marshmallow phone idle for a while and silent while the screen is off, apps will enter standby and will activate Doze mode

This saved battery power and cemented Android as the operating system to go if you wanted the battery's edge, with Android hardware that packs higher-capacity batteries than iPhones, and the software that has been optimized to take advantage of it.

Android 7.0: Nougat

Android 7.0 Nougat

Quickly switch between apps by double-tapping the recent apps key, gender and race-specific emoji, separate background screens and lock screens … Android Nougat made things both more functional and more attractive, but it also lent something to Samsung.

Multitasking on a shared screen

After the introduction of multitasking on a split screen on the Note line, Samsung came first. Google canceled the experience and became part of Android 7 more than a year later, allowing half of the screen to be used for one app and the other half for another.

Google did some nice stuff with the feature – for example, Android 7 offered a shared screen handling of two Chrome tabs, and even support for dragging and dropping an image file over tabs.

Android 8.0: Oreo

Android 8.0 Oreo

Shiny new battery menu & # 39; s and notification points on app icons – Android Oreo brought a whole series of refinements to the user interface, not to mention better storage management, with a new file browser and more detailed storage control within the settings.

Floating video & # 39; s are cool, right?

But the highlight function that everyone wanted, and that he never used when he was launched, was picture-in-picture, another feature introduced by Samsung and later approved by Google for Android stock.

This small floating video window shows a video in your user interface, so you can continue to scroll on Twitter without stopping watching your favorite program.

Although it was initially strange to activate and, quite frankly, a little useless, it is now really successful, with apps such as Netflix, WhatsApp and YouTube supported.

Android 9.0: Pie

Android 9.0 Pie

We have finally been caught up. Google's 2018/19 Android build, Android 9.0, also known as Pie, is the latest version that comes on the latest and greatest hardware, including the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Loaded with better support, improved battery-smartness and a new user interface, complete with iPhone X-like navigation, Android Pie uses Google smartphones for their threatening screenless, screenless futures.

One side of social responsibility

Digital Wellbeing is a package of services that is now available in Beta as part of the Android P update. With elements like a dashboard for a better understanding of the use of your app, it's about using your phone a little less, or at least a little more attentively.

Additional tools & # 39; s range from app-limiter to gray-scale mode to give your eyes a break, as well as an unwinding feature to help you break the connection at the end of a workday.

Now that Google has read more than 14 Android versions and has served more than two billion users, it is an appropriate conclusion of the current chapter that the big G has shifted the focus to Digital Wellbeing, given the enormous reach of the operating system.

Q is for …?

But what about the shape of the things that are coming? Android 10 is likely to fall in the second half of 2019 and we already know it will go to the new Essential phone.

As far as the name is concerned, the obvious lack of sweets starts with the letter & # 39; Q & # 39; to guess everyone. Keep checking the whole 2019 via TechRadar for the latest updates on Android Q and read our overview about Android 9.0 for more information about Pie.

  • You are offered in cooperation with Nokia and Android One, so that you can make more of your smartphone. You can learn more about the new Nokia 7.1 here, and you will find more good advice to get everything out of your phone here.

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