Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google, based on Linux kernel, primarily designed for handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. Since its initial release on 23 September 2008, Android has established itself as the most widely installed OS on mobile platforms. Each major version of Android has a dessert-based nickname, and they are all in alphabetical order. It is named as such because of how ‘sweet’ Android makes our lives.
Android Inc. was established in Palo Alto, California in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears and Chris White. In 2005, Google acquired Android Inc. for about $50 million. In the early days, the company had sought to make an operating system for Digital Cameras. However, in the wake of rising smartphone technology, the need for a user-friendly and smart OS was the need of the hour.
The first commercial version was in September 2008 launched with the HTC Dream smartphone. Version 1.0, 1.1 did not have specific names. The most recent version is Oreo 8.1, released in December 2017. Now we shall take a glance at various versions right from the start.
1.0, 1.1 – No Code Name – September 23, 2008
1.0 was the first commercial version of Android and was released in HTC Dream. 1.1 just resolved some bugs and was released on the same phone. This version provided all the basic functionalities such as Google Calendar, Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Camera, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth etc.
1.5 – Cupcake – April 27, 2009
The Widget OS ‘Cupcake’
Cupcake was officially the first version to use a codename based on a dessert. This update included major UI improvements such as support for Widgets. Basic features such as Copy/Paste in Browsers, Video Recording and Playback in MPEG-4 and 3GP formats, Animated Screen Transitions, On-screen Keyboard were added in this version.
1.6 – Donut – September 15, 2009
The main role of Donut was to add support for various screen resolutions. This feature of automatic adjustment to screen resolutions was essential for accommodating Android on various mobile platforms in the future. It also added support for CDMA networks such as Verizon.
2.0, 2.1 – Eclair – October 26, 2009
Eclair 2.0 Home screen
Éclair 2.0 included support for more screen sizes and resolutions at an optimized hardware speed. It provided Bluetooth 2.1 support and an improved version of Google Maps 3.1.2 which included voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic data. Support for camera features such as flash, digital zoom, white balance, color effect was also added. Éclair brought live wallpapers as well as speech-to-text functionality. Éclair 2.1 released in January 2010 made minor changes to the API and fixed some bugs.
2.2 – Froyo – May 20, 2010
Froyo being short for Frozen Yogurt largely revolved around internal improvements. It provided support for Flash to Android’s Web Browser, for installing applications on expandable memory, for USB tethering and WiFi-Hotspot functionality.
2.3 – Gingerbread– December 6, 2010
Bright green had long been the color of Android’s robot mascot, and with Gingerbread, it became an integral part of the operating system’s appearance. Black and green seeped all over the UI as Android started its slow march toward distinctive design. Features such as enhanced copy/paste functionality, allowing users to select a word by press-hold, copy, and paste were also added. Gingerbread also added support for Near Field Communication (NFC), allowing the user to read an NFC tag embedded in a poster, sticker, or advertisement.
3.0, 3.1, 3.2 – Honeycomb– February 22, 2011
Android 3.0 came into the world as a tablet-only release and through the subsequent 3.1 and 3.2 updates, it remained a tablet-exclusive (and closed-source) entity. While the concept of a tablet-specific interface didn’t last long, many of Honeycomb’s ideas laid the groundwork for the Android we know today. The first device featuring this version, the Motorola Xoom tablet, was released on February 24, 2011. It provided support for multicore processors, ability to encrypt all user data.
4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich– October 19, 2011
Recent Apps feature in ICS
The release refined the visual concepts introduced with Honeycomb and reunited tablets and phones with a single, unified UI vision. The holographic appearance of Honeycomb was left behind but blue was still used as a system-wide highlight. Then-revolutionary feature to swipe things away like notifications and recent apps was added. Ice Cream Sandwich was the last version to officially support Adobe Systems’ Flash player. A standardized design framework known as Halo was brought throughout to the OS and into Android Apps ecosystem.
4.1, 4.2, 4.3 – Jelly Bean – June 27, 2012
Bean brought about our first taste of Google Now — the spectacular predictive-intelligence utility that’s sadly since devolved into a glorified news feed. Jelly Bean was an incremental update with the primary aim of improving the functionality and performance of the user interface. The releases added plenty of poise and polish into the operating system and went a long way in making Android more inviting for the average user.
4.4 – KitKat– September 3, 2013
Although initially under the “Key Lime Pie” (“KLP”) codename, the name was changed because “very few people actually know the taste of a key lime pie. KitKat debuted on Google’s Nexus 5 on October 31, 2013, and was optimized to run on a greater range of devices than earlier Android versions, having 512 MB of RAM as a recommended minimum. KitKat release marked the end of Android’s dark era, lighter backgrounds and more neutral highlights took their places, with a transparent status bar and white icons giving the OS a more contemporary appearance. KitKat also saw the first version of OK-Google.
5.0, 5.1 – Lollipop– June 24, 2014
Lollipop became available as official over-the-air (OTA) updates on November 12, 2014, for select devices that run distributions of Android serviced by Google, including Nexus and Google Play edition devices. The card-based concept that had been scattered throughout Android became a core UI pattern. It features a redesigned user interface built around a responsive design language referred to as “material design”. Other changes include improvements to the notifications, which can be accessed from the lockscreen and displayed within applications as top-of-the-screen banners.
6.0 – Marshmallow – May 28, 2015
Android 6.0 more granular app permissions, support for fingerprint readers and support for USB-C. Marshmallow also introduced Doze mode, which reduces CPU speed while the screen is off in order to save battery life. It provided MIDI support for Musical instruments.
7.0, 7.1 – Nougat – March 9, 2016
The launch of the Google Assistant — which came alongside the announcement of Google’s first fully self-made phone, the Pixel, about two months after Nougat’s debut was very significant. It improved Doze functionality, which aims to prolong battery life. Nougat also provided daydream virtual reality platform (VR interface).
8.0, 8.1 – Oreo – July 24, 2017
Oreo included Project Treble, the biggest change to the foundations of Android to date: a modular architecture that makes it easier and faster for hardware makers to deliver Android updates. Oreo includes a native picture in picture mode.
According to Google’s statistics, Android distribution numbers are heading in the right direction: both Oreo and Nougat have gone up compared to last December. Overall, January’s distribution numbers are not surprising at all. After all, most 2017 devices launched with Nougat, and a number of manufacturers have already updated their older devices to Nougat. Oreo, as is the case with all Android versions, will be a different story. Almost all flagships in 2018 will launch with Oreo, but it will take a significant amount of time for 2017 phones to receive the update, and by the time they do, Google will have announced Android P.