Android Turns 5: A Look Back

With the fifth anniversary of the Google Android operating system's release quickly approaching, we look back on the platform's rise from also-ran to market leader.

Google Android
Our little Android, all grown up

As of Nov. 5, it will have been five years since Google announced the Open Handset Alliance, declaring its intention to help create open standards for mobile communication and unveiling Android – a Linux-based platform for use on smartphones. Here’s a brief retrospective on the evolution of Google’s wildly popular mobile OS.

Related: First look: Google's new Nexus 4

Google Android
Credit: Wikipedia
Android 1.0

In the beginning, there was version 1.0 – the Android software that ran on the HTC Dream (better known to many in the U.S. as the T-Mobile G1) bore little outward resemblance to today’s more polished variants, but the basis of the system was already present at the G1’s launch in September 2008.

Google Android
Credit: AndroidForums.com
Cupcakes away (1.5)

The first dessert-flavored version of Android, released in April 2009, featured a host of new capabilities – including widgets – and bugfixes.

Google Android
Credit: Mobility Digest
Mmm…Donut (1.6)

Donut featured support for higher screen resolutions, improvements to mobile data and Wi-Fi connectivity and several other upgrades. Donut was released in September 2009.

Google Android
Credit: Wikipedia
Éclair (2.0/2.1)

Google bumped the next version’s number to 2.0, underlining the substantial improvements that were made and beginning a new era for Android at Éclair’s release just a month after that of Donut, in October 2009. Along with the Motorola Droid, Éclair helped raise Android’s public profile significantly.

Google Android
Credit: The Guardian
Froyo (2.2)

Froyo rolled out in May 2010. Among its most important features were Flash support, USB and Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, and several performance enhancements, including just-in-time compilation.

Google Android
Credit: UnwiredView
Gingerbread (2.3)

Gingerbread , which was released in December 2010, saw the Android UI overhauled and new capabilities like Near-Field Communication added in. The majority of Android devices in use today still run Gingerbread, according to Google’s own statistics.

Google Android
Credit: Google
Honeycomb (3.0)

Not really a fully-fledged new version of Android per se, Honeycomb was Google’s attempt to make a completely tablet-focused version of the software. It did, however, debut the redone “Holo” interface style – which is still the standard for modern Android versions. Honeycomb was released in February 2011.

Google Android
Credit: Wikipedia
Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0)

Google began trying to re-unify tablet and smartphone Android with Ice Cream Sandwich, which debuted in October 2011. Along with another total interface makeover, ICS brought 1080p video recording, face unlock, and Chrome browser sync, among many other new features.

Google Android
Credit: Google
Jelly Bean (4.1)

This summer’s Jelly Bean saw Google focus heavily on performance and usability features, most notably in the form of Project Butter – a concerted effort to iron out minor bugs that could cause performance snags. It also introduced Google Now, a centralized series of “cards” that track particular types of information.

Google Android
Credit: Concept Phones
Key Lime Pie (?)

While it’s likely that Google will introduce Android 4.2 at an event to be held this Monday in New York, it’s unclear whether this will be an incremental upgrade or a completely new version. Whenever it comes out, however, the Android world seems confident that Key Lime Pie will be the name of the next major release.