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05 November 2012, 17:53

Android turns 5 years old

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Zoom Android 1.0 running in the SDK's emulator
Five years ago on 5 November 2007, the then newly formed Open Handset Alliance (OHA) announced the launch of Android, described as a "truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices". Headed by Google, the OHA is a consortium of various organisations involved in developing the open source mobile platform. When it was founded, the group had 34 members including T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola, and has since grown to 84 members including various other handset manufacturers, mobile carriers, application developers and semiconductor companies.

Like the OHA which oversees it, Android has grown steadily with recent figures from analyst firm IDC putting Android's worldwide market share at 75% of all smartphones shipped in the recent quarter. The first Android SDK was made available to developers just one week after the platform was first announced. Version 1.0 of the mobile operating system was released to consumers in September 2008 on the first Android device: the HTC Dream smartphone, also known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US and some parts of Europe. Less than five months later, Android 1.1 arrived fixing bugs, tweaking the API and adding a few new features.

Google's 2007 Android introduction video

Zoom Android 3.x Honeycomb was the first version to include soft, on-screen home and back buttons
The first release of Android to be named after a dessert was version 1.5, which was code-named "Cupcake"; this naming theme would be used for all following major updates. Cupcake added support for widgets, improved video recording and playback, and further polished the OS's user interface. In September 2009, Donut, as Android 1.6 was known, brought with it performance improvements, support for higher resolution screens and search enhancements. Over the next six months, Android 2.0 and 2.1 "Eclair" were launched with better maps, expanded Account sync and further optimisations. By May 2010, Android 2.2 "Froyo" had arrived with Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine integrated into the bundled browser and features such as Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities.

In August 2010, Android and Google faced a major challenge when Oracle sued over copyright and patent infringement. That case would run until May 2012 with Oracle having lost nearly all but a trivial claim for damages, though as tends to happen, an appeal has been filed.

Zoom Android 4.0 included a revamped user interface

Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" was the last in the 2.x line and arrived in December 2010; it included a revamped user interface, a new download manager and support for NFC. First launched in February 2011, 3.x was known as "Honeycomb" and was the first version of Android to be exclusively designed for tablets; this version of Android was notable mainly for the lack of an open source release of the code. Google said the code wasn't ready for public consumption.

The source code for Android returned when Google's developers announced Android 4.0, aka "Ice Cream Sandwich" in October 2011. This was the first version of the OS designed to work on both smartphones and tablets alike and brought with it a refreshed user interface which now started to make use of hardware acceleration.

The following 4.1 "Jelly Bean" update was released in mid-July 2012, first appearing on the Google Nexus 7 tablet and Google Galaxy Nexus smartphone. While still adding some new features, focused on improving the functionality and performance of Android's UI. Also referred to as "Jelly Bean", the most recent iteration of Android, version 4.2, was announced at the end of October and, among other things, adds multi-user support for tablets. The updated OS is expected to first ship to Google's latest Nexus devices including the Nexus 4 smartphone, and Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets.


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