EVOLUTION OF THE ANDROID OS – A Technology Report Guest Post
By Charlie O’Hay
Released in September 2008, the Android OS has gone through an abundance of incarnations—ever increasing its functionality and flexibility—though not all of the transitional versions were made commercially available. Here, we’ll trace the Android OS timeline and define the features and advantages of each version available to consumers.
Released in September 2008, this version was designed for the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1, but ended up not being used on any commercially available device.
This version tweaked 1.0 and was commercially released exclusively for the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) in October, 2008. Adjustments resolved some of the bugs experienced with version 1.0. Features included web browser, Gmail synchronization (with app), Google Search, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Talk, instant messaging, text messaging, and media player.
Released in April 2009 and codenamed “Cupcake” by Google, this version was the first major release to be made available in a range of devices. Features included camcorder support to record and watch videos, easy upload of images and videos to websites like Picasa and Youtube, Bluetooth enhancements, animation on screen transitions, and an on-screen keyboard with predictive text.
Nicknamed “Donut,” this September 2009 release included new camera, camcorder, and photo gallery interfaces, improved voice search technology, Google navigation, text-to-speech engine, multi-touch gesture support, and Virtual Private Network support.
Versions 2.0 and 2.1
Version 2.0 (October 2009) was quickly followed in January 2010 by Version 2.1, consequently 2.0 appears in few devices. Version 2.1 (nicknamed “Éclair”) has proven quite successful, owing largely to its improved user interface, enhanced speed, improved virtual keyboard, Contact and Account improvements, and an array of camera enhancements—including flash, digital zoom, white balance, scene modes, and macro zoom.
Nicknamed “FroYo” and released in November 2010, version 2.2 allowed tethering to as many as eight WiFi “hot spots” or connection via USB. Other enhancements included camera improvements, multi-lingual keyboard support, quicker app access and faster browsing, Bluetooth improvements, and Microsoft Exchange.
“Gingerbread,” as it was called, was released in December 2010 and offered an improved user interface, a faster and more intuitive virtual keyboard, copy/paste capability, improved power usage status and power management, internet phone calling, Near-Field Communication support and tagging, new download manager, front and rear cameras, and support for barometer, gravity, gyroscope, linear acceleration, and rotation.
Released in February 2011, “Honeycomb” was the first Android OS to target the large-screen tablet devices. Features geared to tablet users included a new system bar, action bar, a customizable home screen, and a list of recently used/downloaded apps. The keyboard was again streamlined and the copy, cut, and paste functionality improved. Other features included Bluetooth tethering, support for physical keyboards, multi-core processor support, 2D and 3D graphics support, and applications for larger screens including browser, camera, gallery, contact and email.
This June 2011 update retained the nickname “Honeycomb” included improvements for tablet users—including navigation and animation improvements essential for entertainment purposes and playing Android games. USB support for a more varied array of accessories (including keyboard, mouse, and digital camera), support for joysticks and gamepads, improved WiFi networking stability, expanded recent apps list and updated set of standard apps (browser, gallery calendar, contacts, and email).
Still called “Honeycomb,” this July 2011 version continued to provide enhancements for tablet users—including compatibility zoom for fixed-sized applications, direct application access to SD card file system, and extended ability to handle different screen sizes.
Released in October 2011, “Ice Cream Sandwich” merged the phone-based design of the second generation with the tab-centered design of the tablet-friendly third generation. The user interface and apps selection were again redesigned, and users could now save often used items in home folders and a favorites tray. Other improvements included resizable widgets, lock screen, network data control, and faster call response. Users also benefitted from camera/camcorder improvements (including image stabilization, the ability to take still shots during video, and photo editing). The browser could now deliver full-sized web page appearance, and this version featured improved email, NFC-based sharing, and WiFi-direct suppotrt.
Released in July 2012, “Jellybean,” as it was called, included even more user interface enhancements (including improved touch response and transitions; expandable, actionable notifications; and adaptive keyboard). Other popular features included the ability to instantly review photos, external Braille input and output via USB, enhanced voice search capability, photo sharing, USB audio, and Google Wallet.
The most recent Android OS version to date maintains the “Jellybean” name and allows multiple users for tablets, a PhotoSphere feature that allows 360º images, keyboard gesture typing, Daydream feature to display info while a user’s device is isle or docked, and the ability to beam photos or videos to another device.
This is a guest post by Charlie O’Hay, a tech expert & Big Fish Android games enthusiast.