Android arrives at the ninth birthday: the platform born from the initiative of Andy Rubin has in the meantime reached the 8.0 version, has conquered the majority of the world market and is the most used by producers. A look at the last nine years of the evolution of Android through the innovations introduced in the various versions of the operating system.
Android has just turned off the ninth candle: it was September 23, 2008, when Google launched its smartphone operating system, now become a dominant market and growing continuously at the expense of competitors.
Android was born in its current form (or almost) nine years ago, on board the HTC Dream (also known as T-Mobile G1). Born as a camera operating system thanks to Andy Rubin, Android is acquired by Google that exploits it to create a smartphone operating system.
The revolution of modern smartphones kicks off a year ago, with the launch of the first iPhone. Precisely with this opponent must face Android, which was instead designed to compete with BlackBerry and – above all – with Windows Mobile.
Google sensed the potential of iPhone, redesigning Android to adapt to the new standard. The new operating system was equipped with a sort of desktop, with a drawer of applications that could be extracted from the bottom of the screen and the ability to place different objects (called widgets) to quickly access information.
The first version, released on September 23, already counted on the Android Market, an application store that allowed to download from a single source and reliable applications to be installed (a substantial difference compared to Palm OS, for example). A large part of the Google application suite was already there, with Gmail and Calendar among the best-known names.
In February 2009 comes version 1.1, which leads to minor changes for users. In April, Android 1.5 Cupcake arrives, which brings with it support for keyboards developed by third parties and the possibility of copying and pasting. After less than six months, in September 2009, Android 1.6 is released: among other things, support for VPNs and WVGA resolution (800 x 480) is introduced, which will remain the dominant resolution until 2010.
At the end of October 2009, he made his debut Android 2.0 Eclair. Support for Bluetooth 2.1, to Microsoft Exchange, searching for text messages, camera flashes and live wallpaper adds additional functionality and capabilities to the system. In January 2010, Android 2.1 Eclair was presented, a minor version of the system that does not bring great news but marks the arrival of the Nexus One.
Particularly interesting news, namely the dock with two applications selectable quickly, comes with Android 2.2 Froyo. This version includes support for push notifications, tethering via USB or WiFi, Adobe Flash and disabling data connectivity.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread makes its debut simultaneously with the Nexus S. We find, among other things, support for NFC and switching to ext4 as the default file system for the system.
A new revolution in terms of graphical interface comes with Android 3.x Honeycomb, which is launched in 2011. This is the first time that Google uses the Holographic language, inspired by Tron in its neon colors that contrast with black Basic. It is the first release of Android to be designed to work on tablets and with explicit support for multi-core processors.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich sees the landing of Holo also on smartphones, with a further refinement of the graphical interface and the imposition of a graphic model and functionality that remains very close to that still used. Support comes with software keys, of which the Galaxy Nexus becomes the first supporter. This version is revolutionary in more than one aspect, especially with regard to the user interface.
The next three versions, all under the name Jelly Bean and indicated by a version number between 4.1 and 4.3, bring incremental improvements without upsetting, improving what was put in place by Ice Cream Sandwich.
Android 4.4 KitKat sees the transition, in 2013, from a dark interface to a clearer one, as well as the arrival – on an experimental basis – of the ART virtual machine. It is the latest version to use Holo and to be more related to the “old” Android from a functional and aesthetic point of view.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop you have the transition to Material Design, a language still used today. ART also arrives as the only available virtual machine, replacing the previously used Dalvik. This is also the first version to support 64-bit processors – a fact of little relevance for applications written in Java. Android 5.1 Lollipop sees official support coming to more SIMs.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow, launched in October 2015, sees the arrival of native support to USB Type-C standard, fingerprint readers, permissions to be approved individually and contextual search in the app.
The year after he debuted Android 7.0 Nougat, which adds support to virtual reality (Daydream) to the platform and a new JIT compiler that reduces the installation time of the app by 75% and reduces the size of the compiled code by 50%.
With Android 8.0 Oreo we get to the present day: the biggest news is the fact that Android disconnects from the customizations of the builder’s thanks to Project Treble, which makes it easier to update the devices.
From an operating system conceived for cameras, we have moved on to an operating system that can run on smartphones, tablets, portable music players, devices to be connected to TVs, portable consoles, watches (via Android Wear) and more. Supported artifacts include ARM, x86 and MIPS, a sign of the wide variety of devices on the market.
The road made by the Google operating system is a lot and the competition with the rival iOS is always on, even if Android has long since surpassed the Apple platform in terms of market shares.
There were difficulties, as in the case brought by Oracle to Google (later won by the latter) for the use of Java in Android, or the many causes between Apple and Android device manufacturers, or the clashes with Microsoft.
The last piece of the puzzle was the acquisition of a slice of HTC by Google, which wants to continue the development of Pixel smartphones regardless of the fate of the Taiwanese manufacturer. The next step in the evolution of the ecosystem will be the presentation of the new Google-branded devices during the next week, October 4th.