The evolution of Android, from 1.0 to Ice Cream Sandwich
#24 | 5:00 |
Wednesday August 3, 2011
Wednesday August 3, 2011
In this edition of
Android Weekly, we present a
history of the Android platform, from the early, shaky builds of 1.0 and 1.1 through Gingerbread, Honeycomb and beyond. We'll outline some of the progress that's been made along the way and list some of the
improvements to the Android OSwe've seen over time.
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The first Android version to hit the consumer level was 1.0, which debuted on the HTC Dream (Gadget TV review). Not a bad phone or a bad Android, but it had a lot of growing up to do.
1.0 introduced the Android Market, which was pretty anemic at the time. It also brought the pull-down notification bar that we're all familiar with. It had a media player, which was pretty terrible.
The real killer app here was Google Sync. For those who had already converted over to Google Apps for their calendar, documents, maps, email, IM chat and so on, its imperfections could be forgiven. No copy and paste though.
1.1 was mostly bug fixes and still offered no way to copy and paste. It did, however, bring with it a local maps app with local search and business listings complete with reviews and other relevant data.
1.5 is where it starts to get interesting. Widgets were introduced in 1.5, a.k.a. Cupcake. It's also where the unique dessert-based Android naming convention began.
Android media playback improved immensely, copy and paste made its first appearance in the browser, and your phone pulled Google Account pictures of your friends into your contact list.
There were other improvements too, but the most interesting among them was the option to select a different software keyboard, leading to the rise of apps like Swype.
1.6, a.k.a. Donut, introduced the free turn-by-turn navigation app that is now a major selling point for Android smartphones. I remember using it and being less than impressed at the time. It's come a long way since then, though even back then it was better than nothing for weary travelers.
Android 2.0 and 2.1
2.0 and 2.1 both lived under the name Eclair, which is a bit strange given that other updates have had (and continue to get) their own dessert-based names.
Eclair added a much-improved keyboard with auto-correct. It brought some much needed improvements to the camera, including white balance, macro focus and scene modes.
HTML5 support was added and the live wallpapers feature of Android that we all know -- and some of us love -- came on board too.
2.2, or Froyo, brought with it the most improvements up to that point. Adobe Flash support and batch and automatic updating both made an appearance.
The single biggest improvement though, was the addition of USB and wireless tethering. Wireless tethering allows Froyo users (whose carriers don't block the service) to turn their phone into a wireless hotspot. It's a handy feature that saves Android users seeking out a Starbucks when they want to get their laptops online.
2.3, Gingerbread, is the current version of Android. It brought with it native support for Internet calling over SIP, some equalization options for listening to music and support for front-facing cameras, which have since proliferated.
More to the point though, Gingerbread added Near Field Communication or NFC. While it's of limited use to most Android users as yet, it hints at the fact that Google wants its phone to also be your wallet.
2.4, Ice Cream Sandwich. This is what we're waiting for. We've had some hints as to what Ice Cream Sandwich will do and it sounds pretty tasty.
Honeycomb, Android 3.0, throws users for a bit of a loop. Android developers too, as it means that there are two distinct versions of Android that have to be accounted for.
Ice Cream Sandwich looks to bring Android tablet and Android smartphone development back into one.
In Google IO, we saw a silly addition that brings Photobooth-like face-warping filters. Also we saw a useful virtual camera operator that is smart enough to focus attention in a group video chat on the person that is currently speaking.
It's dubbed the "one OS that runs everywhere" and will release in fourth quarter. Likely on the rumored "Nexus Prime" smartphone that we talked about a few episodes back.