The Android Story: The Past, Present & Future

More than 85% of the phone is powered by Android making it the most popular mobile OS in the world. Let’s look back at the history of Android to know how the OS was developed and how it became successful.

It all began in 2003, when a young group of computer experts – Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White decided to create “Android Inc”. The early intention was to develop an advanced operating system for digital cameras and then pitch in the idea to investors. However, they figured out that the market was not large enough and then they decided to develop a handset operating system. At that time, Symbian was the most popular mobile OS. However, they were running out of cash in 2005, and Google decided to acquire Android Inc.

The introduction of iPhone – the first full touchscreen phone in 2007 certainly influenced the development of Android. All major mobile companies believed that consumers will not accept a phone that doesn’t have an external QWERTY keyword. However, Google had different plans in their minds and decided to develop an OS that supports full touchscreen phone. They had initially developed ‘Sooner,’ an unreleased prototype device (also made by HTC) which looks like a Blackberry device with a full QWERTY keyboard with a 320×240 display. They decided not to launch the phone and went back to the drawing board.

The first android phone was launched by HTC in October 2008. It was called the HTC Dream, also known as T-Mobile G1. The first apps in Android included Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Google Talk, You Tube etc. And of course, it consisted of other regular apps like calendar, contacts, alarm etc. Many other mobile manufactures like Samsung and LG were developing a full touchscreen phone. However, they need an OS to work on.

The reasons for Android’s success are many. The main reason was that it was Open Sourced – it made smart devices cheaper. Manufactures who were part of the Open Handset Alliance put their effort in Android because of the expertise that they possessed. They could customise the OS based on the requirement of the phone manufactures. The OS also offered great interface and lot of features. A larger market share led to more developers developing apps in the Android which bought in more users.

In 2009, CyanogenMod was launched which become the most widely used custom Android ROM. It is basically a tweaked and edited version of Android OS that you can install on a phone or a tablet in place of the official version from Google. However, it has been discontinued in 2016, due in part to internal conflicts within Cyanogen Inc.

In 2010, Google started developing the Nexus line of devices based on the Android platform by partnering with mobile hardware manufactures. These devices became “reference” devices for Google to enhance user experience in the Android OS and venture into hardware. Another reason could be that they don’t want to take down the big players who used Android OS. Google’s own device at that time would upset the manufacturer and they would start developing their own OS. Google also had less visibility in the mobile arena at that time. However, Google launched Pixel and Pixel XL smartphone in 2016 in order to compete in the mobile hardware market.

Since 2008, Android has seen numerous updates that have improved the OS by adding new features and fixing bugs. Each updated of Android versions is named after a dessert or sugary treat in alphabetical order – Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread etc. So, what is going to be the future of Android OS ?

Android OS is not just going to power smartphones. Google has already developed Android Wear for wrist watches, Android TV for televisions, Android Auto for cars and Brillo (later renamed Android Things), for smart devices and Internet of things. Android might also make its way into laptop and even desktop OS.

Google is also developing Fuchsia – a real-time operating system (RTOS). Chrome OS and Android are based on Linux kernels (which are getting outdated) whereas Fuchsia is based on a new microkernel called “Magenta”, derived from “Little Kernel”. It could also be modular in nature allowing for it to be customized for different applications. There is no definite timeline when Fuchsia will enter the market. It may even be an Android update or replacement.

As of now, the Android OS will keep improving via updates that adds new features and fixes bugs. Most Android has some serious shortcomings that Google is well aware of – most devices run outdated OS & they are also involved in numerous patent lawsuits. This will be a big challenge for Google to overcome.

Android O: All you need to know about it

Google unveiled Android O at the Google I/O annual developer conference held on 17-19th May 2017. Google has released the second developer preview of Android O. In case you missed, we have the important highlights for you about the upcoming update:

Battery life has been one of the major concerns for any android customer. Google is trying it level best to limit background activity and maximize battery life. In the latest upcoming update, it has increased the automatic limits on what apps can do in the background in a number of key areas (broadcasts, background services, location updates).

Google is bringing new PiP (picture-in-picture) features that enable users to continue watching videos while working within other apps; apps will be able to put themselves in PiP mode. Something similar you can find in Facebook app, where you can continue to watch a video, looking at other posts.

Google is also introducing new Notification channels that allows to group notifications together by their type. Users can block or change the behavior of each channel individually, rather than managing all of the apps’ notifications together. It will help you things like how a news app notifies us or a music player shows a persistent notification.

Another new feature is notification dots, which are visual indicators on app icons that’ll show if you have any waiting notifications. iOS users maybe familiar with this.

AutoFill API’s will help you remember your pre-filled form, usernames/passwords (in some cases) to quickly be added into apps on your device. A user will be able to choose a source for autofill data, and applications that need to store and retrieve this sort of data no longer will need to act as an Accessibility service.

Android on Chromebooks also indicates that there will be an update to the keyword navigation. Android O focuses on building a better model for arrow and tab key navigation.

With the new updates, Google has also announced Adaptive icons and badges. The feature will enable developers to use different-shaped app icons depending on the manufacturer’s preference. Adaptive icons will be supported in the launcher, shortcuts, device Settings, sharing dialogs, and the app overview screen.

Wi-Fi Awareness will allow your Android O device or app to communicate with other devices and apps in the vicinity over Wi-Fi without requiring an actual internet connection. Sony’s LDAC codec is also part of the update. They are also introducing the AAudio, which could result in improved low-latency audio.

From the latest update, the Pandas feel that the Google is following Nougat’s footstep. The first developer preview will be available on the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices. Google is concentration more on improving performance rather than just adding features. It’s focusing on strengthening the platform and filling gaps. We are eagerly waiting for the update and probably hear lots more about Android. Google is also yet to name the update – Have any suggestions ? – We would like to hear from you from the comments below

Stay tuned for the updates