Google’s Android OS is a decade old and appears on hundreds of new devices every year, from phones and tablets to TV streamers and beyond. Here’s a complete history of the Android operating system, all the way up to Android Oreo in 2017.
The main rival to Apple’s own iOS platform is Google Android OS. Android is a fully-fledged operating system that’s broken free of its smartphone roots, now appearing on tablets, TV streamers and plenty of other devices. In the ten years of its life, Android has evolved a huge amount – for instance, did you know it was originally conceived to be used on cameras, rather than mobiles?
Here’s a history of Android and its various versions, which are now named alphabetically after sweet treats.
Android was originally conceived as a touch interface for cameras, before Google saw its potential and pulled out its cheque book. The first commercially available version of Android for mobile phones was released in September 2008, on the HTC Dream handset. The candy-flavoured names were yet to be introduced, so this version was imaginatively titled Android 1.0.
Its features were basic, but many of them still exist today. There was a simple web browser and support for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps and YouTube, as well as the Google Talk messenger app.
A pretty inconsequential update to Android 1.0, this added a few simple features to existing apps such as showing reviews in Google Maps business searches.
Android 1.5 Cupcake
Finally, a sweet name for an increasingly sweet mobile OS. Android 1.5 Cupcake brought in widget support, animated transitions when skipping through your desktops, the ability to automatically rotate the screen when you turn your phone and a stock boot animation. Nice.
Android 1.6 Donut
In 2009 we had Cupcake’s successor, nicknamed Donut. As you may have noticed, Google chose to advance through the alphabet with every major Android release, selecting a different confectionary for each one.
Donut gave us improved search functionality, a speedier all-round experience, and support for super-sharp (at the time) 480×800 pixel screens.
Android 2.0 Eclair
Android Eclair brought a number of important changes, hence the boost to version number 2.0. Personalisation was a key component, with the likes of live wallpapers and support for multiple desktops introduced.
Android 2.2 Froyo
Froyo allowed Android users to control their phones without touching them, using voice typing and search. You could also now install apps on a memory card, which was a massive relief as most phones packed a measly 4 to 8GB of storage space.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Selfie camera support paved the way for endless Facebook glamour shots, while improved performance meant Android was slicker than ever. Gingerbread also added NFC, gyroscope and barometer support.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb
Honeycomb stands out in Android history as the only version developed specifically for tablets. Interface elements like the virtual keyboard were optimised for bigger screens and you had support for multi-core processors, which soon became the norm.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Ice Cream Sandwich hit phones in 2011, bringing an all-new look and feel to Android. You could also now close apps with a quick swipe, shoot 1080p video and unlock your phone with your face, where supported.
Android 4.1 to 4.3 Jelly Bean
Android Jelly Bean made Google’s OS more responsive than ever, improving search functionality and introducing the ability to share files with your friends using Android Beam.
Android 4.4 KitKat
Android KitKat introduced the ‘OK Google’ voice command for starting Google Now, as well as better message management, Emoji support and improved multi-tasking.
Android 5.0 Lollipop
Android Lollipop hit our phones in 2014 and brought multiple profiles on one device, the ‘no interruptions’ feature to get some peace and an all-new notifications bar. You could also now unlock your phone with a trusted Bluetooth device.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Android Marshmallow was unveiled by Google in September 2015, improving battery life and adding cool new features like Now on Tap and fingerprint sensor support.
Android 7.0 Nougat
Android Nougat’s features came first and the public helped pick the name, which was made official at the end of June, 2016. As well as improving general performance and battery management thanks to a feature called Doze on-the-go, Nougat also brought handy features like native split-screen multitasking to the stock Android experience.
Version 7.1 followed soon after, launching exclusively on Google’s own-brand Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. It added support for the new Pixel launcher, the Google Assistant (an evolution of Google Now), Night Light (essentially a blue light filter), Daydream VR mode, shortcuts known as ‘Moves’ and more.
Android 8.0 Oreo
In 2017, Google will serve up the tasty-sounding Android Oreo. This latest update offers all kinds of great new features, as you’ll see in our Android Oreo overview.
Notifications have been improved once again, while you can also look forward to a funky picture-in-picture video mode. This allows you to watch YouTube clips in a resizable box, while you’re playing around with other apps. Google has made plenty of additional improvements to the likes of audio quality and text input, as well as resource management.
Check out our Android Oreo beta review for our thoughts on some of those new features. You can also try out Android Oreo for yourself, if you have a compatible device. Have a look at our guide on upgrading to Android Oreo for full instructions. Finally, for more guides and features on version 8.0 of Google’s new mobile OS.