Android is, without doubt, a massive success. Each day Google records more than a million activations of new Android devices; Android powers close to 80% of the world’s Smartphones and more than a million apps are available for Android through stores such as Google Play and Amazon App Store.
So, how did we get here? Good question. Fortunately, the folks over at XcubeLabes.com have pulled together an awesome infographic you can view that shows the whole story from start to finish. Here are some highlights. First, how did it all get started:
Many believe Android stole a lot of its ideas from Apple. Not true. Android existed before iOS. The problem for Andy Rubin, the lead for the Android program, is that iOS was released to the press first. Rubin’s reaction to Steve Jobs iPhone reveal was “we are going to have to start over.”
While Android 1.0 was a commercial product, it was not until Cupcake (1.5), Donut (1.6) and Eclair (2.0) came out that you started to see interest from handset manufacturers and telcos. At the time, Apple’s iPhone had almost zero competition and a competing product was essential for companies such as HTC, LG and Samsung. Android is that competing product.
In many ways, Froyo (2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) are for Android what Windows XP is for Microsoft: good enough. This translates to carriers and manufacturers not upgrading the OS. For many years, most of my Android work used 2.2 as the baseline and even today close to 20% of all active handsets are running Gingerbread. Amazon’s branched version of Android, Fire OS, uses Froyo as the base.
Following Gingerbread is Honeycomb (3.0). The focus for Honeycomb is tablets. The iPad had just come out and Apple’s iOS optimized the larger screen size. This meant that Google needed to adapt Android for Tablets. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. Few people bought the early Android tablets.
In many ways, it is the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, the first of the 4.x Android versions, that have catapulted the success of Android. Most phones now come with either Jelly Bean or Ice Cream Sandwich. This is great news for developers.
It is still not easy for Android. Fragmentation remains a big problem. Some estimates are putting the Android Universe at close to 3,000 variants. Google knows this and it is clear that they are moving towards a distribution model that avoids this problem. There is also increased competition from other free mobile operating systems such as Tizen, Ubuntu and Jolla. With that said, Android will continue to dominate and Google is adding great tools that make it easier for developers to build apps and for consumers to discover them.