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The History of Android | Cupcake to Marshmallow

Google Android

Google’s Android operating system has undergone a pretty incredible metamorphosis. You could make a pretty convincing argument that no consumer technology in history has evolved as quickly as the smartphone, and Android has been at the very center of that evolution.

The version history of the Android mobile operating system began with the release of the Android alpha in November 2007. The first commercial version, Android 1.0, was released in September 2008. The most recent major Android update is Android 6.0 “Marshmallow”, which was released in October 2015.

Google Android - Cupcake to Marshmallow

Each version of Android since 1.5 has been developed with a specific code name. These code names are chosen alphabetically, and have thus far all been dessert items (or, generically, sweet/sugary foods). Some code names are associated with more than one version number, while others are limited to only a specific one, and the reason for this inconsistency is not currently known. The naming typically appears to correspond to changes in the developer API levels, but this is not always true (example: 3.0 and 3.1 are both “Honeycomb” but they have different API levels).

Note that versions 1.0 and 1.1 were not publicly named, but were dubbed Astro and Bender (could not be used for trademark reasons). Let’s take a look back through the years at how Andy Rubin’s brainchild has evolved into the industry titan that it is today.

Google Android Version History

  • Cupcake: Android 1.5 – April, 2009
  • Donut: Android 1.6 – Sep, 2009
  • Eclair: Android 2.0, 2.1 – Oct, 2009
  • Froyo: Android 2.2 – 2.2.3 – May, 2010
  • Gingerbread: Android 2.3 – 2.3.7 – Dec, 2010
  • Honeycomb: Android 3.0, 3.1, 3.2 – Feb, 2011
  • Ice Cream Sandwich: Android 4.0 – Oct, 2011
  • Jelly Bean: Android 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 – July, 2012
  • KitKat: Android 4.4 – Oct, 2013
  • Lollipop: Android 5.0, 5.1 – Nov, 2014
  • Marshmallow: Android 6.0 – Oct, 2015
Android 1.0
  • Full complement of Google apps, including Gmail and YouTube.
  • Amazon MP3 store handles music purchases
  • Android Market Beta debut with the ability to list apps and games
  • Widgets are limited to Google’s own and are not truly interactive
Android 1.5 – Cupcake

Android 1.5 Cupcake

  • Android’s high-calorie nicknames debut
  • On-screen keyboard allowed Android to move away from physical keyboards
  • Camcorder app brings video recording to Android for the first time
  • Videos can be uploaded to YouTube, and photos can be uploaded to Picasa
  • Third-party widgets are now possible as a companion to an app
  • Google adds Calendar and Music widgets
  • Google Talk gets its own app
  • Auto-rotation allows for an easier landscape-to-portrait transition
  • Copy-and-paste extends from input fields to the browser
Android 1.6 – Donut

Android 1.6 Donut

  • CDMA support opens Android to all carriers
  • Multiple screen resolutions available for the first time
  • A redesigned Android Market — in the white and green accents & included some additional curation to expose lists of top free and paid apps
  • The Quick Search Box
  • Camera, Camcorder and Gallery accessible together with a quick toggle. A thumbnail in the corner displays the last photo taken, and a tap takes the user to the Gallery.
  • A battery-usage indicator
  • The Power Control widget brought easy toggle for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sync and Brightness to the home screen.
  • Text-to-speech support
Android 2.0 / 2.1 – Éclair

Android 2.0 Eclair

  • Google Maps Navigation was introduced, bringing free turn-by-turn directions to the phone
  • Support for multiple accounts was added, with distinct Contact, Email and Calendar sync settings for each account
  • Third parties tools needed to plug their own services into account framework
  • Quick Contact & a Quick Contact widget is available in Email, Messaging and Calendar
  • Browser updated with ability to search from the address bar, save bookmarks with thumbnails of the Web page, double-tap to zoom and HTML5 support
  • Soft keyboard improvements – On-screen buttons were available to answer and end a call, select contact names as suggestions
  • Camera – support for a hardware flash, a scene mode, white balance, color effect, macro focus and digital zoom
  • Save photos to either internal storage or an SD card
  • Live wallpapers
  • The Alarm Clock app drops the “Alarm” from its name and switches from an Analog display to all digital. The app displays the current time and weather when tapped
  • The Gallery – Photos appear as piles of snapshots and swipe between images for the first time
  • The News and Weather app debuts along with a corresponding widget
  • Google Voice – a new way to make calls without tying your phone number to your carrier account
Android 2.2 – 2.2.3 – Froyo

Android 2.2 Froyo

  • Redesigned home screen – old three-panel view replaced by a five-panel one with a new group of dedicated, translucent shortcuts at the bottom for the phone, web browser, and app launcher
  • Dalvik VM: Just-in-time (JIT) Compiler brings massive speed enhancements to Android
  • New API enables the ability to push content directly from the Chrome browser on the desktop to the Android smartphone
  • Apps can now be installed or moved to an SD card
  • Mobile hotspot support
  • Browser adds V8 engine from Chrome, making the browser two to five times faster
  • Flash support, allowing for a full desktop browser experience on mobile
  • Redesigned Gallery app – 3D chops
  • Better support for copy / paste in Gmail
  • Traditional password / PIN lock screen
  • An Android Market update allows users to choose apps that they would like to update automatically.
  • Voice Actions, allowing Android users to carry out numerous actions by voice alone
Android 2.3 – 2.3.7 – Gingerbread

Android 2.3 Gingerbread

  • The new version gave developers lower-level access to audio, device controls, graphics, and storage, which allowed them to write considerably faster native code — absolutely key for creating the rich, graphics-intensive 3D games that the platform lacked
  • An improved keyboard to improve typing speed and accuracy
  • Better battery and app management tools
  • Support for front-facing cameras
  • Near-field communication [NFC] support
  • Google Wallet
  • The Download manager
  • Android Market 2.0
  • Stock widgets refreshed
  • Home screen’s UI elements gained a hint of green
  • The status bar was inverted so it had a black background with white text
  • More granular control over copy and paste – adding word-by-word highlighting with finger-draggable anchors on either end to facilitate adjusting the highlight
  • Google Books is introduced
Android 3.0 – 3.2 – Honeycomb

Android 3.0 Honeycomb

  • Focused on one thing and one thing only—tablets
  • Cohesive look known as “Holographic” interface and a more intuitive keyboard for bigger devices
  • The Fragments API, which allowed developers to create multiple screens for a phone interface that could then be displayed together on the tablet
  • Recent Apps, allowing users to view a set number of most recently used apps and to switch among them
  • The Action Bar, providing a consistent space for an app’s most used functions in the upper-right corner of the current app
  • A move from green to blue accents
  • Redesigned home screen and widget placement
  • The death of physical buttons – instead, Back and Home have become virtual buttons that occupy a new “system bar” at the bottom of the screen
  • Improved multitasking
  • A new paradigm for app layout
  • Support for multi-column app layouts
  • Tabbed browsing and incognito mode (anonymous)
Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwitch

  • Complete dissolution of hardware buttons, Actions bar and Recent apps button, All navigation is brought on-screen
  • The swipe gesture to dismiss notifications, recent apps or browser tabs
  • Android Beam, allowing two Beam-enabled phones to transfer data just by touching them together, and it’s open — developers can extend it and use it however they see fit
  • Added Google Play as the official name of its services and all relevant apps were renamed to match (e.g., Play Music, Play Books, Play Movies and Play Store)
  • Resizable Widgets
  • Option to respond to an incoming call by text message
  • The keyboard and text suggestions receive another upgrade, and a spell-checker underlines misspellings in red and offers suggested corrections when tapped
  • Face unlock
  • Data usage analysis and set warnings and hard limits for mobile or Wi-Fi to avoid costly overages
  • Create Folders simply by dragging one icon onto another
  • The home screen also gets a “favorites tray”
  • New calendar and mail apps
  • Voice input can now handle users speaking continuously with pauses and dictating punctuation
Android 4.1 – 4.3 – Jelly Bean

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

  • Google Now, the predictive search function that knows what you’re going to do before you do
  • Tightened up performance
  • Improved animations
  • A new control panel accessible from the notification shade
  • The ability to access widgets and launch the camera right from the lock screen
  • Miracast support, which lets you wirelessly stream video and audio from your device to a television or other display
  • Triple-buffering graphics, locking all drawing to a 16-millisecond refresh time, and making a number of tweaks to the touch input subsystem
  • Roboto refresh – Android’s signature font was reworked
  • Expandable, “actionable” notifications
  • Widget flexibility – resize dynamically
  • Predictive text
  • Super-improved voice assistant when searching
  • Redesigned clock app and clock widgets
  • Photospheres
  • Daydream screensavers
  • Accessibility enhancements
  • Improved multi-user support with restricted profiles
  • Support OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics, an advanced software engine for gaming
  • TRIM support for improvement memory management, Bluetooth Smart for low-energy accessories, virtual surround sound, a predictive dial pad, and improved Wi-Fi location services
  • High Dynamic Range photography comes natively to Android with an HDR scene mode
  • Bluetooth Low Energy support
Android 4.4 – KitKat

Android 4.4 Kitkat

  • KitKat slimmed down the OS’s footprint, meaning devices with only 512MB of RAM could run the OS smoothly
  • The Photos app, which is part of Google+, appears while the Gallery app remains
  • Offers support for Host Card Emulation (HCE), making NFC-based payments or other transactions more secure
  • Google Drive becomes a default app as a gateway to Google’s office suite
  • Transparent notification bar and on-screen buttons
  • Google Now integrated directly into the home screen
  • Productivity enhancements – KitKat is faster, more efficient, and less resource intensive
  • Truly Full screen apps
  • Unified Hangouts app with some much-needed SMS capabilities
  • Blue accent color replaced with white
  • A number of stock apps were redesigned with lighter color schemes
  • A new app drawer
  • New dialer
  • Redesigned Clock and Downloads apps
  • Emoji
  • HDR+
Android 5.0 / 5.1 – Lollipop

Android 5.0 Lollipop

  • Icons, animations, and the multitasking menu were completely redone with Google’s Material Design approach and publishes these design guidelines for others to follow
  • Android Runtime with ahead-of-time compilation replaces the Dalvik VM with just-in-time compilation
  • Android TV launches, bringing Android to the big screen
  • OpenGL ES 3.1 allows for even more immersive and visually captivating Android gaming
  • Quick Settings panel is smarter, with animations to indicate when settings are being changed and quick drop-downs for switching Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections
  • Device Protection keeps your data safe even if your phone is lost or stolen
  • HD voice calling gains official support
  • Dual-SIM support is now officially part of Android as well
  • Android at Work is introduced, allowing for separate device profiles for personal and work use
  • Smart Lock lets you unlock your device automatically when a trusted Bluetooth device (like a smartwatch) is present
  • Android lock screen became much more useful with better notification integration
  • Google continued opening up Google Now to third-party developers
  • Added “silent mode” back in for notifications
Android 6.0 – Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

  • Run-time & Clear App permission system
  • A new and improved Google Now (Google Now on Tap)
  • Official fingerprint sensor support
  • Improved battery life with Doze
  • Android Pay allows users to store credit and debit card information on their smartphones, and then wirelessly pay for goods and services quickly and securely
  • USB Type-C & USB 3.1 represents the holy grail of connections
  • Improved Copy and Pasting
  • Custom Google Tabs – Marshmallow makes it easier for developers to integrate into their own, third-party apps
  • The new app drawer dumps horizontal scrolling, scrolls vertically, which does seem to speed up navigation and gets you to your apps quicker
  • RAM Memory Manager
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