NASA the space agency is sending Android-powered mini-satellites into space sometime in 2013. Its easy-to-use and tweak-able operating system is likely the reason why NASA chose to send these mini-computers into space to help ‘capture digital imagery of the Earth’.
Android is on over 331 million smartphones with close to a million joining every day. Its popularity was encouraged by monthly billion-app downloads from Google Play. The Android app store features 600,000 apps so far.
Android runs on more than 250 devices, inclusive of tablets and smartphones that are produced by 23 different manufacturers, and has gone through more than ten OS updates from Android 1.0 (presumably named Astro) until the much-anticipated Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, released in June this year.
Android 1.0 AstroAndroid 1.0 was launched in Sept 2008, with features that were mainly oriented for business and work purposes.
This version was packed with great apps and support for using the Internet and Internet-based services such as: full HTML support in the browser, video playback with a YouTube app, and Google services like GTalk, Gmail, Google Maps and Google Sync.
It was also the first mobile operating system to pull off the pull-down notification window, and users first learn of the uses of Widgets and apps that can be downloaded and updated via the Android Market even though the market wasn’t as heavily populated then as it is now.
HTC Dream (a.k.a T-Mobile G1) running Android 1.0Thus, this version was mainly focused on lifting the business side of smartphones, with a lack of focus on entertainment features – Android users have minimal control over the Camera, and there’s no support for video playback in its media player. Android 1.1 (presumably Bender) featured mostly bug fixes and updates, and was the first ever software update for Android.
Android 1.5 (Cupcake)Cupcake was Android’s second major release, but the first commercially available version, which featured a good amount of bug fixes, and plenty of good features. It was introduced together with Android’s first touchscreen-only phone: the HTC Magic.
Samsung i7500 running Android 1.5Users can easily swap between Still Camera and Video Camera modes with a single touch and without leaving the camera app. Video recording was made available in MP4 and 3GP formats and the auto screen rotate that we see in our devices was added in this version.
Users are also treated to uploading capabilities for videos and photos to Youtube and Picasa, respectively.
Android 1.6 (Donut)Android 1.6 launched in Sept 2009, was also known as Donut, and contains several new updates including text-to-speech technology.
Android 2.0/2.1 (Eclair)Eclair, Android 2.0 and its update 2.1, was released in Oct 2009, bringing in a revamped user interface (UI) and the introduction of Live Wallpapers (animated wallpapers at the homescreen).
A still of a Live Wallpaper running on Google Nexus, carrying Android 2.1Users who have multiple emails could browse their multiple accounts at the same time and the Account sync enables synchronization of email and contacts easily. Calling or texting friends has become a lot easier by using a long press over the wanted Contact Name, then selecting to Call or Text them. The Camera app on Android 2.0 has flash support, Scene Modes, white balance, and digital zoom among others. That double-tap that allows you to zoom into text on a browser?
It was introduced in this version as well, along with support for HTML5 and an improved navigational experience with Google Maps.
Android 2.2 (Froyo)Come May 2010, Android 2.2 or "Froyo" – Frozen Yogurt – blew the competition away in terms of OS speed thanks to the Java V8 engine and JIT compiler which launched apps faster than ever.
Android 2.2 on the Google Nexus OneAndroid users can also now run Flash on their Android device and are treated to picture preview stacks in the 3D photo shots gallery without selecting to see the full photo first. Also worth mentioning is the remote wipe features that allow you to wipe out your data in the event of a lost or stolen phone for better data protection.
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) came to light at the end of the year, a mere six months later after Froyo made headlines. Users are able to quickly switch between front and back camera in the modified camera app. Copy-paste can now be done word by word (press-hold to select) rather than by blocks of text.
Nexus S introduced GingerbreadThis version also has better battery management tools allowing users to see which app is zapping battery juice the most. Its last update v2.3.7 introduced Google Wallet which utilizes near field communication to store cards, redeem promotions and even make secure payments from your phone.
Android 3 (Honeycomb)Taking a break from smartphones is the Android 3.0, Honeycomb update which was designed with tablets in mind. Everything is on the UI now with no need for physical buttons. The Back and Home keys get perpetual spots at the bottom of the screen. Widgets become more prominent as developers get more room to play with due to the larger screen size.
In the main view, one can see two bars: at the top the Action bar, which gives access to individual apps and widgets, at the bottom, the System bar showing notifications and soft navigation buttons.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Running on HoneycombThe additional space also allows for a better, redesigned keyboard for more accurate presses and efficient typing. Browsers carry multple tabs and is available in ‘incognito’ mode, while the Contacts and Email UI carry two panes now for better organization and access of data. This version also has better hardware acceleration and 3D graphics support. Later updates (still under Honeycomb) added connectivity of USB accessories such as external keyboards or gamepads as well as improved handwriting prediction for Chinese characters.
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)Android 4, first released on Oct 2011 and updated in March 2012, is also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, continuing the dessert-naming convention. It had then unmatched performance and speed, carrying many of the features that Honeycomb installed in tablets over to smartphones including being rid of physical buttons for navigation.
Android 4.1 (Jellybean)June 2012, Jellybean is here. Smeared with butter – project butter that is. Project Butter made this latest update, faster, smoother and more responsive. How fast? Try zero lag when opening apps or switching home panels.
Voice search is part of the implementation in Google Now (so ask away), as Voice dictation is now an offline, integrated feature. Jellybean is already running on Google Nexus smartphones and the tablet.