Android is a mobile phone Operating System officially launched by Google and currently being developed by it. It is an open-source software based on the Linux kernel, and its source code is released by Google as open-source. It was released on September 23, 2008, and the first commercially released phone running Android was the HTC Dream aka T-Mobile G1 (see Ubergizmo’s live blog during that event).
This page lists all the versions of Android and shows you the most important evolutions. Shortcuts:
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Android 5.x Lollipop
- Android 4.x
- Android 3.x
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Android 2.2 Froyo
- Android 2.0 Eclair
- Android 1.6 Donut
Overview of Android
Android works on many devices, including smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, Android TV, and even cars. Each manufacturer can offer a custom Android version as well, which makes it attractive for them since they can differentiate from one another.
The Android OS we see in our phones is not typically the “stock” (or “pure”) Android OS from Google. Every phone manufacturer can manipulate the original code to create a custom version with both visual and functional changes. However, Google has also partnered with renowned brands like, HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola, etc. to launch phones with stock Android, known as “Google Nexus”.
Android is known as the most customizable mobile OS even without rooting. Android is designed for touchscreens, so all Android phones are fully or partially touch-based. Using widgets and quick app access icons, it provides all the information right on your phone’s home screen. Furthermore, it also offers great multitasking capability with the ability to navigate between multiple apps at the same time.
Android OS is constantly being developed and new features are added frequently. Apart from basic version updates, Android also gets major update releases that are normally code-named as dessert names, like Cupcake, Donut and KitKat, etc.
Android 7.0 Nougat (May 2016)
- “Nougat” name confirmed on 6/30/2016
- New designs for certain aspects of the UI
- Data-saving features
- Lets users stop apps from using data while running in the background
- Users can also determine which apps can be whitelisted
- Multi-window interaction between apps
- Apps can be run and displayed next to each other
- Interaction between apps is also possible, such as dragging and dropping text from one app to the other
- User-adjusted display calibration
- Users can adjust the colors of the display on their device themselves, instead of relying on third-party apps
- Night Mode
- Originally a feature of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, will be making its debut in Android N instead
- Turns the UI from bright to dark, makes it easier on the eyes at night or in a dark room
- Freeform Windows
- Apps can now be moved around and resized freely just like how you would do it on a desktop computer
- Apps can also be moved around to be sitting on top of each other
- Support for pressure-sensitive displays
- Google will be baking in support for pressure-sensitive displays into Android N
- This means OEMs won’t need to create their software for the displays and can just use Android’s version
- Could lead to standardized pressure-sensitive displays for Android devices in the future
- Improved security
- Stagefright was one of the scarier security vulnerabilities of Android last year
- Android N will be updated to get rid of the problem once and for all by further sandboxing aspects of Android to contain the damage should it happen again
- Official developer page for Android N
Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Oct 5 2015)
Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) is largely focused on bug fixes and improving overall performance and usability. Although, there are some upgrades and addition of new features, but they all focus on making Android easier to use.
- Fingerprint Authentication support
- Open lock screen and authenticate payments with fingerprints.
- Deep Sleep mode to save battery
- Apps go to sleep after not touching the phone for a while.
- USB Type-C support
- New USB standard with better data transfer and charging speed.
- MIDI support (support for MIDI devices)
- Android Pay payments through the phone.
- Improvements to Google Now
- visual changes, Google Now on Tap and multiple ways to open apps, etc.
- Permissions Dashboard to manage app permissions
- A separate dashboard to manage which function an app can access and which is restricted.
- Official Android 6.0 Marshmallow page
Android 5.1 Lollipop (Mar 9 2015)
Android 5.1 was announced on Mar 9 2015, without major fanfare. The focus was on making the Material Design introduced in Android 5.0 even better along with addition of some useful features.
- Multiple SIM cards — Dual SIM support natively.
- Lock protection
- In case the phone gets lost/stolen, you can lock it remotely.
- HD voice calls — Natively supports HD voice calls.
- New quick settings shortcuts — Just tap to enable/disable apps in quick settings.
- Animations — Few new UI and Icon animations added.
- Screen pinning
- Lock the screen on a specific app, so only that app could be accessed.
Android 5.0 Lollipop (Oct 27 2014)
In Android 5.0 (Lollipop), the biggest change from android KitKat was its new Material Design. It offered a completely different look with fast animations and intuitive interface.
- Material Design — New grid-based layout with new animations, transitions and effects like shadows and lightening.
- Battery Historian — An app to track current battery consumption of apps.
- Fixes to video playback and password failure issues.
Android 4.4 KitKat (Oct 31 2013)
Android 4.4 (KitKat) came with many new features, especially for developers.
- Screen Recording — Record Android Screen with the help of the Android SDK.
- New Translucent System UI — Stylish UI with Translucent bars and menus
- Full-screen immersive mode
- System-wide settings for closed Captioning — Allow Captioning for supported apps
- Faster access to notifications — Faster access with Notification bar
- Printing Framework — Printing from applications
- Official Android 4.4 KitKat page
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (Jul 24 2013)
Android 4.3 (last version of Jelly Bean) included usability enhancements and a few new features.
- 4K Resolution Support
- Update to the Camera App UI — Interactive UI for Camera app
- Photosphere (360° photos) Improvement
- Create Restricted Profiles — Profiles with limited access to apps
- Hebrew and Arabic support — New Languages support
- Bluetooth Audio/Video Remote Control — Control Audio/Video devices
- Dial-pad Autocomplete — Autocomplete numbers that are already saved
- Official Android 4.3 Jelly Bean page
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (Nov 13 2012)
- Lockscreen Widgets Support — Widgets can be added to Lockscreen for quick access
- Photosphere — Take 360° Photos
- Gesture Typing — Use gestures to type, like swipe.
- Bluetooth Gamepad — Support for gamepads using bluetooth
- Multi-user support for tablets — Create multiple user accounts
- Toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — Easily toggle Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
- Sound Changes — Few changes to system sounds, like battery low and wireless charging
- New Animations — Few new UI animations
- Wireless Display — Support for Wireless display over Wi-Fi
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Jul 9 2012)
- Google Now — Digital Personal Assistant made by Google
- Voice Search — Search the internet using your voice
- Improvements to Camera App — UI and Camera quality changes
- Accessibility Features — New accessibility features, like gestures and braille keyboard support
- Home Screen Rotation
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (Oct 18 2011)
Android 4.0 came with new features and improvements to some key features like typing and voice recognition.
- Lock Screen Actions — Different ways to open Lock Screen
- Wi-Fi direct — Direct Wi-Fi connection between two devices.
- Network data control — Manage Mobile Data usage
- Improved text Input and Spell-checking
- Facial recognition — Set up Face unlock
- Hardware acceleration — For User Interface
- Improved voice recognition
- 16 Tabs support for Web browser
- Official Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich page
Android 3.2 Honeycomb (Jul 15 2011)
Android 3.2 update had more focus toward Android tablets.
- Optimized for new tablets — UI and Stability optimization
- Compatibility display mode — Zoom for fixed-sized apps
- Open Accessory and USB host API
- Updates to Android market — Easier automatic updates
- Chinese handwriting prediction improved
- Media sync from SD card — SD card media files shown with phone media
Android 3.1 Honeycomb (May 10 2011)
Some basic UI changes and device support came with Android 3.1.
- Resizable Home screen widgets
- MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) Notifications — Device connection with PC notification
- Support for mouse, gamepad and joystick
- USB host API
- RTP API for audio and UI improvements
Android 3.0 Honeycomb (Feb 22 2011)
- Multi-core support
- Google eBooks — Read Google eBooks on the device
- Google Talk
- Private browsing — In Private mode, no browsing data is saved
- Clipboard — Copy content to clipboard
- HTTP live streaming — For streaming videos
- Media Transport Protocol (MTP) and Picture Transport Protocol (PTP)
- UI improvements — New keyboard layout, see recent applications, etc.
- Official Android 3.0 Honeycomb page
Android 2.3 GingerBread (Dec 6 2010)
Android 2,3 mostly contained calling features and improvements to few of the built-in apps.
- UI update — Color changes to menus and bars.
- Improvements to copy/paste and power management
- VoIP and SIP support
- Video Call support
- Near field communication (NFC) support
- Social networking features
- Google talk voice and video calling
Android 2.2 Froyo (May 20 2010)
Android 2.2 (Froyo) wasn’t really a huge update as compared to its future updates.
- USB Tethering — Share Internet connection via USB
- Install applications to SD card
- Upload files — Upload files in browser
- Animated GIFs support
- JIT (Just In Time) implementation — For running applications faster
Android 2.0 Eclair (Oct 26 2009)
Eclair mostly contained UI related updates.
- HTML support
- Microsoft Exchange support — Microsoft’s mailing server
- Live Wallpapers support
- Bluetooth 2.1 support
- UI updates — Improvements to menus, navigation and keyboard layout, etc.
Android 1.6 Donut (Sep 15 2009)
Android 1.6 offered few features, but very important ones.
- Gesture Framework — Use gestures to access different options
- Accessibility Framework
- Turn-by-turn Navigation — turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps
Android 1.5 Cupcake (Apr 30 2009)
Another tiny yet really important update of features.
- Virtual keyboard along with prediction
- Ability to record and watch videos
- Bluetooth A2DP and AVRCP support for bluetooth headsets and remote control
There were also Android 1.0 and Android 1.1 versions, but they didn’t actually had any official names. The whole naming process started from Android Cupcake. Although Android 1.0 and 1.1 did added some basic features and applications like, camera support, YouTube app, Gmail app, Google Maps, Web Browser, download apps from Android market and ability to save attachments from MMS.