Android has been around for nearly a decade already and a lot has changed since the beginning. What started as just one simple phone has become a powerhouse on countless devices and form factors. The history of Android is a very interesting story. You might think you know everything there is to know about Android, but we’ve got 10 things you probably didn’t know. Check it out!
Google did not create Android
Nowadays Google and Android are synonymous with each other, but you may be surprised to find out that was not always the case. Android was founded in 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. The founders had strong ties to T-Mobile. Andy Rubin created the ultra-popular T-Mobile Sidekick, and Nick Sears was vice president at T-Mobile. So you can see why T-Mobile landed the first Android phone.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Google acquired Android Inc. Rubin, Miner, and White all stayed with Android through the acquisition. Together they developed what we now know as the Android OS. In fact Rubin’s nickname is where the name “Android” came from. Many people consider Android to be one of Google’s best acquisitions. 10 years after the acquisition Android has ballooned to control 85% of the smartphone OS market share.
Many critics felt Android would fail miserably
Android is nearly universally praised nowadays, but back in the day critics were a lot more skeptical. At the time of Android’s emergence the iPhone was fresh and Microsoft and Blackberry were leading the way in smartphones. The idea of a web search and email company making phones didn’t seem like a slam dunk.
In late 2008 during a round-table discussion about mobile the question was asked “we have to talk about Android, right?” A member from Pandora adamantly responded “Why? Why do we have to talk about Android – nobody cares.” Obviously Pandora eventually wised up and created an Android app.
Check out this comment from a Wired article that named the G1 one of 2008’s worst cell phones. “The G1’s unveiling was a lot like the Bigfoot press conference — a long, awkward presentation that left a lot of people confused and/or disappointed. The handset poised to out-iPhone the iPhone had a laundry list of hardware letdowns: bulky, unattractive, and saddled with yet another proprietary headphone jack.”
The first Android prototype looked like a Blackberry
Many people believe that if it wasn’t for the iPhone the first Android device would have looked drastically different. In 2007, before Apple showed off the original iPhone, the first Android prototype was floating around. The device called “Sooner” had a portrait keyboard, call and end buttons, track pad, and no touchscreen. The Android UI even resembled the Blackberry interface.
Then the iPhone was announced. It had no physical keyboard, a big display for the time, and a revolutionary touchscreen interface. The next Android device we saw after that, the T-Mobile G1, also had a big display and a touchscreen interface. The Blackberry-esque prototype never came to market. We can’t say for certain that the iPhone had any effect on Google’s vision for Android, but it wouldn’t be out of the question.
Android 1.0 and 1.1 were not named after desserts
For a long time Google has been nicknaming new versions of Android with desserts. At the time of this article we are at Android 5.0 “Lollipop,’ and before that it was KitKat, Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich, and so on. Android fans are always trying to predict what the next name will be. Google even got in on the fun with this teaser video for Android 5.0.
What you may not know is the first couple versions of Android were not named after desserts. Android 1.0 was sometimes called “Alpha” or “Astro Boy.” Android 1.1 kind has a dessert name, but not in the order that we know today. It was known internally as “Petit Four,” which is a small French appetizer. Android 1.5 “Cupcake” was the first version to have an official dessert nickname.
The “A” and “B” dessert names for Android 1.0 and 1.1 will never be known. If we had to guess which names they would have used we would go with “Apple Pie” and “Banana Split.” What would you guess?
Android 3.0 is the only version to never run on phones
In 2015 we know that Android is built to run on many different types of devices. Android 5.0 can run on phones, tablets, watches, cars, and TVs. That hasn’t always been the case. In 2010 the world got tablet fever when Apple announced the original iPad. Android manufacturers wanted to cash in on the tablet frenzy, but Android was only made for phones at that time.
Samsung had some luck using Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the mid-sized Galaxy Tab 7.0, but if Android was going to compete with the 10-inch iPad it needed some major work. At CES 2011 the world got its first look at Android 3.0 Honeycomb on the Motorola XOOM. It had a completely redesigned interface made especially for tablets.
If there is an Android version that can be called a failure it would be Honeycomb. Every manufacturer on the face of the Earth was making Android tablets, but they were expensive and lacked apps. Google eventually scrapped Honeycomb and built future versions of Android to work on all screen sizes. One of the lasting features of Honeycomb is the virtual nav buttons we still use today.
The first Android device didn’t even have a virtual keyboard or 3.5mm headset jack
If you would go back to 2008 and tell the world that nearly all phones in the future won’t have physical keyboards you would be laughed out of the building. At that time the most popular phone was a Blackberry, which of course has an iconic keyboard. The idea of a device without a keyboard didn’t become popular until the original iPhone, but even then there were many skeptics.
Even the first Android device, the T-Mobile G1, came with a slide-out physical keyboard, but you might be more surprised to learn what it didn’t have. The G1 shipped with Android 1.1 and no virtual keyboard. You had to use the physical keyboard to type, which meant you couldn’t do any one-handed typing. The G1 finally got a virtual keyboard six months later with Android 1.5.
The other thing the G1 didn’t have could not be fixed with a software update. HTC inexplicably did not include a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack in the G1. Instead, it came with a proprietary adapter you had to use. This was a common complaint in reviews for the G1.
Android got Google’s CEO kicked off Apple’s board
The relationship between Google and Apple hasn’t always been so strained. The iPhone used to come with Google Maps and YouTube apps. Over time as competition between iOS and Android has picked up the companies have become not so friendly. This was most evident in 2009 when Google CEO Eric Schmidt was forced to resign from Apple’s board of directors. Steve Jobs had this to say:
“Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest.”
You can imagine there were a lot of sensational headlines about this story, but it makes a lot of sense. What good is a board member that can’t be present at meetings due to a conflict of interest?
WebOS could have destroyed Android, but…
As we’ve already gone over, people were a bit skeptical of Android at the beginning. WebOS, on the other hand, was universally praised and adored when it was announced. At that time there were very few Android devices in the world. By the time WebOS launched Android 1.5 was still fresh and no one had heard of the Motorola DROID.
The timing was perfect for WebOS to stomp out Android and be the true contender to iOS, at least that’s what the critics thought. It could have happened if it wasn’t for some strange decisions by Palm. They launched the first WebOS device on Sprint instead of one of the big carriers, and the marketing campaign was very strange. Still, the Palm Pre sold very well the first month, but dropped off majorly after that.
A couple of months later Verizon announced the Motorola DROID and Apple was onto to the iPhone 3GS. Palm and WebOS fizzled out, Google continued to improve Android, and now it’s a mobile powerhouse. Google even hired the designer of WebOS, Matias Duarte, to improve Android’s interface and design.
Sony made the first Android smartwatch in 2010
In 2014 Google announced Android Wear, a special version of Android for smartwatches. Since then we’ve seen a bunch of Android smartwatches flood the market. You might think that these are the first Android smartwatches to be made, but one company beat everyone to the punch.
Way back in 2010 Sony (Ericsson) launched the LiveView watch. It connected to Android phones to display Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, SMS, and control the phone’s media player. In 2013 Sony launched the SmartWatch 2 with many of the same features. It wasn’t until this time that Samsung launched their first Android smartwatch. Sony had everyone beat.
Phandroid is the first Android-focused website in the world
On November 5th 2007 Google officially announced Android. On that very same day, the first post on Phandroid.com was published. We’ve been reporting on Android news for over 7 years. Wired.com even wrote a short article about Phandroid, saying “Android already has Phandroids.”
Here’s a rough look at what Phandroid looked like back then. The site has changed a lot over the years, but one thing hasn’t: our dedication to Android. No one has been doing this longer than us and we plan on keeping it that way. Whether you’ve been here since the beginning or just started reading we hope you stick around to see what else Android has to offer.
Did you know all of these things? What was the first Android device you owned? What version of Android did it run? Share your Android stories with us below!