2003-10-01 to Present
Palo Alto, California, U.SAndroid is a mobile operating system based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and other open source software, designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Android is developed by a consortium of developers known as the Open Handset Alliance, with the main contributor and commercial marketer being Google.
Android Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. Rubin described the Android project as "tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences". The early intentions of the company were to develop an advanced operating system for digital cameras, and this was the basis of its pitch to investors in April 2004. The company then decided that the market for cameras was not large enough for its goals, and by five months later it had diverted its efforts and was pitching Android as a handset operating system that would rival Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.
Rubin had difficulty attracting investors early on, and Android was facing eviction from its office space. Steve Perlman, a close friend of Rubin, brought him $10,000 in cash in an envelope and shortly thereafter wired an undisclosed amount as seed funding. Perlman refused a stake in the company, and has stated: "I did it because I believed in the thing, and I wanted to help Andy."
Google acquired Android Inc in July 2005. for at least $50 million. Its key employees, including Rubin, Miner, and White, joined Google as part of the acquisition. Not much was known about the secretive Android at the time, with the company having provided few details other than that it was making software for mobile phones. At Google, the team led by Rubin developed a mobile device platform powered by the Linux kernel. Google marketed the platform to handset makers and carriers on the promise of providing a flexible, upgradeable system. Google had "lined up a series of hardware components and software partners and signaled to carriers that it was open to various degrees of cooperation".
Speculation about Google's intention to enter the mobile communications market continued to build through December 2006. An early prototype had a close resemblance to a BlackBerry phone, with no touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard, but the arrival of 2007's Apple iPhone meant that Android "had to go back to the drawing board". Google later changed its Android specification documents to state that "Touchscreens will be supported", although "the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption, therefore a touchscreen cannot completely replace physical buttons".
On November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of technology companies including Google, device manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung, wireless carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile, and chipset makers such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, unveiled itself, with a goal to develop "the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices". Within a year, the Open Handset Alliance faced two other open-source competitors, the Symbian Foundation and the LiMo Foundation, the latter also developing a Linux-based mobile operating system like Google. In September 2007, InformationWeek covered an Evalueserve study reporting that Google had filed several patent applications in the area of mobile telephony.
The mascot of Android is a green android robot, as related to the software's name. Although it has no official name, the Android team at Google reportedly call it "Bugdroid". Due to Android's high popularity in the 2010s, it has become one of the most recognizable icons in the technology world. It was designed by then-Google graphic designer Irina Blok on November 5, 2007, when Android was announced. Its popularity amongst the development team eventually led to Google adopting it as an official icon as part of the Android logo when it launched to consumers in 2008.
By 2008, both Nokia and BlackBerry announced touch-based smartphones to rival the iPhone 3G, and Android's focus eventually switched to just touchscreens. The first commercially available smartphone running Android was the HTC Dream, also known as T-Mobile G1, announced on September 23, 2008.
In 2010, Google launched its Nexus series of devices, a lineup in which Google partnered with different device manufacturers to produce new devices and introduce new Android versions. The series was described as having "played a pivotal role in Android's history by introducing new software iterations and hardware standards across the board", and became known for its "bloat-free" software with "timely ... updates".
On August 12, 2010, Oracle sued Google over claimed infringement of copyrights and patents related to the Java programming language. Oracle originally sought damages up to $6.1 billion, but this valuation was rejected by a United States federal judge who asked Oracle to revise the estimate. In response, Google submitted multiple lines of defense, counterclaiming that Android did not infringe on Oracle's patents or copyright, that Oracle's patents were invalid, and several other defenses. They said that Android's Java runtime environment is based on Apache Harmony, a clean room implementation of the Java class libraries, and an independently developed virtual machine called Dalvik. In May 2012, the jury, in this case, found that Google did not infringe on Oracle's patents, and the trial judge ruled that the structure of the Java APIs used by Google was not copyrightable. The parties agreed to zero dollars in statutory damages for a small amount of copied code. On May 9, 2014, the Federal Circuit partially reversed the district court ruling, ruling in Oracle's favor on the copyrightability issue, and remanding the issue of fair use to the district court.
At its developer conference in May 2013, Google announced a special version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, where, instead of using Samsung's own Android customization, the phone ran "stock Android" and was promised to receive new system updates fast. The device would become the start of the Google Play edition program and was followed by other devices, including the HTC One Google Play edition, and Moto G Google Play edition.
In June 2014, Google announced Android One, a set of "hardware reference models" that would "allow device makers to easily create high-quality phones at low costs", designed for consumers in developing countries. In September, Google announced the first set of Android One phones for release in India. However, Recode reported in June 2015 that the project was "a disappointment", citing "reluctant consumers and manufacturing partners" and "misfires from the search company that has never quite cracked hardware".
In 2015, Ars Technica wrote that "Earlier this week, the last of the Google Play edition Android phones in Google's online storefront were listed as "no longer available for sale" and that "Now they're all gone, and it looks a whole lot like the program has wrapped up".
Plans to relaunch Android One surfaced in August 2015, with Africa announced as the next location for the program a week later. A report from The Information in January 2017 stated that Google is expanding its low-cost Android One program into the United States, although The Verge notes that the company will presumably not produce the actual devices itself.
In December 2015, Google announced that the next major release of Android (Android Nougat) would switch to OpenJDK, which is the official open-source implementation of the Java platform, instead of using the now-discontinued Apache Harmony project as its runtime. The code reflecting this change was also posted to the AOSP source repository. In its announcement, Google claimed this was part of an effort to create a "common code base" between Java on Android and other platforms. Google later admitted in a court filing that this was part of an effort to address the disputes with Oracle, as its use of OpenJDK code is governed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) with a linking exception, and that "any damages claim associated with the new versions expressly licensed by Oracle under OpenJDK would require a separate analysis of damages from earlier releases". In June 2016, a United States federal court ruled in favor of Google, stating that its use of the APIs was fair use.
Google introduced the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones in October 2016, marketed as being the first phones made by Google, and exclusively featured certain software features, such as the Google Assistant, before a wider rollout. The Pixel phones replaced the Nexus series, with a new generation of Pixel phones launched in October 2017, 2018, 2019
In May 2019, the operating system became entangled in the trade war between China and the United States involving Huawei which like many other tech firms have become dependent on access to the Android platform. In the summer of 2019, Huawei announced it would create an alternative operating system to Android known as Harmony OS, and have filed for intellectual property rights across major global markets. Huawei does not currently have any plans to replace Android in the near future, as Harmony OS is designed for the internet of things devices, rather than for smartphones.
On August 22, 2019, it was announced that Android "Q" would officially be branded as Android 10, ending the historic practice of naming major versions after desserts. Google stated that these names were not "inclusive" to international users (due either to the aforementioned foods not being internationally known, or being difficult to pronounce in some languages). On the same day, Android Police reported that Google had commissioned a statue of a giant number "10" to be installed in the lobby of the developers' new office. Android 10 was released on September 3, 2019, to Google Pixel phones first.