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Android Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, in October 2003 by Andy RubinRich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White.[14][15] Rubin described the Android project as "tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences".[15] 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.[16] 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.[16][17]

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."[18][19]

In July 2005,[15] Google acquired Android Inc. for at least $50 million.[20] Its key employees, including Rubin, Miner and White, joined Google as part of the acquisition.[15] 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.[15] 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.[21] 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".[attribution needed][22]

Speculation about Google's intention to enter the mobile communications market continued to build through December 2006.[23] 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".[24][25] 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".[26] 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.[27][28]

HTC Dream or T-Mobile G1, the first commercially released device running Android (2008).

On November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of technology companies including Google, device manufacturers such as HTCMotorola and Samsung, wireless carriers such as Sprintand 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".[29][30][31] 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.[32][33]

Since 2008, Android has seen numerous updates which have incrementally improved the operating system, adding new features and fixing bugs in previous releases. Each major release is named in alphabetical order after a dessert or sugary treat, with the first few Android versions being called "Cupcake", "Donut", "Eclair", and "Froyo", in that order. During its announcement of Android KitKat in 2013, Google explained that "Since these devices make our lives so sweet, each Android version is named after a dessert", although a Google spokesperson told CNN in an interview that "It’s kind of like an internal team thing, and we prefer to be a little bit — how should I say — a bit inscrutable in the matter, I’ll say".[34]

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".[35] 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.[36] 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,[37] and Moto G Google Play edition.[38] 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".[39][40]

SchmidtAndy Rubin and Hugo Barra at a 2012 press conference announcing Google's Nexus 7 tablet

From 2008 to 2013, Hugo Barra served as product spokesperson, representing Android at press conferences and Google I/O, Google’s annual developer-focused conference. He left Google in August 2013 to join Chinese phone maker Xiaomi.[41][42] Less than six months earlier, Google's then-CEO Larry Page announced in a blog post that Andy Rubin had moved from the Android division to take on new projects at Google, and that Sundar Pichai would become the new Android lead.[43][44] Pichai himself would eventually switch positions, becoming the new CEO of Google in August 2015 following the company's restructure into the Alphabet conglomerate,[45][46] making Hiroshi Lockheimer the new head of Android.[47][48]

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.[49][50][51] In September, Google announced the first set of Android One phones for release in India.[52][53] 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".[54] Plans to relaunch Android One surfaced in August 2015,[55] with Africa announced as the next location for the program a week later.[56][57] 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.[58][59]

Google introduced the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones in October 2016, marketed as being the first phones made by Google,[60][61] and exclusively featured certain software features, such as the Google Assistant, before wider rollout.[62][63] The Pixel phones replaced the Nexus series,[64] with a new generation of Pixel phones launched in October 2017.[65]



Android's default user interface is mainly based on direct manipulation, using touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, along with a virtual keyboard.[66] Game controllers and full-size physical keyboards are supported via Bluetooth or USB.[67][68] The response to user input is designed to be immediate and provides a fluid touch interface, often using the vibration capabilities of the device to provide haptic feedback to the user. Internal hardware, such as accelerometersgyroscopes and proximity sensors are used by some applications to respond to additional user actions, for example adjusting the screen from portrait to landscape depending on how the device is oriented,[69] or allowing the user to steer a vehicle in a racing game by rotating the device, simulating control of a steering wheel.[70]

Android devices boot to the homescreen, the primary navigation and information "hub" on Android devices, analogous to the desktop found on personal computers. Android homescreens are typically made up of app icons and widgets; app icons launch the associated app, whereas widgets display live, auto-updating content, such as a weather forecast, the user's email inbox, or a news ticker directly on the homescreen.[71] A homescreen may be made up of several pages, between which the user can swipe back and forth.[72] Third-party apps available on Google Play and other app stores can extensively re-theme the homescreen,[73] and even mimic the look of other operating systems, such as Windows Phone.[74] Most manufacturers customize the look and features of their Android devices to differentiate themselves from their competitors.[75]

Along the top of the screen is a status bar, showing information about the device and its connectivity. This status bar can be "pulled" down to reveal a notification screen where apps display important information or updates.[72] Notifications are "short, timely, and relevant information about your app when it’s not in use", and when tapped, users are directed to a screen inside the app relating to the notification.[76] Beginning with Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean", "expandable notifications" allow the user to tap an icon on the notification in order for it to expand and display more information and possible app actions right from the notification.[77]

An All Apps screen lists all installed applications, with the ability for users to drag an app from the list onto the home screen. A Recents screen lets users switch between recently used apps.[72]


Applications ("apps"), which extend the functionality of devices, are written using the Android software development kit (SDK)[78] and, often, the Java programming language.[79] Java may be combined with C/C++,[80] together with a choice of non-default runtimes that allow better C++ support.[81] The Go programming language is also supported, although with a limited set of application programming interfaces (API).[82] In May 2017, Google announced support for Android app development in the Kotlin programming language.[83][84]

The SDK includes a comprehensive set of development tools,[85] including a debuggersoftware libraries, a handset emulator based on QEMU, documentation, sample code, and tutorials. Initially, Google's supported integrated development environment (IDE) was Eclipseusing the Android Development Tools (ADT) plugin; in December 2014, Google released Android Studio, based on IntelliJ IDEA, as its primary IDE for Android application development. Other development tools are available, including a native development kit (NDK) for applications or extensions in C or C++, Google App Inventor, a visual environment for novice programmers, and various cross platform mobile web applications frameworks. In January 2014, Google unveiled an framework based on Apache Cordova for porting ChromeHTML 5 web applications to Android, wrapped in a native application shell.[86]

Android has a growing selection of third-party applications, which can be acquired by users by downloading and installing the application's APK (Android application package) file, or by downloading them using an application store program that allows users to install, update, and remove applications from their devices. Google Play Store is the primary application store installed on Android devices that comply with Google's compatibility requirements and license the Google Mobile Services software.[87][88] Google Play Store allows users to browse, download and update applications published by Google and third-party developers; as of July 2013, there are more than one million applications available for Android in Play Store.[89] As of July 2013, 50 billion applications have been installed.[90][91]Some carriers offer direct carrier billing for Google Play application purchases, where the cost of the application is added to the user's monthly bill.[92] As of May 2017, there are over one billion active users a month for Gmail, Android, Chrome, Google Play and Maps.

Due to the open nature of Android, a number of third-party application marketplaces also exist for Android, either to provide a substitute for devices that are not allowed to ship with Google Play Store, provide applications that cannot be offered on Google Play Store due to policy violations, or for other reasons. Examples of these third-party stores have included the Amazon AppstoreGetJar, and SlideMe. F-Droid, another alternative marketplace, seeks to only provide applications that are distributed under free and open sourcelicenses.[87][93][94][95]

Memory management

Since Android devices are usually battery-powered, Android is designed to manage processes to keep power consumption at a minimum. When an application is not in use the system suspends its operation so that, while available for immediate use rather than closed, it does not use battery power or CPU resources.[96][97] Android manages the applications stored in memory automatically: when memory is low, the system will begin invisibly and automatically closing inactive processes, starting with those that have been inactive for the longest amount of time.[98][99] Lifehacker reported in 2011 that third-party task killer applications were doing more harm than good.[100]

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