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The Flavors of Google - Android Versions Over the Years

The Flavors of Google - Android Versions Over the Years
Android has found its way into our lives right from mobile phones to LED TVs. This Techspirited article looks at the different versions of this OS over the years.
Alex Mathew
As of September 2013, Google announced a mind-boggling 1 billion activations in total! That is more than 3 times the population of the United States.
The smartphone kingdom is one that has an undisputed king―Android. Although skirmishes with its nearest rival iOS are commonplace, Android ends up with a larger chunk of Apple's pie; this is mainly because Android runs on the devices of various OEMs, whereas iOS runs only on Apple devices.

Now, Google has set its eyes on total world domination, aiming at releasing its OS on other appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves, etc. But this mighty OS had a very humble beginning, way back in 2008, when it was first launched commercially.

Over the years, the OS grew, as incremental upgrades were released frequently. The various versions of Android brought in some real sweet tweaks and features to the platform. All major upgrades are named after confectionery, which perfectly complement the version. These names follow an alphabetical order, starting from v1.5 Cupcake, to the latest v4.4 KitKat. Here's a look at the many flavors of this hugely popular operating system, and its evolution over the years.
Android v1.0
Sept 2008
API level 1
The first version of Android, released on the HTC Dream, might not have set the stage on fire with its feature list, but it surely set the ball rolling for what would turn out to be one of the most powerful mobile operating systems in the world. It featured the Android Market (Google Play) to download applications onto the phone. It had some other smart features like a capable web browser, camera support, Gmail synchronization, Media Player, YouTube video player, etc.

Key features
  • Android Market
  • Web browser with multiple pages
  • Google Talk instant messenger
  • Media Player (audio only)
  • Voice Dialer
  • Notifications in status bar
  • Background wallpapers
Android v1.1
Feb 2009
API level 2
This version of the OS included major bug fixes to the previous version. It also brought introduced some new features, along with a slight increase in processing speed.

Key features
  • Attachments to messages
  • Option to show or hide the dial pad during a call
Android v1.5
Apr 2009
API level 3
This was the first version of the OS to have a codename. This was a major upgrade over the previous version of Android. It brought in support for third-party keyboards, video recording and playback, animated screen transitions, auto-rotation of the UI, etc. Cupcake also brought in smoother and faster transition between the screens. One of its most popular features was the support for widgets on the home screen.

Key features
  • Third-party keyboard support
  • Widgets
  • Video recording and playback
  • Animated screen transitions
  • Auto-rotation
  • Bluetooth auto-pairing and stereo support (A2DP and AVRCP)
Android v1.6
Sept 2009
API level 4
Donut was a marginal upgrade over the previous version of the OS. It introduced a lot of features like text-to-speech, improved Android Market, faster camera, multiple selection of images, WVGA screen support, etc.

Key features
  • Multilingual text-to-speech support
  • Faster camera
  • WVGA resolution screen support
  • Multiselect in photos
Android v2.0
Oct 2009
API level 5
Eclair brought about major changes to the Android OS. Apart from a receiving a speed boost, the update also enabled support for a lot of screen resolutions. The other features of this update included multiple email account support, Microsoft Exchange email support, an integrated contact list, new camera features, better Google Maps, live wallpapers, etc.

Key features
  • Multiple email accounts
  • Microsoft Exchange email
  • Improved keyboard
  • Faster UI
  • Google Maps 3.1.2
  • Live wallpapers
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Integrated contact list
Android v2.0.1
Dec 2009
API level 6
This was a minor update which included bug fixes, UI tweaks, and changes in the framework of the OS.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • UI tweaks
  • Framework behavioral changes
Android v2.1
Jan 2010
API level 7
Another minor update for Eclair, v2.1 was released to fix bugs, and bring about minor changes to its application programming interface (API).

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • API changes
Android v2.2
May 2010
API level 8
Froyo build upon the success of its predecessor, and worked on fixing the issues with it. The update introduced a host of features like speed optimization, Adobe Flash support, USB tethering, improved application launchers, push notifications for emails, installing applications to memory card, etc.

Key features
  • Speed, memory, and performance optimization
  • Adobe Flash
  • USB tethering
  • Push mails
  • Voice dialing over Bluetooth
  • Pinch to zoom in Gallery
  • Auto-update applications in Android Market
  • Save applications to memory card
  • Web browser with Chrome's V8 JavaScript integration
Android v2.2.1
Jan 2011
A minor update that improved the system's overall performance, fixed bugs, and also brought in security updates.

Key features
  • Performance tweaks
  • Bug fixes
  • Security updates
Android v2.2.2
Jan 2011
This update fixed minor bugs, but the main purpose of this update was to fix the infamous SMS routing problem that plagued the Nexus One.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
Android v2.2.3
Nov 2011
The last of the updates for Froyo, this update brought two key security patches to Android.

Key features
  • Security patches
Android v 2.3
Dec 2010
API level 9
Gingerbread was perhaps one of the biggest updates for the Android platform. The UI was a lot more polished, and the OS boasted of some pretty neat features. Some of the additions to the OS included easier-to-navigate UI, speed improvements, native support for SIP VoIP calls, improved keyboard, NFC support, dual-cam support, tweaks to enhance gaming, etc.

Key features
  • Easy navigation of UI
  • Faster transitions
  • NFC support
  • Dual-camera support
  • Support for new sensors
  • Audio enhancements
  • Download Manager
  • SIP VoIP support
  • Improved keyboard
Android v2.3.1
Dec 2010
This was a minor update which fixed a lot of bugs from the earlier release.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
Android v2.3.2
January 2011
This was another minor update that was released to further fix bugs, and improve performance aimed mainly at the Google Nexus S.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • Performance improvements
Android v2.3.3
February 2011
API level 10
Android v2.3.3 was a minor update that brought about several API fixes, and overall system improvements.

Key features
  • API fixes
  • System improvements
Android v2.3.4
April 2011
This Android update introduced the video-chat feature to Google Talk. It also brought in support for the Open Library Accessory function.

Key features
  • Video chat on Google Talk
  • Open Library Accessory support
Android v2.3.5
Jul 2011
This update included several new features like better network connectivity (Nexus S 4G), system improvements, fixes for various issues (especially Bluetooth bug on the Samsung Galaxy S), a better Gmail client, camera enhancements, etc. This update finally helped fix the battery woes of most Android users.

Key features
  • Improved battery life
  • Camera enhancements
  • Improved Gmail client
  • Bug fixes
  • Improved network connectivity
  • Transition effects
Android v2.3.6
Sept 2011
The main aim of this release was to fix various bugs from the earlier release. This also solved the problem with voice search in the previous update.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
Android v2.3.7
September 2011
Google Wallet found its way to Android through this update, which was primarily aimed at the Nexus S 4G.

Key features
  • Google Wallet on Nexus S 4G
Android v3.0
Feb 2011
API level 11

This was the first version of Android released solely for tablets. The entire UI, and other functions were designed to enhance use of the larger screen estate on these devices. It offered a lot of features like holographic user interface, System Bar, Action Bar, improved multitasking, additional camera options, multi-core processor support, etc.

Key features
  • Holographic UI
  • System Bar
  • Action Bar
  • Smooth multitasking
  • Advanced camera settings
  • Redesigned keyboard
  • Multi-core processor support
  • Hardware acceleration
  • User data encryption
Android v3.1
May 2011
API level 12
This update furthered the features on the tablet-centric OS. It brought in several UI tweaks, resizable widgets, support for external hardware like keyboards, pointing devices, joysticks, and gamepads.

Key features
  • UI improvements
  • External hardware support
  • Audio enchancements
  • Resizable widgets
  • Better Wi-Fi performance
Android v3.2
July 2011
API level 13
Android v3.2, still called Honeycomb, brought in a lot of optimization to support more tablets. It also featured a compatibility display mode, which helped view applications that were unable to use the entire screen resolution.

Key features
  • OS optimization for more devices
  • Compatibility display mode
  • Apps granted permission to access files on SD card
  • Advanced developer options
Android 3.2.1
Sept 2011
This update introduced a lot of improvements like easier auto-updates to the Android Markets. It also featured updates for Google Books, Wi-Fi improvements, and better Chinese handwriting prediction.

Key features
  • Easier automatic app update
  • Improved Google Books
  • Wi-Fi improvements
  • Improved Adobe Flash support
Android 3.2.2
Sept 2011
This update was mainly for the Motorola Xoom 4G, and brought in bug fixes, and minor improvements.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • Minor improvements
Android 3.2.3
This update was released for the Xoom tablets, and its aim was to fix bugs.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • Minor improvements
Android 3.2.4
Dec 2011
This update brought the Pay as You Go feature to 3G and 4G tablets.

Key features
  • Pay as You Go on 3G and 4G tablets
Android 3.2.5
Jan 2012
This was yet another update to fix bugs in the Motorola Xoom tablets. It also brought in minor performance improvements to the tablets.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • Performance improvements
Android 3.2.6
Feb 2012
This update fixed the data connectivity issue on the Motorola Xoom 4G, while switching from the airplane mode to normal mode.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
Android v4.0
Oct 2011
API level 14
Another major release for Android phones, the v4.0 featured the on-screen navigation buttons from Honeycomb. The entire UI seemed to get an overhaul, and the screen transitions were smooth and lag free.

Key features
  • On-screen navigation buttons
  • Faster UI
  • Face Unlock
  • Wi-Fi Direct
  • Widgets tab
  • Faster camera
  • Android Beam
  • 1080p video recording support
Android v4.0.1
Oct 2011
This update was released to fix minor bugs on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
Android v4.0.2
Nov 2011
Another update that fixed bugs on the Galaxy Nexus.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
Android v4.0.3
Dec 2011
API level 15
This update fixed a lot of bugs from the previous versions, and brought about a lot of optimizations. It also brought in enhancements to the calendar, better video stabilization, improved graphics, etc.

Key features
  • Bug fixes
  • Optimizations
  • Improved calendar functionality
  • Better graphic support
  • Camera enhancements
Android v4.0.4
Mar 2012
This update addressed the many stability issues with the OS. It also brought in refinements, and new features like camera enhancements, smooth screen transitions and rotation, smarter dialer, etc.

Key features
  • Stability fixes
  • Improved camera performance
  • Smooth screen rotation
  • Smarter dialer
Android 4.1
July 2012
API level 16
This was a major incremental update that brought in much-needed performance improvements to the OS. The most notable improvement was the implementation of 'Project Butter', which made the entire UI extremely fast. The transition effects too were extremely fluid thanks to this update. It also boasted of a lot of features like audio enhancements, improved voice search, Google Chrome as default browser, better graphics, etc.

Key features
  • Smooth UI
  • Fast screen transitions
  • Audio enhancements
  • Offline voice dictation
  • Better voice search
  • Google Wallet
  • Hi-resolution Google+ contact photos
  • Google Chrome as default browser
  • Improved accessibility
Android v4.1.1
July 2012
This update for the Google Nexus 7, fixed the screen orientation bug from the previous updates.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
Android v4.1.2
October 2012
Apart from other bug fixes, this update fixed the issue of screen rotation on the Lock screen of the Nexus 7. Apart from various performance enhancements, it also featured one-finger gesture for interacting with notifications.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
  • Performance enhancements
  • One-finger gesture for notification interaction
Android v4.2
Nov 2012
API level 17
This update brought in a lot of features and enhancements to Jelly Bean. It featured Quick Settings, new unlock options, wireless display support, accessibility tweaks, revamped time-keeping apps, etc.

Key features
  • Quick Settings bar
  • Support for Miracast
  • New time-keeping apps
  • Multi-user options for tablets
  • 'Daydream' screensaver
  • Improved keyboard
  • Photo Sphere
  • Group messaging
Android v4.2.1
Nov 2012
This was an update to fix the bug in the calendar app. It also brought in support for joysticks and gamepads as HIDs.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
  • Support for gamepads and joysticks
Android v4.2.2
Feb 2012
Android v4.2.2 added a few new features, and also fixed some bugs from the previous releases. It also added several performance tweaks to speed up the UI.

Key features
  • Improved Quick Settings bar
  • New notifications
  • Minor bug fixes
  • Performance enhancements
  • Bluetooth streaming fix
Android v4.3
July 2013
API level 18
This update was released under the slogan 'An even sweeter Jelly Bean'. It brought several new features and performance enhancements to Android, like improved Photo Sphere, improved game graphics, support for Bluetooth low energy profiles, improved camera app, etc.

Key features
  • Improved Photo Sphere app
  • Better game graphics
  • Bluetooth low energy profile support
  • Improved camera UI
  • Additional language support
  • Security and performance enhancements
  • Support for 4K resolution
  • Smarter dialer
Android v4.3.1
Oct 2013
This was a minor update mainly aimed at fixing bugs on the Nexus 7 LTE. It also included some tweaks to improve the performance of the device.

Key features
  • Minor bug fixes
  • Performance enhancements
Android v4.4
Oct 2013
API level 19
This is a long-awaited update, initially rumored to be Android v5.0 Key Lime Pie. It integrates all the messaging options into Google Hangouts, apart from bringing in many other performance tweaks. It is also one of the lightest builds of Android and is designed to work with as little as 512 MB of RAM.

Key features
  • Performance enhancements
  • Integrated messaging app
  • Revamped UI
  • Security enhancements
Android continues to flourish and grow at a rapid pace. What makes it such a potent force is the massive user base, supported by a large developer base.
The latest version of Android, KitKat, named after a popular chocolate from Nestle/ Hershey's promises to bring in even more features and enhancements to this hugely popular OS. Apples may well keep the doctor away, but it seems like there's little they can do to stop the march of the Android army!