FoundationAndroid, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, United States in October, 2003 by Andy Rubin (co-founder of Danger), Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire Communications, Inc.), Nick Sears (once VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (headed design and interface development at WebTV) to develop, in Rubin's words "...smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences". Despite the obvious past accomplishments of the founders and early employees, Android Inc. operated secretly, revealing only that it was working on software for mobile phones. That same year, Rubin ran out of money. Steve Perlman, a close friend of Rubin, brought him $10,000 in cash in an envelope and refused a stake in the company.
Acquisition by GoogleGoogle acquired Android Inc. on August 17, 2005, making Android Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Google Inc. Key employees of Android Inc., including Andy Rubin, Rich Miner and Chris White, stayed at the company after the acquisition. Not much was known about Android Inc. at the time of the acquisition, but many assumed that Google was planning to enter the mobile phone market with this move.
Speculation about Google's intention to enter the mobile communications market continued to build through December 2006. Reports from the BBC and The Wall Street Journal noted that Google wanted its search and applications on mobile phones and it was working hard to deliver that. Print and online media outlets soon reported rumors that Google was developing a Google-branded handset. Some speculated that as Google was defining technical specifications, it was showing prototypes to cell phone manufacturers and network operators.
In September 2007, InformationWeek covered an Evalueserve study reporting that Google had filed several patent applications in the area of mobile telephony.
Open Handset AllianceOn November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of several companies which include Broadcom Corporation, Google, HTC, Intel, LG, Marvell Technology Group, Motorola, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Texas Instruments unveiled itself. The goal of the Open Handset Alliance is to develop open standards for mobile devices. On the same day, the Open Handset Alliance also unveiled their first product, Android, a mobile device platform built on the Linux kernel version 2.6.
On December 9, 2008, 14 new members joined, including ARM Holdings, Atheros Communications, Asustek Computer Inc, Garmin Ltd, Huawei Technologies, PacketVideo, Softbank, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba Corp, and Vodafone Group Plc.
Android Open Source ProjectThe Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is led by Google, and is tasked with the maintenance and development of Android. According to the project "The goal of the Android Open Source Project is to create a successful real-world product that improves the mobile experience for end users." AOSP also maintains the Android Compatibility Program, defining an "Android compatible" device "as one that can run any application written by third-party developers using the Android SDK and NDK", to prevent incompatible Android implementations. The compatibility program is also optional and free of charge, with the Compatibility Test Suite also free and open-source.
Version historyAndroid has seen a number of updates since its original release, each fixing bugs and adding new features. Each version is named, in alphabetical order, after a dessert.
- Recent releases
- 2.3 Gingerbread refined the user interface, improved the soft keyboard and copy/paste features, improved gaming performance, added SIP support (VoIP calls), and added support for Near Field Communication.
- 3.0 Honeycomb was a tablet-oriented release which supports larger screen devices and introduces many new user interface features, support for multi-core processors, hardware acceleration for graphics and full system encryption. The first device featuring this version, the Motorola Xoom tablet, went on sale in February 2011.
- 3.1 Honeycomb, released in May 2011, added support for extra input devices, USB host mode for transferring information directly from cameras and other devices, and the Google Movies and Books apps.
- 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, announced on October 19, 2011, brought Honeycomb features to smartphones and added new features including facial recognition unlock, network data usage monitoring and control, unified social networking contacts, photography enhancements, offline email searching, app folders, and information sharing using NFC. Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich is the latest Android version that is available to phones. The source code of Android 4.0.1 was released on November 14, 2011.
Designkernel based on the Linux kernel, with middleware, libraries and APIs written in C and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries based on Apache Harmony. Android uses the Dalvik virtual machine with just-in-time compilation to run Dalvik dex-code (Dalvik Executable), which is usually translated from Java bytecode.
The main hardware platform for Android is the ARM architecture. There is support for x86 from the Android x86 project, and Google TV uses a special x86 version of Android.
LinuxAndroid's kernel is based on the Linux kernel and has further architecture changes by Google outside the typical Linux kernel development cycle. Android does not have a native X Window System nor does it support the full set of standard GNU libraries, and this makes it difficult to port existing Linux applications or libraries to Android.
Certain features that Google contributed back to the Linux kernel, notably a power management feature called wakelocks, were rejected by mainline kernel developers, partly because kernel maintainers felt that Google did not show any intent to maintain their own code. Even though Google announced in April 2010 that they would hire two employees to work with the Linux kernel community, Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current Linux kernel maintainer for the -stable branch, said in December 2010 that he was concerned that Google was no longer trying to get their code changes included in mainstream Linux. Some Google Android developers hinted that "the Android team was getting fed up with the process", because they were a small team and had more urgent work to do on Android.
However, in September 2010, Linux kernel developer Rafael J. Wysocki added a patch that improved the mainline Linux wakeup events framework. He said that Android device drivers that use wakelocks can now be easily merged into mainline Linux, but that Android's opportunistic suspend features should not be included in the mainline kernel. In 2011 Linus Torvalds said that "eventually Android and Linux would come back to a common kernel, but it will probably not be for four to five years".
In December 2011, Greg Kroah-Hartman announced the start of the Android Mainlining Project, which aims to put some Android drivers, patches and features back into the Linux kernel, starting in Linux 3.3. further integration being expected for Linux Kernel 3.4.
- Handset layouts
- The platform is adaptable to larger, VGA, 2D graphics library, 3D graphics library based on OpenGL ES 2.0 specifications, and traditional smartphone layouts.
- SQLite, a lightweight relational database, is used for data storage purposes.
- Android supports connectivity technologies including GSM/EDGE, IDEN, CDMA, EV-DO, UMTS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC and WiMAX.
- SMS and MMS are available forms of messaging, including threaded text messaging and now Android Cloud To Device Messaging (C2DM) is also a part of Android Push Messaging service.
- Multiple language support
- Android supports multiple languages.
- Web browser
- Java support
- While most Android applications are written in Java, there is no Java Virtual Machine in the platform and Java byte code is not executed. Java classes are compiled into Dalvik executables and run on Dalvik, a specialized virtual machine designed specifically for Android and optimized for battery-powered mobile devices with limited memory and CPU. J2ME support can be provided via third-party applications.
- Media support
- Android supports the following audio/video/still media formats: WebM, H.263, H.264 (in 3GP or MP4 container), MPEG-4 SP, AMR, AMR-WB (in 3GP container), AAC, HE-AAC (in MP4 or 3GP container), MP3, MIDI, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WAV, JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP.
- Streaming media support
- RTP/RTSP streaming (3GPP PSS, ISMA), HTML progressive download (HTML5 <video> tag). Adobe Flash Streaming (RTMP) and HTTP Dynamic Streaming are supported by the Flash plugin. Apple HTTP Live Streaming is supported by RealPlayer for Android, and by the operating system in Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).
- Additional hardware support
- Android can use video/still cameras, touchscreens, GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, barometers, magnetometers, dedicated gaming controls, proximity and pressure sensors, thermometers, accelerated 2D bit blits (with hardware orientation, scaling, pixel format conversion) and accelerated 3D graphics.
- Android has native support for multi-touch which was initially made available in handsets such as the HTC Hero. The feature was originally disabled at the kernel level (possibly to avoid infringing Apple's patents on touch-screen technology at the time). Google has since released an update for the Nexus One and the Motorola Droid which enables multi-touch natively.
- Supports A2DP, AVRCP, sending files (OPP), accessing the phone book (PBAP), voice dialing and sending contacts between phones. Keyboard, mouse and joystick (HID) support is available in Android 3.1+, and in earlier versions through manufacturer customizations and third-party applications.
- Video calling
- Android does not support native video calling, but some handsets have a customized version of the operating system that supports it, either via the UMTS network (like the Samsung Galaxy S) or over IP. Video calling through Google Talk is available in Android 2.3.4 and later. Gingerbread allows Nexus S to place Internet calls with a SIP account. This allows for enhanced VoIP dialing to other SIP accounts and even phone numbers. Skype 2.1 offers video calling in Android 2.3, including front camera support.
- Multitasking of applications is available.
- Voice based features
- Google search through voice has been available since initial release. Voice actions for calling, texting, navigation, etc. are supported on Android 2.2 onwards.
- Android supports tethering, which allows a phone to be used as a wireless/wired Wi-Fi hotspot. Before Android 2.2 this was supported by third-party applications or manufacturer customizations.
- Screen capture
- Android supports capturing a screenshot by pressing the power and volume-down buttons at the same time. Prior to Android 4.0, the only methods of capturing a screenshot were through manufacturer and third-party customizations or otherwise by using a PC connection (DDMS developer's tool). These alternative methods are still available with the latest Android.
- External storage
- Most Android devices include microSD slot and can read microSD cards formatted with FAT32, Ext3fs or Ext4fs file system. To allow use of high-capacity storage media such as USB flash drives and USB HDDs, many Android tablets also include USB 'A' receptacle. Storage formatted with FAT32 is handled by Linux Kernel VFAT driver, while 3rd party solutions are required to handle other popular file systems such as NTFS, HFS Plus and exFAT.