5 things you might not know about the world’s most popular OS

It was 15 years and a week ago, November 5, 2007. After months of speculation about a potential rival to the iPhone, launched a few months earlier, Google revealed something quite different No, he will not launch a “GPhone”, but something more ambitious: android. A complete platform for mobile terminals, created by the Web giant for two years in collaboration with major names in the industry, such as Qualcomm, Motorola, HTC or the operator T-Mobile.

Android thus represents a new model for the nascent smartphone industry, different from the fully integrated logic of Apple or Blackberry. But also Microsoft (which offers a monolithic Windows Mobile under license) or Nokia, the star of the time, which purred in Symbian OS. Because, inspired by philosophy open-source, Android offers smartphone manufacturers a platform that can be accessed free of charge: a customizable OS based on the Linux kernel, a common interface… But also a market place for applications and free tools for application developers. Google sees this as an excellent way to create its own services and applications useful on mobile devices, whose use is still emerging.

Credit: HTC // The HTC Dream, the first Android smartphone

The first smartphone under Android would not see the light of day until the following year, on September 23, 2008. The HTC Dream was far from matching the performance and the revolutionary interface of the iPhone. But the enthusiasm of manufacturers around the Android ecosystem and the annual update of the OS will quickly allow Google and its partners to climb the slope against Apple. From 2010, especially thanks to the success of the Motorola Droid and the launch of the Galaxy S range, from Samsung, the use of Android exploded. By the end of 2011, it had become the dominant operating system for smartphones. A place it continues to hold even more today, with a massive market share of 71% by October 2022, according to Statcounter. Against 28.4% for iOS, now the serious competitor.

To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of what is now the most famous OS in the world, we will not give you the entire history of its versions with the names of different and different cakes. We prefer to pick out some little anecdotes that you might not know!

Android was originally a camera OS

We’re in 2003 and Andy Rubin is making the angelic leap. This veteran engineer, who has worked at Apple for a long time, left Danger, a company he founded a few years ago. The risk made Sidekick for the operator T-Mobile: it is a “proto-smartphone”, which offers a large screen (for the time) as well as a complete keyboard, enough to exchange messages and – surf (small ). It was a commercial success, but Rubin saw more. He founded Android, with the ambition of designing an OS open-source… for the cameras!

It must be said that at that time, the sale of digital cameras exploded, and that the modern smartphone did not exist. So Rubin initially envisioned an open platform for “smart cameras”. The idea is not only to offer a free OS, but also a cloud photo storage service, called “Android Datacenter”, where he can make money.

One of the first presentations of Android
Credit: Android via Business Insider // An excerpt from one of the first Android presentations. Rubin targets the market for feature phones in the beginning.

But he would change his tune in 2004, considering the mobile phone market potentially juicier. In addition, it was not aimed at the beginning to compete with the kings of the “PDA” of the time: it instead saw Android in a segment located between the basic mobile phones and the high-end terminals offered by Microsoft (with PocketPCs) or Palm. The idea remains the same: to offer the softwareand get paid to sell additional content: services, applications, etc.

Samsung laughed when it discovered Android (and bit its fingers)

The beginning of Android was not easy. Rubin struggled to sell his idea to hardware manufacturers. He had a very small team of less than ten people, and his idea did not sit well with some of the industrialists he wanted to attract. The book Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, by Fred Vogelstein, offers a brilliant anecdote on this subject. Rubin recounts a tense meeting in Seoul in 2005, when he presented Android to Samsung.

“I entered the meeting room with my entire team – me and six people. The 20 Samsung leaders take turns and place themselves on the other side of the table. We sat down first, because I was not used to Asian culture at that time. The CEO arrived. Everyone was waiting for him to sit down before sitting down, like a military court. So I’ll start mine pitch. I explained my Android vision to them, as if they were venture capital experts. And finally, when I have said everything, when I run out of breath… I only get a great silence as an answer. Complete silence. Then I heard whispers in Korean, and one of the CEO’s lieutenants, after whispering in his ear, said to me: “No, but are you dreaming? You and your little army will do it all? Only six people. Are you on drugs?” They laughed until we left the room. »

Samsung Galaxy S
Credit: Samsung // The very first Galaxy S, launched with Android Eclair (2.1). Samsung missed out on Android, but made up for it quickly with the Galaxy S, which is still one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year

Two weeks later, Google bought Android for $50 million. A good deal. Acting in anger at Samsung: the day after the acquisition, Rubin received a phone call from the Samsung executive who had mocked him a few days earlier, asking for a new meeting to discuss his ” very interesting proposal “. It’s too late, but Samsung is about to take control of Android.

The iPhone completely upends Google’s plans

It’s January 9, 2007. It’s been two years since Google bought Android. CES, the unforgettable technology show, has just started… Andy Rubin is in Las Vegas, in a chauffeur-driven car, on his way to a meeting with some smartphone operator or manufacturer. And in streaming, he watched Steve Jobs… steal the show from the entire living room, presenting the iPhone for the first time. A revolution. Such an interesting article by The Atlantic, Rubin was so stunned by the Apple boss’ presentation that he asked his driver to stop so he could see the conference to the end!

The first Android smartphone, Easier
Credit: Google / The Sooner, the first Android smartphone, looked like a BlackBerry. The presentation of the iPhone pushed Google to completely review its copy.

The cow ! he shouted to the car’s companion. “I don’t think we can sell this phone”. The phone in question, the first “Google Phone” under Android, responds to the code name Soon and, while it has many smart features, it looks a little ridiculous against the iPhone’s large screen and touchscreen technology. multi-touch.

The teams in charge of Android therefore quickly returned to work to correct the situation and offer a reliable alternative to the iPhone. the Soon, designed in collaboration with HTC, thus buried in favor of another project, the dream, therefore. Also designed in collaboration with the Taiwanese brand, this smartphone with a large touch screen was released the following year… without completely removing the physical keyboard.

The famous Android logo was inspired by… the toilet door

It is impossible to think of Android without mentioning its important logo, this little stylish green android. This is the work of Irina Blok, a designer who worked in 2007 for Google. Its logo is interesting in many ways. First is him open-source, like the OS it represents. In other words, anyone can copy it, modify it, modify it as they wish, as long as they respect the license. Creative Commons.

Android logo
Credit: Google, Irina Blok

This is also what contributes to its success: the little character has been hijacked ten thousand times! Google also uses its human image to humanize Android: with each major version launch, it continues the tradition of erecting a statue in its likeness. We especially remember that in Android Nougat (7.x) maliciously built by Google… in Montélimar, of course.

Android Nougat in Montelimar
Credit: Google // The statue shown in Montélimar at the launch of Android Nougat

The simplicity of the Android logo, Irina Blok did not go far to find it. Quoted in an article by New York Times, he explained that he was simply inspired… by the simplistic pictograms representing men and women on the doors of the toilets. What could be more universal?

Android maybe open-sourceGoogle is the real master of the board

Google brags a lot about designing an “open” ecosystem for mobile with Android. And indeed, there is a free and open source version of Android, Android Open Source Project, which anyone can freely download and use for their own projects. But this is not what you will find in most commercial phones. In fact, AOSP does not offer some bricks, once 100% proprietary, that make your smartphone really useful. For example this is the case of Google Play Store, important for quick download of applications. But also some important applications, like Maps, or YouTube. And finally the Google services, which are used by many applications to work properly. To get this important software, smartphone manufacturers must all sign a thick contract with Google, which includes many obligations, including the presence of shop of Google and its flagship software. Huawei, a former smartphone champion denied working with Google in 2019 by the American authorities, is a proof of this: without its support, everything can collapse very, very quickly.

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