A brief history of Android

From 0 to 80% in 6 years

Google’s mobile operating system, Android, now powers a whopping 80% of all smartphones and tablets worldwide. In comparison, Apple’s iOS only powers 13% of all mobile devices, down from 16% last year.

So how did Android swallow a majority of the mobile market within 6 years of it’s almost ten year history? Let’s find out…


Android Inc. is founded by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. Andy Rubin and the team worked on the precursor to Android, which they aimed would run on phones and digital cameras.


Andy Rubin runs out of funds to run Android Inc. Friend and former Apple engineer Steve Perlman brings Rubin $10,000 in cash, saving Android Inc. Perlman eventually loaned the company $100,000 and refused a stake in the company.


Google buys out Android. Key employees like Rubin and Miner stayed even after the acquisition.


January – Apple unveils the iPhone at its annual MacWorld convention. The phone is released on June 17th.

November 5th – Google launches the Open Handset Alliance (or OHA), a consortium of companies aimed at developing open standards for mobile devices, and unveils Android to the public.


February – Qualcomm and Texas Instruments (part of the OHA) create chipsets compatible with Android.

September 23 – Android 1.0 is released.

October 28 – The HTC Dream (known as the G1 in the USA) is launched in a partnership between T-Mobile, Google, and HTC. This is the first android smartphone ever.


April 30 – Android 1.5 “Cupcake” is released.

Q2 2009 – Android has captured 2.8% of the mobile market.

September 15 – Android 1.6 “Donut” is released.

October 26 – Android 2.0 “Eclair” is released.

November – Motorola Droid is announced. A Verizon exclusive, the Droid marks the beginning of Android’s rise in popularity and marketshare.


January – The Nexus One is launched in a partnership between HTC and Google. The phone is sold unlocked and exclusively online for $529.

May 22 – Android 2.2 “Froyo” is released.

June – Samsung releases it’s Galaxy S smartphone. Variants would launch on multiple carriers around the world and the brand would prove popular. At the time of writing, Samsung has sold more than 100 million Galaxy phones.

June – HTC and Sprint release the EVO 4G. The first 4G smartphone, the EVO was widely regarded as the best iPhone alternative at the time.

July – With lackluster sales due to its online exclusivity and lack of carrier subsidies, the Nexus One is discontinued by Google in July of 2010.

Q4 2010 – Android has captured 33% of the market. Android’s marketshare surpasses that of the iPhone’s in the USA.

December 6th – Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” is released alongside the Nexus S, Google’s second attempt at the Nexus program. Manufactured by Samsung, the Nexus S featured similar specifications to the Galaxy S series.


February 22 – Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” is released alongside the Motorola Xoom. Source code is withheld by Google.

Q2 2011 – Android has captured 53% of the market, finally surpassing Blackberry’s marketshare.

October 19 – Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” is released alongside the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. ICS brings the biggest aesthetic changes to Android and works on both phones and tablets.

November – Following its loss in a lawsuit between it and Apple, Samsung launched a massive marketing campaign attacking Apple and the iPhone.


June – Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” is released alongside the Nexus 7, a small tablet created in a collaboration between Google and Asus. Jelly Bean 4.1 features Google Now, a more robust personal assistant than Apple’s Siri, as well as “Project Butter”, which makes Android software smoother on mobile devices.

June 27 – Google unveils the Nexus Q, a media streaming device that was quickly discontinued before the announcement of the Nexus 4.

October 29 – Google announces the Nexus 4, a collaboration between it and LG. The phone launches with Android 4.2, which still bears the name “Jelly Bean.”

October 29 – The Nexus 10, a collaboration between Google and Samsung, is announced alongside the Nexus 4.

Q4 2012 – Android has captured 75% of the market.


July 24 – The second generation Nexus 7 is announced alongside Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean.”

September 3 – Android 4.4 “KitKat” is announced. Nexus 5 is expected to launch alongside it in late October.

So what’s the secret to Android’s success?

In short: Android is free.

Android’s success is attributed to an inherent trait that all widely-available operating systems share. For example, Microsoft’s Windows OS holds over 90% of the computer market because any manufacturer can use it unlike Apple’s OS X.

And unlike OS X and iOS, any hardware manufacturer can use Android. Since Android is paired with Google’s robust services like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Now, the only thing that manufacturers have to provide is good hardware. Because of this, Android has been a hit in markets where the iPhone proves too costly.

So with 80% of the mobile market share, do you think Apple and Microsoft have room to grow? Chime in with a comment below.

There are 5 comments

  1. Matt Sully

    Regarding the question at the end I feel the opposite is true. Seems to me that Android will continue to capture more and more of the market. Windows phone does have some potential but its not handled well by microsoft and has largely been a failure. And Apple, well. Its Apple. Its locked down. The alternative Android just looks soo much better and gives soo much more. I predict that apple will quietly exit the mobile market by 2015.

  2. Alec

    I think we will have a new competitor in a few years (5 maybe?) That dominates the mobile phone OS market. No single manufacturer dominates the market forever. Nokia literally created the mobile phone industry and dominated it for a while before smart phones came up and look at it now. I think there will be some other new company in the future that will overtake android. In the tech industry, success is short lived.

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