From Android 1.0 to Android 9.0, here’s how Google’s OS evolved over a decade

nimble eco friendly battery packs wireless charging pads android
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The smartphone has come a long way since the first iPhone launched in 2007. While Apple’s iOS is arguably the world’s first smartphone operating system, Google’s Android is by far the most popular. Android has evolved significantly since its inception, first being released on an HTC-made T-Mobile device back in 2008. Some might not know, however, that Android’s history dates back before it was available on smartphones.  In fact, Android was first created in 2003 by Andy Rubin, who first started developing the OS for digital cameras. Soon, he realized that the market for digital camera operating systems perhaps wasn’t all that big, and Android, Inc. diverted its attention toward smartphones.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Google purchased Android, Inc., and while not much about Android was known at the time, many took it as a signal that Google would use the platform to enter the phone business. Eventually, Google did enter the smartphone business — but not as a hardware manufacturer. Instead, it marketed Android to other manufacturers, first catching the eye of HTC, who used the platform for the first Android phone, the HTC Dream, in 2008.

Beginning with that initial version of the operating system running on the HTC Dream, join us as we take a look at how Android has changed in the past decade.

Android 1.0 — Android Market, widgets, and notifications (2008)

htc-dream-thumb

Android 1.0 was obviously far less developed than the operating system we know and love today, but there are a few similarities. For example, most agreed that Android pretty much nailed how to deal with notifications, and it included the pull-down notification window that blew the notification system in iOS out of the water.

Another groundbreaking innovation in Android is the Google Play Store, which, at the time, was called the Market. While Apple beat it to the punch by launching the App Store on the iPhone a few months earlier, the fact is that together they kick-started the idea of a centralized place to get all your apps — something that’s hard to imagine not having now.

Apart from the Market, Android 1.0 also boasted the ability to use home screen widgets, a feature that iOS did not have. In fact, iOS still doesn’t let you put widgets on your home screen. Unfortunately, developers couldn’t create their own widgets at the time. That changed in later versions. Last but not least, the first version of Android had deep integration with Gmail, a service that had already taken off at the time.

Android 1.5 Cupcake — Third-party widgets, on-screen keyboard, and a sugary name (2009)

cupcake-24

The first major update to Android not only got a new version number, but it was the first to use Google’s naming scheme, too. Cupcake was significant for a number of reasons, but the most important is probably that it was the first version of Android to have an on-screen keyboard — before that, manufacturers had to include physical keyboards on their devices.

Next up is widgets. While widgets were supported in earlier versions of Android, third-party developers couldn’t create and implement then. Starting with Cupcake, Google opened the widgets SDK to third-party developers, which was an important move. Now, many developers bundle at least one widget with their app.

Can you imagine a world without video? Before Cupcake, Android did not support video capture, so users with earlier versions of Android could only capture photos. That all (thankfully) changed with Cupcake.

Android 1.6 Donut — CDMA, quick search box, and different screen sizes (2009)

android-donut

Android Donut gave users a pretty big update — a much bigger update than the 0.1 version number increase suggests. For example, Donut brought Android to millions of people by adding support for CDMA networks such as Verizon, Sprint, and a number of big networks in Asia.

Donut was really targeted at making Android more user-friendly, but some of the biggest updates were under the hood. For example, Donut was the first version of Android to support different screen sizes, meaning that manufacturers could create devices with the display sizes they wanted and still run Android.

Back to user-friendliness, though. Donut was the first version of Android to include what’s now considered an Android staple — the quick search box. This basically allowed users to quickly search the web, local files, contacts, and more directly from the home screen without having to open any apps.

Donut also introduced a few aesthetic changes to Android, such as a redesigned Android Market, which offered more curation over top free and paid apps.

Android 2.0 Eclair — Google Maps navigation, HTML5 browser support, and new lock screen (2009)

android-eclair

While the updates to Android so far were important, they were still incremental refinements of the same operating system. Around a year after Android was first released, Android 2.0 Eclair made its debut, bringing some massive changes to the operating system, many of which are still around today.

Eclair was the first device to feature Google Maps navigation, for instance, kicking off what soon became the death of the in-car GPS unit. While Maps has changed a lot since then, a few important features showed up in the service that are still present today, such as turn-by-turn navigation and voice guidance. There were turn-by-turn navigation apps at that time, but they were expensive, meaning Google’s move to offer Maps for free was pretty disruptive.

The internet browser in Android Eclair also got revamped for the new operating system. Google added HTML5 support to the browser and the ability to play videos, putting Eclair on par with the ultimate mobile internet machine at the time — aka the iPhone. Last but not least was the lock screen, which got a major refresh and allowed users to swipe to unlock — just like on the iPhone. From the lock screen, users could also change the phone’s mute mode.

Android 2.2 Froyo (2010)

android-froyo

Android Froyo was first released in 2010, and proved why it was an advantage to have a Nexus phone. The Nexus One, which was the first Nexus phone to be released, was also the first phone to get the Android Froyo update. Froyo was  aimed more at refining the Android experience, offering users five home screen panels instead of three, and showing off a redesigned Gallery app.

There were, however, a few under-the-hood improvements. For example, Froyo was the first version of Android to bring mobile hot spot support. Users also finally got the PIN lock screen, which was perfect for those who didn’t really like the pattern lock screen that was previously offered in Android.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread (2010)

android-gingerbread

The Nexus program was finally coming into its own, and the release of Gingerbread confirmed that. Google chose the Samsung-built Nexus S for this one, however, a phone that was derived from Samsung’s highly-successful Galaxy S. Gingerbread was another big Android refinement, and it saw a redesign of Android’s stock widgets and home screen.

Gingerbread also came with an improved keyboard, which offered new coloration for the keys, as well as improved multitouch support, which allowed users to press multiple keys to access a secondary keyboard. Last but not least is that Gingerbread added support for the front-facing camera — what would us selfie-lovers do without that?

Android 3.0 Honeycomb (2011)

android-honeycomb

Google had been making waves in the smartphone industry for a few years now, which made Honeycomb a very interesting release purely because it was targeted at tablets. It was even first showcased on a Motorola device that would eventually become the Xoom.

Honeycomb provided a few design cues as to what would appear in future versions of Android. Instead of accenting the operating system with the classic green Android color, for example, Google switched to blue accents. On top of that, instead of users having to choose home screen widgets from a simple list, where they couldn’t see what the widgets looked like, previews were offered for individual widgets. Perhaps the biggest move in Honeycomb was the fact that it removed the need for the physical button, Instead, the home, back, and menu buttons were all included in the software as virtual buttons, meaning they could be hidden or shown based on the application.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011)

android-ice-cream-sandwich

The Nexus S was a great phone, but it wasn’t the be all and end all of Google’s partnership with Samsung. The two paired up once again for the release of the Galaxy Nexus, which showcased Ice Cream Sandwich, an operating system that brought many of Honeycomb’s features over to the smartphone.

For example, the operating system brought over the aforementioned virtual buttons, as well as the tweaked and refined interface that made use of the blue highlights. Other small features, such as face unlock, data usage analysis, and new apps for mail and calendar, were also included in the update.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (2012)

android-jelly-bean

Android Jelly Beam signaled a new era for the operating system, even if the OS seemed more or less the same as its predecessor. If you dug a little deeper, you would have seen some very important changes. The most important of which was Google Now, which could be accessed with a quick swipe from the home screen and brought information — i.e. calendar events, emails, weather reports — all to a single screen. The feature was really Google’s first major stab at a digital assistant, and it laid the groundwork for future versions of digital assistants, including Google Assistant.

Apart from Google Now, a number of other important additions were implemented in Jelly Bean, such as Project Butter, which was aimed at drastically improving Android’s touch performance by tripling buffering graphics. This eliminated a lot of the stutter in Android and made it a much smoother experience overall. Refreshed font, expandable notifications, greater widget flexibility, and other features were also added in Jelly Bean, rendering it one of the biggest updates to Android so far.

Android 4.4 KitKat (2013)

android-kitkat

The launch of Android 4.4 KitKat coincided with the launch of the Nexus 5, and it came with a number of great features. For example, KitKat represented one of the biggest aesthetic changes to the operating system to date, modernizing the look of Android. The blue accents found in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean were replaced with a more refined white accent, and a number of the stock apps that came with Android were redesigned to show lighter color schemes.

Apart from a new look, KitKat also brought things like the “OK, Google” search command, which allowed the user to access Google Now at any time. It also brought a new phone dialer, full-screen apps, and a new Hangouts app, which offered SMS support along with support for the Hangouts messaging platform.

Android 5.0 Lollipop (2014)

android-lollipop

Android Lollipop, which debuted alongside the Nexus 6, was the first to feature Google’s “Material Design” philosophy. The updates, however, weren’t purely aesthetic — the operating system also exhibited a few major updates under the hood.

Google replaced the aging Dalvik VM with Android Runtime, for example, which boasted ahead-of-time compilation. This essentially meant that part of the processing power required for apps could be conducted before said apps were ever opened. On top of that, we saw a number of notification upgrades, the addition of RAW image support, and a host of other refinements.

Android 5.0 also saw the addition of another version of Android, dubbed Android TV, which brought Android to the big screen and is still in use on plenty of TVs today.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow (2015)

android-marshmallow

Android Marshmallow brought about both design changes and changes under the hood. Most notably, the app menu almost completely changed. Google used a white background instead of black, for instance, and added a search bar to help users quickly find the app they need. Android Marshmallow also brought the addition of the memory manager, which allowed you to check the memory usage of any app used within the past 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours.

Next up are the volume controls. In Marshmallow, you’ll get access to a more comprehensive set of volume controls, allowing you to change the volume for the device, media, and alarms. Security also got a pretty big boost within the operating system. Android officially supported fingerprint sensors beginning with Marshmallow, and permissions got a significant revamp. Instead of apps requesting all permissions upfront when downloaded, permissions are requested on a per-permission basis when they’re required.

Android 7.0 Nougat (2016)

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Android 7.0 Nougat arguably marked one of the biggest upgrades to Android in its 10 years — largely because of how smart the operating system got. In fact, perhaps the biggest change to Android in Nougat is that Google Now was replaced with the now much-respected Google Assistant.

Along with Assistant, Nougat brought an improved notifications system, which tweaked how notifications looked and acted within the OS. Notifications were presented from screen to screen, and unlike previous iterations of Android, they could be grouped together for easy management. Multitasking also got a boost with Nougat. Whether you’re using a phone or a tablet, you’ll be able to use split-screen mode, allowing you to use two apps at once without having to exit out of each app every few minutes.

Android 8.0 Oreo (2017)

android version history

Android Oreo brought the Android platform to version 8.0, and in particular got a ton of multitasking features. Picture-in-picture and native split-screen both made their debuts in Android Oreo, meaning you could continue watching your favorite show on Netflix while browsing the web.

Android Oreo also gave us a whole lot more control over notifications. With Oreo, users were given the ability to turn notification channels on or off, meaning you could get super granular with which notifications show up and what happens when they appear. In particular, notification channels allowed users to sort notifications based on importance. Also notification-related, Oreo brought notification dots, and the ability to snooze notifications.

A few other smaller features showed up in Oreo, too. For example, Google did away with the blob style for emojis, replacing them with emojis that were a little more in line with other platforms. Oreo also gave us auto-enable Wi-Fi, a smart text selector, and so on.

Android 9.0 Pie (2018)

android 9 pie app swticher
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Now, ten years after the launch of Android on smartphones, we’re at Android 9.0 Pie. Android Pie brings with it a number of visual changes — so much so that from a visual perspective, it’s the biggest change to Android in a few years.

Most notably, Android 9.0 Pie does away with the three-button setup that has existed in Android for years, replacing it with a single pill-shaped button and gestures for controlling things like multitasking. Android 9.0 Pie also brings with it some changes to notifications, including extra control over the types of notifications that show up and where they show up, as well as Google’s new “Digital Wellbeing,” a feature that essentially tells you how often you use your phone, the apps that you use the most, and so on. The feature is aimed at helping users better manage their digital lives and curb smartphone addiction.

Other features include adaptive battery, which limits how much battery background apps can use, as well as “App Actions,” which are deep-links to certain app features that show up straight from the app drawer.

That’s a brief history of Android to date. The mobile operating system just hit its 10-year anniversary, despite the current version being called Android 9.0 Pie.

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Snap, then shop? Snapchat’s camera will soon buy stuff from Amazon

snapchat camera shop on amazon visual search
Snapchat

Snapchat’s camera is good for more than puppy dog ears and augmented reality games. Soon, the social media platform will shop for you, too. On Monday, September 24, Snap Inc. announced the ability to shop on Amazon with your Snapchat camera. The feature is in early testing and will roll out slowly to more users, Snap says.

The feature is a hidden one without any changes to the icons displayed in the Snapchat camera. To search for a product, after pointing the camera at whatever that object is, tap and hold the object. An Amazon card pops up on the screen with the top link, including an option to see more results by leaving the Snapchat app and going directly to Amazon, using either the app (if it’s installed) or the website. Along with using object recognition to search for products, the feature will also search via barcode, Snap says.

Snap says the feature is a faster way to shop and the camera option is easy to use. The lack of a physical icon on the screen could make the tool one of Snapchat’s lesser-known features, like the option to Shazam a song from inside Snapchat that uses the same process of tapping and holding on the screen. On the flipside, the touch control also keeps the interface from looking too cluttered.

The feature was first discovered by an app researcher breaking down the code, but details at the time didn’t confirm Amazon as the retailer for finding those products.

Shopping by camera isn’t new — the Amazon app has a camera mode that will also search using object recognition and barcodes alongside “trying” a product using augmented reality. By integrating into the Snapchat app, avid Snapchatters can skip a step if they want to buy something they see while snapping photos for Stories or Snapchatting friends.

Visual shopping is becoming increasingly available across multiple platforms, including Pinterest Lens and Google Lens. The tools can help when searching for a jacket won’t do — you want to find that particular jacket in a certain style and color. Besides fashion, other artificial intelligence-powered visual shopping searches can dig up home decor, books, and more.

The Amazon visual search isn’t Snapchat’s first dive into integrating shopping on the social network either; Snapchat also has shoppable AR filters and Stickers. The feature, for now, is only a test and Snap didn’t clarify when that slow rollout will happen.

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Google Feed is now known as ‘Discover,’ will be available on mobile browsers

google feed personalization update

As part of its 20th anniversary, Google unveiled its plans to improve Search — starting with its Google Feed. Now known as Discover, the update brings along a redesign complete with features to help you find content that aligns with your interests.

Originally introduced in December 2016, the Google Feed has gone through its fair share of changes throughout the years. Located in the Google app, the feed was organized into two sections — a feed that kept you up to date on your interests like sports, entertainment, and news, while the second feed was dedicated to personal information like appointments and flights. Over time, Google allowed for more customizability, giving users the ability to pick and choose content they wanted to see on their feed.

With Discover, Google aims to help you uncover content that is not only timely but that also aligns with your interests. While scrolling through, you will see topic headers that provide an explanation for why you’re seeing a specific card in Discover. Next to the topic name is a Discover icon, which you’ll also start seeing in Search. If there is a topic that interests you, tapping on the icon will bring you to more content along with the ability to tap “Follow” it — which will add it to your feed.

While the new feature sets out on bringing you fresh content, Discover will also provide you with evergreen content that is relevant to you even if the article isn’t new. If you’re planning a road trip across the country or taking some time off in Europe, Discover might show you an article with the best restaurants in that area or suggested places to visit.

Google also introduced Topic Layer, which analyzes content on the web for a specific topic and develops subtopics around it. Using this new tool, Discover will be able to pinpoint the level of expertise someone has on a specific topic and then provide content around it. For example, if you’re learning to play the piano, Discover might show you content for beginners. If you have been playing the piano for years, you’ll see more advanced content appear.

Customizability is still alive and well even with the new update. Now, you can tap on the control icon in Discover to indicate whether you want to see more or less content on a specific topic. As for news, Google says that it will use the same technology used in its redesigned News app known as Full Coverage, which paints a complete picture of a story from a variety of different perspectives.

Discover will be available in multiple languages starting with support for English and Spanish in the U.S., and expanding to other languages and countries in the future. In addition to the Google app, Discover is also coming to mobile browsers and will be rolling out over the next few weeks. That way, even when you use Google on your browser, you still have access to the new tool underneath the Search bar.

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Technology doesn’t have to be disposable

Dust off your old Bose 501 speakers. New devices are coming that will give traditional audio equipment a voice.

Amazon recently announced a mess of new Echo devices and among the lot are several small, diminutive add-ons. These models did not have a smart speaker built into the devices but rather turned other speakers into smart speakers.

Sonos has a similar device. Called the Sonos Amp, the device connects the Sonos service to audio receivers and can drive traditional speakers. There’s a new version coming out in 2019 that adds Alexa and AirPlay 2.

This movement back towards traditional speaker systems could be a boon for audio companies reeling from the explosion of smart speakers. Suddenly, consumers do not have to choose between the ease of use in an inexpensive smart speaker and the vastly superior audio quality of a pair of high-end speakers. Consumers can have voice services and listen to Cake, too.

Echo devices are everywhere in my house. They’re in three bedrooms, my office, our living room, my workshop and outside on the deck. But besides the Tap in the workshop and Echo in the kitchen, every Echo is connected to an amp and speakers. For instance, in my office, I have an Onkyo receiver and standalone Onkyo amp that powers a pair of Definitive Technology bookshelf speakers. The bedrooms have various speakers connected to older A/V receivers. Outside there’s a pair of Yamaha speakers powered by cheap mini-amp. Each system sounds dramatically better than any smart speaker available.

There’s a quiet comfort in building an audio system: To pick out each piece and connect everything; to solder banana clips to speaker wire and ensure the proper power is flowing to each speaker.

Amazon and Google built one of the best interfaces for audio in Alexa and Google Assistant. But that could change in the future. In the end, Alexa and Google Assistant are just another component in an audio stack, and to some consumers, it makes sense to treat them as a turntable or equalizer — a part that can be swapped out in the future.

The world of consumer electronics survives because of the disposable nature of gadgets. There’s always something better coming soon. Cell phones last a couple of years and TVs last a few years longer. But bookshelf speakers purchased today will still sound great in 20 years.

There’s a thriving secondary market for vintage audio equipment, and unlike old computer equipment, buyers want this gear actually to use it.

If you see a pair of giant Bose speakers at a garage sale, buy them and use them. Look at the prices for used Bose 901 speakers: they’re the cost of three Apple HomePods. Look at ShopGoodwill.com — Goodwill’s fantastic auction site. It’s filled with vintage audio equipment with some pieces going for multiple thousands of dollars. Last year’s smart speakers are on there, too, available for pennies on the dollar.

For the most part, audio equipment will last generations. Speakers can blow and wear out. Amps can get hit by surges and components can randomly fail. It happens, but most of the time, speakers survive.

This is where Amazon and Sonos come in. Besides selling standalone speakers, both companies have products available that adds services to independent speaker systems. A person doesn’t have to ditch their Pioneer stack to gain access to Alexa. They have to plug in a new component, and in the future, if something better is available, that component can be swapped out for something else.

Amazon first introduced this ability in the little Echo Dot. The $50 speaker has a 3.5mm output that makes it easy to add to a speaker system. A $35 version is coming soon that lacks the speaker found in the Dot and features a 3.5mm output. It’s set to be the easiest and cheapest way to add voice services to speakers.

Amazon and Sonos also have higher-end components nearing release. The Amazon Echo Link features digital and discrete audio outputs that should result in improved audio. The Amazon Echo Amp adds an amplifier to power a set of passive speakers directly. Sonos offers something similar in the upcoming Sonos Amp with 125 watts per channel and HDMI to allow it to be connected to a TV.

These add-on products give consumers dramatically more options than a handful of plastic smart speakers.

There are several ways to take advantage of these components. The easiest is to look at powered speakers. These speakers have built-in amplifiers and unlike traditional speakers, plug into an outlet for power. Look at models from Edifier, Klipsch or Yamaha. Buyers just need to connect a few cables to have superior sound to most smart speakers.

Another option is to piece together a component system. Pick any A/V receiver and add a couple of speakers and a subwoofer. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Small $30 amps like from Lepy or Pyle can drive a set of speakers — that’s what I use to drive outdoor speakers. Or, look at Onkyo or Denon A/V surround sound receivers and build a home theater system and throw in an Amazon Echo Link on top. As for speakers Polk, Klipsch, Definitive Technology, KEF, B&W, and many more produce fantastic speakers that will still work years after Amazon stops making Echo devices.

Best of all, both options are modular and allows owners to modify the system overtime. Want to add a turntable? Just plug it in. That’s not possible with a Google Home.

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable.

These add-on products offer the same solution as Roku or Fire TV devices — just plug in this device to add new tricks to old gear. When it gets old, don’t throw out the TV (or in this case speakers), just plug in the latest dongle.

Sure, it’s easy to buy a Google Home Max, and the speaker sounds great, too. For some people, it’s the perfect way to get Spotify in their living space. It’s never been easier to listen to music or NPR.

There are a few great options for smart speakers. The $350 Apple HomePod sounds glorious though Siri lacks a lot of smarts of Alexa or Google Assistant. I love the Echo Dot for its utility and price point, and in a small space, it sounds okay. For my money, the best smart speaker is the Sonos One. It sounds great, is priced right, and Sonos has the best ecosystem available.

I’m excited about Amazon’s Echo and Sub bundle. For $249, buyers get two Echos and the new Echo Sub. The software forces the two Echos to work in stereo while the new subwoofer supplements the low-end. I haven’t heard the system yet, but I expect it to sound as good as the Google Home Max or Apple HomePod and the separate component operation should help the audio fill larger spaces.

Sonos has similar systems available. The fantastic Sonos One speaker can be used as a standalone speaker, part of a multiroom system, or as a surround speaker with other Sonos One speakers and the Sonos Beam audio bar. To me, Sonos is compelling because of their ecosystem and tendency to have a longer product refresh cycle. In the past, Sonos has been much slower to roll out new products but instead added services to existing products. The company seems to respect the owners of its products rather than forcing them to buy new products to gain new abilities.

In the end, though, smart speakers from Apple, Sonos, Google or Amazon will stop working. Eventually, the company will stop supporting the services powering the speakers and owners will throw the speakers in the trash. It’s depressing in the same way Spotify is depressing. Your grandkids are not going to dig through your digital Spotify milk crate. When the service is gone, the playlists are gone.

That’s the draw of component audio equipment. A turntable purchased in the ’70s could still work today. Speakers bought during the first dot-com boom will still pound when the cryptocurrency bubble pops. As for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to me, it makes sense to treat it as another component in a larger system and enjoy it while it lasts.

From Android 1.0 to Android 9.0, here’s how Google’s OS has evolved over a decade

nimble eco friendly battery packs wireless charging pads android
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The smartphone has come a long way since the first iPhone launched in 2007. While Apple’s iOS is arguably the world’s first smartphone operating system, Google’s Android is by far the most popular. Android has evolved significantly since its inception, first being released on an HTC-made T-Mobile device back in 2008. Some might not know, however, that Android’s history dates back before it was available on smartphones.  In fact, Android was first created in 2003 by Andy Rubin, who first started developing the OS for digital cameras. Soon, he realized that the market for digital camera operating systems perhaps wasn’t all that big, and Android, Inc. diverted its attention toward smartphones.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Google purchased Android, Inc., and while not much about Android was known at the time, many took it as a signal that Google would use the platform to enter the phone business. Eventually, Google did enter the smartphone business — but not as a hardware manufacturer. Instead, it marketed Android to other manufacturers, first catching the eye of HTC, who used the platform for the first Android phone, the HTC Dream, in 2008.

Beginning with that initial version of the operating system running on the HTC Dream, join us as we take a look at how Android has changed in the past decade.

Android 1.0 — Android Market, widgets, and notifications (2008)

htc-dream-thumb

Android 1.0 was obviously far less developed than the operating system we know and love today, but there are a few similarities. For example, most agreed that Android pretty much nailed how to deal with notifications, and it included the pull-down notification window that blew the notification system in iOS out of the water.

Another groundbreaking innovation in Android is the Google Play Store, which, at the time, was called the Market. While Apple beat it to the punch by launching the App Store on the iPhone a few months earlier, the fact is that together they kick-started the idea of a centralized place to get all your apps — something that’s hard to imagine not having now.

Apart from the Market, Android 1.0 also boasted the ability to use home screen widgets, a feature that iOS did not have. In fact, iOS still doesn’t let you put widgets on your home screen. Unfortunately, developers couldn’t create their own widgets at the time. That changed in later versions. Last but not least, the first version of Android had deep integration with Gmail, a service that had already taken off at the time.

Android 1.5 Cupcake — Third-party widgets, on-screen keyboard, and a sugary name (2009)

cupcake-24

The first major update to Android not only got a new version number, but it was the first to use Google’s naming scheme, too. Cupcake was significant for a number of reasons, but the most important is probably that it was the first version of Android to have an on-screen keyboard — before that, manufacturers had to include physical keyboards on their devices.

Next up is widgets. While widgets were supported in earlier versions of Android, third-party developers couldn’t create and implement then. Starting with Cupcake, Google opened the widgets SDK to third-party developers, which was an important move. Now, many developers bundle at least one widget with their app.

Can you imagine a world without video? Before Cupcake, Android did not support video capture, so users with earlier versions of Android could only capture photos. That all (thankfully) changed with Cupcake.

Android 1.6 Donut — CDMA, quick search box, and different screen sizes (2009)

android-donut

Android Donut gave users a pretty big update — a much bigger update than the 0.1 version number increase suggests. For example, Donut brought Android to millions of people by adding support for CDMA networks such as Verizon, Sprint, and a number of big networks in Asia.

Donut was really targeted at making Android more user-friendly, but some of the biggest updates were under the hood. For example, Donut was the first version of Android to support different screen sizes, meaning that manufacturers could create devices with the display sizes they wanted and still run Android. Back to user-friendliness, though. Donut was the first version of Android to include what’s now considered an Android staple — the quick search box. This basically allowed users to quickly search the web, local files, contacts, and more directly from the home screen without having to open any apps.

Donut also introduced a few aesthetic changes to Android, such as a redesigned Android Market, which offered more curation over top free and paid apps.

Android 2.0 Eclair — Google Maps navigation, HTML5 browser support, and new lock screen (2009)

android-eclair

While the updates to Android so far were important, they were still incremental refinements of the same operating system. Around a year after Android was first released, Android 2.0 Eclair made its debut, bringing some massive changes to the operating system, many of which are still around today.

Eclair was the first device to feature Google Maps navigation, for instance, kicking off what soon became the death of the in-car GPS unit. While Maps has changed a lot since then, a few important features showed up in the service that are still present today, such as turn-by-turn navigation and voice guidance. There were turn-by-turn navigation apps at that time, but they were expensive, meaning Google’s move to offer Maps for free was pretty disruptive.

The internet browser in Android Eclair also got revamped for the new operating system. Google added HTML5 support to the browser and the ability to play videos, putting Eclair on par with the ultimate mobile internet machine at the time — aka the iPhone. Last but not least was the lock-screen, which got a major refresh and allowed users to swipe to unlock — just like on the iPhone. From the lock screen, users could also change the phone’s mute mode.

Android 2.2 Froyo (2010)

android-froyo

Android Froyo was first released in 2010, and proved why it was an advantage to have a Nexus phone. The Nexus One, which was the first Nexus phone to be released, was also the first phone to get the Android Froyo update. Froyo was more aimed at refining the Android experience, offering users five home screen panels instead of three, and showing off a redesigned Gallery app.

There were, however, a few under-the-hood improvements. For example, Froyo was the first version of Android to bring mobile hotspot support. Users also finally got the PIN lock screen, which was perfect for those that didn’t really like the pattern lock screen that was previously offered in Android.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread (2010)

android-gingerbread

The Nexus program was finally coming into its own, and the release of Gingerbread confirmed that. Google chose the Samsung-built Nexus S for this one, however, a phone that was derived from Samsung’s highly-successful Galaxy S. Gingerbread was another big Android refinement, and it saw a redesign of Android’s stock widgets and home screen.

Gingerbread also came with an improved keyboard, which offered new coloration for the keys, as well as improved multitouch support, which allowed users to press multiple keys to access a secondary keyboard. Last but not least is that Gingerbread added support for the front-facing camera — what would us selfie-lovers do without that?

Android 3.0 Honeycomb (2011)

android-honeycomb

Google had been making waves in the smartphone industry for a few years now, which made Honeycomb a very interesting release purely because it was targeted at tablets. It was even first showcased on a Motorola device that would eventually become the Xoom.

Honeycomb provided a few design cues as to what would appear in future versions of Android. Instead of accenting the operating system with the classic green Android color, for example, Google switched to blue accents. On top of that, instead of users having to choose home screen widgets from a simple list, where they couldn’t see what the widgets looked like, previews were offered for individual widgets. Perhaps the biggest move in Honeycomb was the fact that it removed the need for the physical button, Instead, the home, back, and menu buttons were all included in the software as virtual buttons, meaning they could be hidden or shown based on the application.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011)

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The Nexus S was a great phone, but it wasn’t the be all and end all of Google’s partnership with Samsung. The two paired up once again for the release of the Galaxy Nexus, which showcased Ice Cream Sandwich, an operating system that brought many of Honeycomb’s features over to the smartphone.

For example, the operating system brought over the aforementioned virtual buttons, as well as the tweaked and refined interface that made use of the blue highlights. Other small features, such as face unlock, data usage analysis, and new apps for mail and calendar, were also included in the update.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (2012)

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Android Jelly Beam signaled a new era for the operating system, even if the OS seemed more or less the same as its predecessor. If you dug a little deeper, you would have seen some very important changes. The most important of which was Google Now, which could be accessed with a quick swipe from the home screen and brought information — i.e. calendar events, emails, weather reports — all to a single screen. The feature was really Google’s first major stab at a digital assistant, and it laid the groundwork for future versions of digital assistants, including Google Assistant.

Apart from Google Now, a number of other important additions were implemented in Jelly Bean, such as Project Butter, which was aimed at drastically improving Android’s touch performance by tripling buffering graphics. This eliminated a lot of the stutter in Android and made it a much smoother experience overall. Refreshed font, expandable notifications, greater widget flexibility, and other features were also added in Jelly Bean, rendering it one of the biggest updates to Android so far.

Android 4.4 KitKat (2013)

android-kitkat

The launch of Android 4.4 KitKat coincided with the launch of the Nexus 5, and it came with a number of great features. For example, KitKat represented one of the biggest aesthetic changes to the operating system to date, modernizing the look of Android. The blue accents found in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean were replaced with a more refined white accent, and a number of the stock apps that came with Android were redesigned to show lighter color schemes.

Apart from a new look, KitKat also brought things like the “OK, Google” search command, which allowed the user to access Google Now at any time. It also brought a new phone dialer, full-screen apps, and a new Hangouts app, which offered SMS support along with support for the Hangouts messaging platform.

Android 5.0 Lollipop (2014)

android-lollipop

Android Lollipop, which debuted alongside the Nexus 6,was the first to feature Google’s “Material Design” philosophy. The updates, however, weren’t purely aesthetic — the operating system also exhibited a few major updates under the hood.

Google replaced the aging Dalvik VM with Android Runtime, for example, which boasted ahead-of-time compilation. This essentially meant that part of the processing power required for apps could be conducted before said apps were ever opened. On top of that, we saw a number of notification upgrades, the addition of RAW image support, and a host of other refinements.

Android 5.0 also saw the addition of another version of Android, dubbed Android TV, which brought Android to the big screen and is still in use on plenty of TVs today.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow (2015)

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Android Marshmallow brought about both design changes and those under the hood. Most notably, the app menu almost completely changed. Google used a white background instead of black, for instance, and added a search bar to help users quickly find the app they need. Android Marshmallow also brought the addition of the memory manager, which allowed you to check the memory usage of any app used within the past 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours.

Next up are the volume controls. In Marshmallow, you’ll get access to a more comprehensive set of volume controls, allowing you to change the volume for the device, media, and alarms. Security also got a pretty big boost within the operating system. Android officially supported fingerprint sensors beginning with Marshmallow, and permissions got a significant revamp. Instead of apps requesting all permissions upfront when downloaded, permissions are requested on a per-permission basis when they’re required.

Android 7.0 Nougat (2016)

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Android 7.0 Nougat arguably marked one of the biggest upgrades to Android in its 10 years — largely because of how smart the operating system got. In fact, perhaps the biggest change to Android in Nougat is that Google Now was replaced with the now much-respected Google Assistant.

Along with Assistant, Nougat brought an improved notifications system, which tweaked how notifications looked and acted within the OS. Notifications were presented from screen to screen, and unlike previous iterations of Android, they could be grouped together for easy management. Multitasking also got a boost with Nougat. Whether you’re using a phone or a tablet, you’ll be able to use split-screen mode, allowing you to use two apps at once without having to exit out of each app every few minutes.

Android 8.0 Oreo (2017)

android version history

Android Oreo brought the Android platform to version 8.0, and in particular got a ton of multitasking features. Picture-in-picture and native split-screen both made their debuts in Android Oreo, meaning you could continue watching your favorite show on Netflix while browsing the web.

Android Oreo also gave us a whole lot more control over notifications. With Oreo, users were given the ability to turn on or off notification channels, meaning you could get super granular with which notifications show up and what happens when they appear. In particular, notification channels allowed users to sort notifications based on importance. Also notification-related, Oreo brought notification dots, and the ability to snooze notifications.

A few other smaller features showed up in Oreo too. For example, Google did away with the blob style for emojis, replacing them with emojis  a little more in line with other platforms. Oreo also gave us auto-enable Wi-Fi, a smart text selector, and so on.

Android 9.0 Pie (2018)

android 9 pie app swticher
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Now, ten years after the launch of Android on smartphones, we’re at Android 9.0 Pie. Android Pie brings with it a number of visual changes — so much so, that from a visual perspective, it’s the biggest change to Android in a few years.

Most notably, Android 9.0 Pie does away with the three button setup that has existed in Android for years, replacing it with a single pill-shaped button and gestures for controlling things like multitasking. Android 9.0 Pie also brings with it some changes to notifications, including extra control over the types of notifications that show up and where they show up, as well as Google’s new “Digital Wellbeing,” a feature that essentially tells you how often you use your phone, the apps that you use the most, and so on. The feature is aimed at helping users better manage their digital lives and curb smartphone addiction.

Other features include adaptive battery, which limits how much battery background apps can use, as well as “App Actions,” which are deep-links to certain app features that show up straight from the app drawer.

That’s a brief history of Android to date. The mobile operating system just hit its 10-year anniversary, despite the current version being called Android 9.0 Pie.

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Snapchat lets you take a photo of an object to buy it on Amazon

See, snap, sale. In a rare partnership for Amazon, the commerce giant will help Snapchat challenge Instagram and Pinterest for social shopping supremacy. Today Snapchat announced it’s slowly rolling out a new visual product search feature, confirming TechCrunch’s July scoop about this project, codenamed “Eagle.”

Users can use Snapchat’s camera to scan a physical object or barcode, which brings up a card showing that item and similar ones along with their title, price, thumbnail image, average review score and Prime availability. When they tap on one, they’ll be sent to Amazon’s app or site to buy it. Snapchat determines if you’re scanning a song, QR Snapcode or object, and then Amazon’s machine vision tech recognizes logos, artwork, package covers or other unique identifying marks to find the product. It’s rolling out to a small percentage of U.S. users first before Snap considers other countries.

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Snap refused to disclose any financial terms of the partnership. It could be earning a referral fee for each thing you buy from Amazon, or it could just be doing the legwork for free in exchange for added utility. A Snapchat spokesperson tells me the latter is the motivation (without ruling out the former), as Snapchat wants its camera to become the new cursor — your point of interface between the real and digital worlds.

Social commerce is heating up as Instagram launches Shopping tags in Stories and a dedicated Shopping channel in Explore, while Pinterest opens up Shop the Look pins and hits 250 million monthly users. The feature should mesh well with Snap’s young and culture-obsessed audience. In the U.S., its users are 20 percent more likely to have made a mobile purchase than non-users, and 60 percent more likely to make impulse purchases according to studies by Murphy Research and GfK.

The feature functions similarly to Pinterest’s Lens visual search tool. In the video demo above, you can see Snapchat identifying Under Armour’s HOVR shoe (amongst all its other models), and the barcode for CoverGirl’s clean matte liquid makeup. That matches our scoop based on code dug out of Snapchat’s Android app by TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal. Snapchat’s shares popped three percent the day we published that scoop, and again this morning before falling back to half that gain.

The feature could prove useful for when you don’t know the name of the product you’re looking at, as with shoes. That could turn visual search into a new form of word-of-mouth marketing where every time an owner shows off a product, they’re effectively erecting a billboard for it. Eventually, visual search could help users shop across language barriers.

Amazon is clearly warming up to social partnerships, recognizing its inadequacy in that department. Along with being named Snapchat’s official search partner, it’s also going to be bringing Alexa voice control to Facebook’s Portal video chat screen, which is reportedly debuting this week according to Cheddar’s Alex Heath.

Snapchat could use the help. It’s now losing users and money, down from 191 million to 188 million daily active users last quarter while burning $353 million. Partnering instead of trying to build all its technology in-house could help reduce that financial loss, while added utility could aid with user growth. And if Snap can convince advertisers, they might pay to educate people on how to scan their products with Snapchat.

Snap keeps saying it wants to be a “Camera Company,” but it’s really an augmented reality software layer through which to see the world. The question will be whether it can change our behavior so that when we see something special, we interact with it through the camera, not just capture it.

Microsoft Teams blurs your video background, prevents national embarrassment

Microsoft Team Background Blur

Microsoft Teams is a communication platform for organizations, allowing employees to chat one-on-one, join company-wide video conference calls, share documents, and more. At this year’s Microsoft Ignite developer conference, the company chose to add a few new features to the platform, most notably the ability to add background blur during a live video call. Don’t want someone to see where you are? Simply blur the background to go incognito.

According to the team at Microsoft, the new background blur feature has been added to allow users to remove distractions and have individuals focus on what matters most — you. The feature has already been rolled out and customers of Microsoft Teams will find that the capability is already available within its video calls.

Of course, Microsoft couldn’t help but tout the software’s new ability by bringing up everyone’s favorite BBC Dad. A year ago, Professor Robert Kelly was speaking live on the BBC when his broadcast was interrupted by his children, and then his wife, running into the room. The incident itself caused quite a laugh, as Kelly gained comedic fame for the incident. Microsoft shows how the use of its Teams software with background blur could have prevented the incident.

Additional features to hit Microsoft Teams for meetings also include a new recording ability and cloud video interloop. The recording feature allows users to record meetings so that they may be pulled up again later for review. New cloud video interloop functionality means that companies can integrate Microsoft Teams meetings with its existing boardroom hardware from companies such as Polycom, BlueJeans, and Pexip.

With over 239,000 organizations utilizing the Microsoft Teams platform, the folks in Redmond, Washington are hoping that the platform’s new features will enhance the productivity of companies around the globe — over 44 supported languages means that Microsoft Teams plays a part in many organizations outside of Microsoft’s home country.

Just remember that thanks to Microsoft’s new background blur feature for video calls, you might be able to salvage a moment with only a few clicks of your mouse. Then again, maybe you just don’t want your boss to know that you’re relaxing in Hawaii instead of reporting from your home office.

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MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile and includes Amazon Prime

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Looking for a great prepaid phone plan? MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile, and the veteran carrier is promising to provide users with a wide variety of prepaid phone plans that offer great value for money, starting from October. Best of all, customers will also get the choice of two new unlimited data plans that include Amazon Prime and Google One.

Making sure that customers know they can get great value out of a prepaid plan is of particular importance to T-Mobile, as prepaid plans have suffered under the assumption that they offer terrible phones, awful coverage, and bad service. But with Metro being backed up by T-Mobile, customers will be able to benefit from service that covers 99 percent of the U.S. population, a great selection of devices, and nationwide reach and support.

“It drives me crazy that literally millions of hard-working people are struggling to get by yet feel stuck with AT&T and Verizon because they think prepaid wireless is subpar”, said T-Mobile U.S. CEO John Legere. “That’s outdated thinking! Metro by T-Mobile customers aren’t making a compromise, they’re REFUSING to make a compromise.”

metropcs is now metro by t mobile new plans

T-Mobile claims that customers could save as much as 45 percent when compared to two-line plans on AT&T or Verizon — totaling up to potential savings of $1,000 a year. It’s worth noting that Metro by T-Mobile customers may get bumped to the back of the queue if the network gets congested, but T-Mobile says they’ll otherwise be given the same speeds. Taxes and regulatory fees are included with all plans, so the price you see is the price you get, and there are no service or phone contracts.

Amazon Prime & Google One

Top tier customers will also get access to services from Amazon Prime and Google One. Customers paying for unlimited data at $50 a month (for a single line) will benefit from Google One’s cloud storage and mobile backup — though there’s no mention which tier of Google One is included in the plan.

Subscribers paying $60 a month (for a single line) will also get access to Amazon Prime’s vast array of benefits and perks. These include free next day delivery (or same day in some parts of the U.S.), unlimited free photo storage on Amazon Photos, and access to unlimited streaming from Amazon’s array of Prime movies and TV episodes.

This is the first time that any wireless provider has been able to offer deals like this with Google and Amazon, and it could mean a great deal for you. As always though, check out your options and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.

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Musicbed gives YouTube creators a legal soundtrack option

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Musicbed CEO Daniel McCarthy

Tired of putting the same background music in your YouTube video or those photo slideshows? Music licensing platform Musicbed now has a subscription option giving creatives access to tunes without getting stuck with the same old song. The subscription also comes with a new tool for telling YouTube’s software, that yes, the music in the background is used legally.

YouTube bots will automatically flag a video that contains copyrighted music, earning your channel a strike. Creators can appeal the strike for content that’s used legally, but it can be a hassle. Within the Creator membership, SyncID is designed to tell the bots that you paid to use that copyrighted music. The tool works by connecting the YouTube account with the MusicBed account and will automatically clear any copyright flags.

In addition to YouTube, the Creator membership is designed for Vimeo, Instagram, Patreon, and other streaming platforms. Along with the YouTube membership, the subscription options also include options for non-profit, weddings or photography, freelance filmmakers and production companies, and a business’ in-house production team. The automatic SyncID is included with the YouTube membership only, but other plans can copy and paste a SyncID code to remove flags from videos uploaded to YouTube.

The subscriptions feature hundreds of the artists that are already available with Musicbed’s pay-per-song licensing. Musicbed says the library includes indie artists as well as “hundred of chart-topping, nation-touring, genre-defying Musicbed artists.” Music crosses several genres and also includes instrumental only options. 

While the subscriptions are new, Musicbed is not — the company has focused on synchronization licenses for film, video, and broadcast since 2010. MusicBed already offers curated playlists that suggest music for projects, and even original music designed specifically for your project. The company hand-picks music to offer for video projects.

Members can access unlimited tracks that are marked with an “M” for part of the membership plan, while the per-project licenses are also discounted for members. The new subscriptions start at around $8 a month for the Creator membership and stretch all the way to about $90 for a business membership when paying a year in advance. Month-by-month subscriptions are also available.

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Apple acquires music-seeking app Shazam

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Shazam

After months of deliberation, Apple announced that its purchase of Shazam has finally been completed, bringing the music-finding app under Apple’s broad umbrella.

As a part of Apple’s acquisition, the company announced it will be removing ads from the Shazam app “for all users”, giving interruption-free use to all. At this time it is unclear whether the ad-free experience is for iOS users only, or whether this also extends to Android users. We have reached out to Apple and will update if we hear back.

It hasn’t been a smooth journey for Shazam into Apple’s arms. In February, a few months after Apple officially confirmed the deal, the European Commission officially accepted a request from member nations Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Sweden to assess the proposed acquisition. The examination was aimed at determining whether or not the acquisition would “threaten to adversely affect competition,” — something American tech companies are often accused of in Europe. Thankfully for Apple, the acquisition was allowed.

“The way people listen to music has changed significantly in recent years, with more and more Europeans using music streaming services,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. “Our investigation aims to ensure that music fans will continue to enjoy attractive music streaming offers and won’t face less choice as a result of this proposed merger.”

Apple’s purchase of Shazam is the latest acquisition for the world’s largest tech company.  

First launched in 2002, Shazam has grown significantly over the last several years. Once specifically devoted to music recognition, Shazam now accepts audio and visual clips to identify songs, movies, and television shows. The service is the oldest of its kind and competes with Soundhound and Musixmatch.

“We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told BuzzFeed News at the time the acquisition was announced. “Since the launch of the App Store, Shazam has consistently ranked as one of the most popular apps for iOS. Today, it’s used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, across multiple platforms.”

A big part of the reason the European Commission cleared the acquisition is that Apple and Shazam largely offer complementary services, rather than services that compete with each other.

While the acquisition price has not been publicly announced, Apple reportedly paid around $400 million for the company. This estimate falls far below Shazam’s $1 billion valuation from its last funding round in 2015. The discrepancy is likely due to Shazam’s struggle to become profitable.

In 2015, Shazam posted an annual loss of $22 million. The company saw a major turnaround in 2016, with revenues of $54 million, and became profitable for the first time with a pretax loss of $5.3 million. Earlier in 2017, Shazam CEO Rich Riley hinted that the company’s ability to become profitable could make it an attractive acquisition target.

A big part of Shazam’s turnaround is due to its feature diversification. In earlier incarnations, Shazam made money primarily from advertising revenues and linking customers to services like Apple Music. In 2016, the company added a new augmented reality feature, allowing users to scan branded Shazam codes to unlock deals and games on the app.

The new features allow Shazam to build more strategic partnerships and drive engagement with the app. Earlier in 2017, the company partnered with spirits company Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam, Sauza, and Hornitos tequila, to create a wildly successful AR marketing campaign. Since its partnership with Beam, Shazam has partnered with a number of other companies and artists to create similar AR campaigns within the app.

Exactly what Apple plans to do with Shazam is unclear. Apple frequently purchases smaller tech companies to scrape the technology for its own products, but Shazam has technically been baked into Siri for quite some time. You can ask Siri to “Shazam this song,” or even simply ask the voice assistant, “What’s this song,” and the feature is powered by Shazam. Apple could remove Shazam’s branding and bake the feature fully into iOS, or create tighter integration with Apple Music. It’s unclear if this spells doom for Shazam’s Android app

The European Commission, however, was concerned that Apple may use Shazam to access “commercially sensitive data about customers of its competitors.” This, the Commission says, could help Apple target competitors’ listeners and encourage them to switch platforms, placing these other music providers at a competitive disadvantage. In the end, the Commission determined that Shazam’s data was not unique, and that Apple’s competitors have an opportunity to access similar data through other databases.

Updated on September 24, 2018: Apple confirmed its purchase of Shazam.

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