One of Google’s most successful products, the Android operating system, turned a decade old on 5 November 2017. During this time, Android surpassed even Google’s high expectations and has gone on to become the most popular operating system on the planet. In fact, Android didn’t just beat Google’s aspirations – it obliterated them.
“We hope thousands of different phones will be powered by Android,” CEO Eric Schmidt said at the time. Today, the figure of active monthly users stands at nearer two billion.
Android’s first proper foray into the smartphone marketplace came via the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1. This device was the first to launch with Android built in and posed the first credible threat to Apple’s iPhone dominance. With hindsight, the sliding phone – replete with its physical keyboard – looks clunky compared with the device it was hoping to oust, but that hardly mattered; the first markers had been set down.
It wasn’t long (just 15 months, to be precise) before the gap had narrowed, thanks to the release of the Google Nexus One. This device – which was built by HTC but masterminded by Google – dropped a huge hint at the kind of devices that Android would be used for in future. Not only was it good looking (the clunky keyboard of the HTC Dream a thing of the past) the Nexus allowed users freedom to tinker with their phone’s settings – certainly much more flexibility than the notoriously rigid Apple would ever allow. Though not quite so immediately intuitive as the iPhone, the device’s open-source nature garnered mass appeal – even reaching beyond the ‘geeky’ people it first targeted and out to the more lay user who wanted additional functionality.
By September 2012, Android’s global market share had reached the 75% mark, and the following year its total number of activated devices surpassed 1 billion. Its dominance over Apple’s iOS wasn’t just down to the sheer volume of different devices in which it was installed, however – 2016 saw the Android flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S7, outsell its immediate rival, the iPhone 6S.
It’s been an unquestionably successful decade for Android, which has come a lot further than anyone – Google included – could have first guessed.