Oh, Android. How far you've come since the days of the G1. Actually, tomorrow, October 22nd, will mark 3 years to the day that Android has been available on consumer handsets in the United States, and the G1 on T-Mobile was concepción.
With Ice Cream Sandwich finally revealed, Android has gone through its seventh major iteration. How has Android changed? What better way to illustrate Android's evolution than its home screen, the hub of user interaction. Here's a look at the face of Android over the last 3 years.
Android 1.5: Cupcake
Android Version 1.5: Cupcake
Cupcake was step one for what was, at the time, Google's recently acquired mobile operating system Android. While Android 1.0 was introduced on the G1 at launch, Cupcake marked the first iteration of the Android we generally know today (with things like a virtual keyboard!), and also the start of Google's dessert-based code name system for versions of the OS. So, we felt it was better to start here.
Android 1.6 Donut
Android Version 1.6: Donut
Donut was largely a under-the-hood overhaul for Android, and brought support for CDMA networks, text to speech, a vastly improved market, and revamped the Search functionality to not just search the web, but your phone as well. Minor visual changes (like a lighter notification bar color) were implemented, but generally, it looked pretty similar to Cupcake.
Android 2.1: Eclair
Android Version 2.1: Éclair
Éclair was Android's first visual revamp since the company's acquisition by Google. Gone was the old app drawer, live wallpapers were introduced, icons were all revamped, and Android just started to look a whole lot better. Home screen dots were added, and menus were improved, as was performance generally.
Android 2.2: Froyo
Android Version 2.2: Froyo
Android Froyo brought us the quick-launch icons for the dialer and browser next to the app drawer, as well the addition of the selectable search type menu on the Search widget. Froyo was most vaunted as a performance boost, and included major backend changes to Android that sped up the user experience, and particularly apps.
Android 2.3: Gingerbread
Android Version 2.3: Gingerbread
Initially, Gingerbread was supposed to be a "major" visual update for Android. In reality, it was more of a boot polishing. Gingerbread finally did away with the ugly, old notification bar, in favor of the black one you see above. The launcher icons were also changed, and the whole OS's color scheme was changed to black and green, with that nifty orange menu scroll glow. There was also the introduction of the cathode-ray TV style screen power-off effect, which was just awesome. Gingerbread brought a lot of other improvements as well - including major updates to Google apps and performance enhancements. Oh, and a cool new keyboard.
Android 3.0: Honeycomb
Android Version 3.0: Honeycomb
Honeycomb will probably be remembered as the stepping stone to bigger and better things for Android - the good idea that never gained much traction. But Google sort of designed it that way. Honeycomb was pretty much closed source, and it was never intended to run on phones. So it wasn't really like any other version of Android. But clearly, design cues and interface functions were taken from the tablet-centric OS when developing Ice Cream Sandwich, making it worthy of a mention, at least.
Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich
Android Version 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich
Ice Cream Sandwich marks the biggest visual change to Android since Éclair. In fact, it's a significantly larger step than that. Software function buttons. Brand new icons. A whole new system font, color scheme, and reorganized menus. Ice Cream Sandwich is what Windows 7 is to XP - it kind of works in the same way, but you can immediately tell there have been major changes. And we love it. ICS also brings a slew of hardware acceleration enhancements, revamped Google apps, and a plethora of other stuff. There's so much going on that it wouldn't do this update to justice to try and cram it all into a single paragraph.
What's next for Android? Who knows. We know that "Jelly Bean" is a contender for the next name in the Android line - but we kind of like the sound of Jawbreaker. Maybe Jujube. Or Jello. I'll stop now.