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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Platform evolution

The Android platform keeps getting updated, changing the way users interact with a mobile operating system. SEOW TEIN HEE highlights the key features introduced starting with the first version
The Straits Times - May 2, 2013
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Platform evolution

Android 1.0

From its first iteration, the Android platform could synchronise with Gmail, contacts and calendar with a Google account. Such deep integration let Android users reply to e-mail messages, save contacts or appointments on their phones and have changes reflected on desktops.

The preloaded Google Maps also provided valuable directions when users needed guidance.

Today, Google Maps is a much-used app which provides free turn-by-turn voice navigation and even indoor maps.

Android 1.5 Cupcake, Android 1.6 Donut and Android 2.0 to 2.1 Eclair

In succeeding versions, the dessert-themed names kicked in, starting with version 1.5, or Cupcake. Instead of being stuck with the standard keyboard, users could install third-party typing apps.

Cupcake also added support for widgets that would display calendar appointments and other details without requiring you to open the app.

Donut and Eclair made it possible to select multiple photos for deletion and enabled one-tap activation to call, SMS or e-mail a contact.

Android 2.2 Froyo and Android 2.3 Gingerbread

Froyo allowed you to turn your handset into a modem to share your phone's data connection with other devices, either through USB tethering or by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot. This made it possible to work on the go, even if there were no Wi-Fi networks available for your laptop.

While Froyo added support for Adobe Flash, Google ended support for it from version 4.0.

A switch to toggle mobile data access was added to Settings and it became possible to update apps automatically.

Allowing apps to be installed on an expandable storage facility on Froyo was by far the most useful update, given the limited internal storage of Android devices at that time.

Android 3.0 to 3.2 Honeycomb

This tablet-only version, which made its debut on the Motorola Xoom, became the basis for future versions for tablets. Multitasking became simpler with the Recent Apps button, which showed thumbnails of apps recently opened. This made it easier to hop from one app to another and let users close an app by swiping the thumbnail to the side.

Honeycomb added multiple browser tabs, so it was quicker to switch between Web pages than going through Web history. And if you needed to hide your browsing activity, an incognito mode in the Web browser did the trick.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Most of the Honeycomb features were ported to Ice Cream Sandwich, including Recent Apps. Physical buttons for the Back, Home and Recent Apps functions gave way to soft buttons on screen.

Ice Cream Sandwich introduced a screenshot capture function (hold down the Power and Volume down buttons). This made it unnecessary to root an Android device for a screenshot capture.

Face Unlock was added to the existing pattern, numeric and password locks. This security feature works on recognising a user's face, but could be fooled by a photo.

A new Data Usage section was added to the settings, allowing users to set data usage limits and disable data use when the limit was exceeded.

The introduction of Android Beam allowed devices to communicate with each other and send small files through near field communication.

Android 4.1 to 4.2 Jelly Bean

Google Now was the most notable addition here. This intelligent personal assistant susses out a user's habits on Google and delivers the information in one simple presentation. This can be an appointment on Google Calendar or a suggested route on Google Maps.

Jelly Bean improved the notifications menu, which showed more information, such as the first few lines of an e-mail, and let users reply or archive e-mail messages from the drop down notification bar, instead of having to open the Gmail app.

Future Android versions

The next Android version has been dubbed Key Lime Pie. However, Google has not released details about it.

teinhee@sph.com.sg

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