Google’s Android OS turns 10 years old: the key milestones

With the launch of the original iPhone, the mobile/cellular phone industry was forever changed. The term 'smartphone' had now entered the cultural lexicon, ushering in a new age in which the human race's collective knowledge was now available right from our pockets.

Of course, it wouldn't be long before a worthy competitor would offer its own take on the smartphone operating system, and internet search giant Google was more than up to the task.

Originally envisioned as a company that would provide advanced operating systems for digital cameras, Android Inc. (founded by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears and Chris White) would soon set its sights on the world of handsets, eventually convincing Google to acquire the company for $50 million in 2005.

Unlike Apple's iPhone OS (which later re-branded as iOS), Android was an open-source platform powered by the Linux kernel, allowing manufacturers to develop their own mobile interfaces based on Android's framework. 

Over the course of a decade, Android would grow to become arguably the world's most popular operating system, available across phones, tablets, televisions, cars, smartwatches and a variety of other smart devices. 

Here are some of the key milestones in Android's rise to global prominence over the last ten years. 

1. The first Android smartphone is released

With the 2008 release of the HTC T-Mobile G1 (known by the much more palatable name of HTC Dream outside of the US), the world's first Android smartphone had arrived. 

Featuring a slide out keyboard with physical buttons, a 3.17-inch (320 x 480) display, a tracking ball and a thickness of 16mm, the HTC Dream was far from the sleek, stylish device that Apple's iPhone 3G was (heck, it didn't even have a headphone jack – how's that for 'courage').

Despite all of this, the HTC Dream still managed to sell over a million units in its first six months of release, clearly demonstrating the existence of a market that wanted something different to Apple's vision of a smartphone. 

2. Samsung's first Galaxy S device makes its debut

Today, Samsung is the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world, but at the time of the original iPhone's release, nothing could be further from the truth. After producing several proto-smartphones that failed to catch on, Samsung released its first Android phone, the Galaxy i7500, in 2009.

While that phone was also unsuccessful, it showed the South Korean company just how much potential there was in the Android platform, which inspired it to release the first phone in its (still going) Galaxy S series in 2011 — dubbed the Samsung Galaxy S

Featuring an iPhone-like design and a beautiful Super AMOLED display (yep, all the way back in 2011), the Galaxy S gave consumers their first real alternative to Apple's hugely popular smartphone, only with all the benefits of the open Android platform. 

By the time the breakthrough Galaxy S2 came around, Samsung was already on its way to becoming the default Android phone manufacturer in the eyes of many. 

3. Google releases its own phone in the Nexus One

Long before the success of its Pixel range of smartphones, Google tried its hand at producing its own handsets and tablets, launching the Nexus family of devices. The goal was to cater to consumers who wanted a stock Android experience sans the UI skins afforded by Samsung, LG and the rest. 

Partnering with manufacturer HTC, Google released the Nexus One, pitching it as a device that wasn't encumbered by third party bloatware and undesirable manufacturer-led interfaces. By choosing a Nexus One, users would also get the latest version of Android as soon as it was available.

Eventually, Google would partner with Samsung to release the Nexus S, followed by the Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus 4 and 5 came after, only with LG providing the hardware. Google's Nexus line would continue for a few more handsets (and tablets), but would eventually be superseded by the Pixel series – considered by many to be the best stock Android phones in the world. 

4. The Android Market is open for business

Apple's App Store, which was launched in 2008 alongside the release of the iPhone 3G, effectively brought the smartphone into maturity, so it was only a matter of time before a similar digital storefront was launched for Android apps. 

On October 22, 2008, that's exactly what happened, with the birth of the Android Market, which would eventually go on to be renamed the Google Play Store. Along with apps and games, users could also purchase hardware devices from the storefront, however, that would change with the introduction of the official Google Store in 2015. 

Today, Google Play offers apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, books, news publications and magazines to billions of users around the world. 

5. Android Wear comes to smartwatches

In 2014, Google made the decision to enter the then-booming smartwatch market, announcing a new version of Android aimed exclusively at wearables. 

Originally dubbed Android Wear, the platform first appeared on the LG G Watch, followed shortly after by the Samsung Gear Live and Moto 360. 

Samsung would eventually opt to run the Tizen open source OS on its wearables going forward, however Android Wear continued to gain traction with users and manufacturers, eventually powering the Asus ZenWatch and the Sony SmartWatch 3.

Google recently rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS, which can now be found on wearables from a number of high-profile watch and fashion brands, including Diesel, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger and more.

And that's just the beginning — Android has made its way onto smart TVs, streaming boxes, mini PCs, refrigerators.... even cars, thanks to Android Auto. It's clear that while Google's mobile OS has already been around for a decade, it seems destined to remain the world's most popular OS for sometime to come. Well, until Google Fuchsia is officially unveiled...

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.