The History of Android

Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica:

Thanks to this “cloud rot,” an Android retrospective won’t be possible in a few years. Early versions of Android will be empty, broken husks that won’t function without cloud support. While it’s easy to think of this as a ways off, it’s happening right now. While writing this piece, we ran into tons of apps that no longer function because the server support has been turned off. Early clients for Google Maps and the Android Market, for instance, are no longer able to communicate with Google. They either throw an error message and crash or display blank screens. Some apps even worked one week and died the next, because Google was actively shutting down servers during our writing!

To prevent any more of Android’s past from being lost to the annals of history, we did what needed to be done. This is 20+ versions of Android, seven devices, and lots and lots of screenshots cobbled together in one space. This is The History of Android, from the very first public builds to the newest version of KitKat.

This is the most comprehensive look at Android, as a whole, that I’ve ever seen. It’s a fascinating look at how the OS went from being a BlackBerry-esque product that worked only with hardware keyboards to a touchscreen OS, to all of the crazy places it’s used today. It’s huge — 26 pages and something like 40,000 words.

In many ways, this shows just how improved Google’s design language has become. Even after skipping past the early beta builds, there are loads of questionable decisions with regard to design as a functional product, and the visual language. The smaller tweaks beginning after the launch of Android 4.0 are particularly interesting. Well worth the time it takes to read this beast.