On September 23rd we officially celebrated Android’s 5th birthday, as it was on that fateful day that Android and the HTC Dream (aka G1) were unveiled to the masses. Let’s not forget the significance of October 22nd, though.
One month after the announcement of the first Android handset, the Dream would arrive to T-Mobile’s 3G-enabled markets as the HTC G1, and the mobile world would never be the same.
When tech reviewers first got their hands on the HTC G1, most reviewers came to the same conclusion about the first “Google phone”: The phone itself was a decent enough device, though nothing particularly amazing either. The real excitement was in the long-term potential of the Android platform.
CNET probably puts it the best in their original review of the handset back in 2008:
Though we’re not in love with the design and would have liked some additional features, the real beauty of the T-Mobile G1 is the Google Android platform, as it has the potential to make smartphones more personal and powerful. That said, it’s not quite there yet.
How right CNET was. The HTC G1 was a door opener and marked an important shift in the mobile world. It’s hard to believe that only five years ago Windows Mobile, Blackberry and the iPhone were considered the de facto leaders in mobile.
While many folks knew that Google was about to change the world, few would have guessed that Android would not only overthrow every other mobile OS, but that it would become a powerful platform that would exist on multiple different types of consumer devices including phones, tablets, set-top boxes, watches, televisions, micro-consoles and even car navigation systems.
Today Android has been activated over a billion times. Sure, that’s not the same thing as a billion active Android users, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Even more amazing is that Android’s growth seems to be expanding, not slowing down.
Android then, Android now
When the HTC G1 arrived, it ran on a primitive version of Android that featured the Android market, basic Google services and a layout that wasn’t exactly user friendly in the way that today’s stock Android is. In fact, it was interface shortcomings that really allowed custom launchers and themes (like Touchwiz and Sense) to take off.
Hardware was also considerably weaker, as to be expected. The G1 represented the “flagship” Android experience and ran on a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A CPU with a platry 192MB RAM, and 256MB internal storage. In these days, the ONLY camera on the device was a 3.15MP shooter, and you could forget about extras like IR blasters and NFC – though there was GPS and an accelerometer.
Compare that to the upcoming Nexus 5 flagship or any other high-end Android device, and you’ll quickly realize that much truly has changed in such a short amount of time. Not only has the hardware running Android evolved dramatically, but so has Android’s feature set and UI.
The T-Mobile G1 might have been an important step forward, but it’s hard to deny that both its hardware design and software were ugly, buggy and nothing like the beautiful operating system that we see before us today.
The big question now is where will be in five more years? How will the Android – and the mobile landscape in general – have evolved? Will smartphones still be prevalent or will devices like smart watches and Google Glass steal their thunder? We may not know the answer to that question, but we are certainly more than excited to watch it all unfold.