The History of Future Operating Systems: iOS vs. Android

It’s no surprise for me that you, the reader, enjoy this post using your new tablet or smartphone. Willing or not, we are living a great revolution and even if the transformations are very significant, many people don’t notice.

Few years ago, the Internet was the exclusive realm of the desktops, any other possibility being totally ignorable. Then the laptops let people know that the portability is a dream come true and the domination of desktops was under siege. Nowadays, the tablet and the smartphones, in addition to fast wireless connections make possible something unimaginable: the possibility of being connected to Internet almost everywhere. Yep, you are not unique or strange if you navigate using your phone. Much more, the statistics inform that there won’t be too many years until the number of mobile Internet users will overcome the ones still “romantic” that prefer the desktops. The ones involved in online environment must prepare for the future or they will encounter serious issues.

In the previous decade, we all waited for the new releases of Windows. Somehow, if you allow me this poetical approach, Windows was for the digital era, as fire was for the primitive period. This operating system isn’t (still?) suitable for the new handheld devices and two other solutions are worldwide accepted: Android and iOS. These two are dominating the market of mobile operating systems; it’s true there are other important competitors, but their cumulated share market is simply fabulous. The competition between Android and iOS is amazing but undoubtedly, the winner is the user that benefits of all the improvements. It seems that Android and iOS are here for decades and everyone is fully satisfied with them; it’s true there are some aspects to correct but nobody is perfect. Despite this fact, we shouldn’t neglect that these two are very new innovations and nowadays, Android and iOS are almost in their infancy.

In this article I will present the history of these two “giants” that allow us to enjoy the mobile navigation. I hope you’ll enjoy my post and my expectation is that, after reading their history you will be more patient with the bugs. Behind every new update hides a colossal volume of work.


First of all, you should know that Android is an operating system that is created especially for touch screen devices. Android Inc. is credited as the “father” of the operating system. It was an agency created in October 2003 by Andy Rubin. Even if the specialists at Android Inc were very talented and famous in their domain, the activity of the agency remained not very accessible to the large public. Meanwhile, Google acquired the company and then appeared the first buzzes about the possibility that the giant company would enter into the smartphone industry.

Finally, November 5, 2007 will become a cornerstone in the history of Android, it was the day when the beta version was launched. Almost a year later, Android 1.0 was released (September 23, 2008). Nevertheless, a more important data is October 22th, 2008 when T-Mobile G1 was launched in USA. It was a phone with 3.2 inches screen size, a QWERTY keyboard created in collaboration with HTC that, at that time, wasn’t really a very great name in the phone industry. The phone wasn’t a real masterwork, but it was the kernel of the revolution.

Android 1.0:

instantShift - Android 1.0

Here are some of the Android 1.0 features:

  • Integration with Google Services (it couldn’t be a surprise, isn’t it?) as: Google Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Search etc;
  • Web browsers were capable of showing, zooming and panning web pages;
  • GPS and Bluetooth were services integrated in the phone;
  • The Android Market was at its beginning and there were 35 applications (I have more than 35 apps on my phone and it isn’t quite the most advanced one);
  • No paid apps.

Clearly, there weren’t too much to say about, but it was just the beginning. Few months later, on 9th February an update was released. Android 1.1 was mostly a version that had the main role to fix the previous bugs and just few novelties let the user know that there is something new. Now, the users may save attachments in the messages, have the possibility to hide or show the dialpad. One of the most important modifications was the update over the air, from this version you shouldn’t stay connected to the computer to have the latest version of the operating system.

On 30 April, 2009 the Android users got a free and “yummy” desert called Cupcake. Nope, it is nothing fabulous; it’s just a new update of Android. Many of the improvements were not very insignificant, but overall the result was pretty important:

Cupcake (Android 1.5) novelties:

instantShift - Cupcake (Android 1.5)

  • on-screen soft keyboard, this fact produced a lot of comments and critics but Android management team handled very smartly the situation;
  • Using a Cupcake based smartphone everyone was able to directly upload on Youtube or Picassa;
  • The new clipboard improvements allowed to copy and paste texts from browser;
  • Android 1.5 allows auto-rotation option and animated screen transitions.

The specialists of Google didn’t need too much time to bring new features and serious improvements. Just few months later, on 15th September, the new update version of Android (aka Donut) was released and the benefits of it were more than convicting (surprisingly, the giants in the smartphones industry were happier than the users). Here are the reasons why Donut was so appreciated:

Donut (Android 1.6) improvements:

instantShift - Donut (Android 1.6)

  • Donut was the first version of Android that allowed running on a multitude of screen resolutions and it meant that from that moment on, an Android based phone could have a different resolution than 320×480 in portrait resolution;
  • With the release of Donut, the users benefit from battery usage indicator;
  • The gallery and camera could be faster accessed;
  • Android Market started turning into what we have now (of course, there was still a huge difference), the Donut allowed the user to see screenshots while the user was visiting the market.

The huge success of Android is based on the never-ending desire of the specialists to merely improve the operating system. During a single year, tons of improvements (and if you want to be ironic, many mistakes) were made. The great news is that in almost a year since releasing, more precisely, on October 26, 2009 a new version was offered. The “dessert” offered is Éclair and the improvements were truly useful.

Éclair (Android 2.0), what’s new:

instantShift - Éclair (Android 2.0)

  • The new browser includes support for HTML5 and double tap zoom. This means a huge leap in assuring a better mobile Internet navigating experience and it was very appreciated by the web design community;
  • Google maps application was seriously improved;
  • Starting with Éclair version it was enough to tap a contact from Contacts photo and you had instantly the possibility to call, email or send a SMS to the respective contact;
  • The operating system was more entertaining, Android 2.0 being the first version that allowed animated home screen background images and live wallpapers;
  • The user could handle multiple Google accounts and they had a better calendar.

As I previously mentioned, the success of Android is based on the unstoppable desire of improving and even if Éclair was appreciated by most users, in just few months a new upgrade was released, an “icy” one. It was named Froyo (frozen yogurt) and it was released on May 20, 2010.

Froyo (Android 2.2) most important features:

instantShift - Froyo (Android 2.2)

  • The overall speed and performance were seriously improved;
  • Froyo offered support for Adobe Flash;
  • The Application manager and camera controls were improved;
  • The “Update all” button was created and tons of users appreciated this small, but useful creation.

Nope, the story of Android isn’t finished and the great news are yet to come. The Christmas of 2010 was a nicer celebration for Android users because Google offered them a new desert on 6 December 2010, called Gingerbread, the 2.3 version of Android.

Gingerbread (Android 2.3) surprises:

instantShift - Gingerbread (Android 2.3)

  • A better clipboard experience;
  • A more useful keyboard with improved accuracy;
  • Overall improvements for game developers;
  • Support for multiple cameras on the device;
  • There are other minor changes but the accumulated effect was, in the end, a better user interface.

Google decided to offer a special version of Android only for tablets or large screen devices. It was released on 10 May, 2011 and brought some interesting improvements. The series of desserts is going on and Android 3.0 was coded “Honeycomb”.

Honeycomb (Android 3.0) improvements:

instantShift - Honeycomb (Android 3.0)

  • The widgets were redesigned and adapted for large screen-sizes. Somehow, this version was mostly created for tablets and this fact wasn’t quite appreciated by users;
  • Once again, the keyboard, the clipboard capabilities, and the browser were enhanced;
  • Possibility of video chat via Google Talk;
  • Support for multi core processors;
  • If until now, green was the color associated with Android, blue seems to replace it starting with this version.

The third version of Android was constantly updated, we have Android 3.1., 3.2.1 to 3.2.6 but the improvements weren’t too important.

Definitely, the latest version (Honeycomb) didn’t satisfy the requirements of the users, but also the Google specialists weren’t too content with their work. In conclusion, they mobilized and in a relatively short period, released a real improvement of Android: on October 19, 2011 Google released Ice Cream Sandwich- Android 4.0. It proved to be a very appreciated version and there are enough reasons to sustain this fact.

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) features:

instantShift - Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0)

  • A new font, Roboto, replaced Droid, the previous one;
  • Android Beam is a near field communication form that was introduced in this version and allows exchange of information between two devices situated nearby and use ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich);
  • The camera was improved, the shutter lag is almost zero;
  • Improved keyboard, Google Chrome navigation and copy&paste possibilities;
  • Face Unlock isn’t a very secure feature but it’s something new: the user may unlock the phone with the help of front camera- there is still much to work in order to have real and secure benefits from this feature.

ICS was a success but it doesn’t mean that anyone working for this operating system was satisfied with the results and sooner, on July 9, 2012 it was released a new improved version, dubbed Jelly Bean, in fact Android 4.1. Most probable, the most important novelty was “Project butter”- the developers behind it stated that the touch performances were seriously improved and the users confirmed that the common lags specific to Android devices are history.

Also, there are other significant improvements as:

  • Google Wallet was introduced (initially for Nexus 7);
  • The Voice search, camera app and overall accessibility were improved;
  • Google Now was introduced and it seems to be a very competitive rival for Siri.

Google released Android 4.2 that also brought many small improvements and the users are already waiting for the next big version, maybe Key Lime Pie?

How will Android look in the next years? Well, taking into account that the developers are still very productive it seems that 2013 will bring many improvements and maybe some unexpected surprises.


Apple iOS

Even if these two operating systems are direct “enemies”, they have many common features. Nor Android or iOS were initially what they are today. The initial version of iOS wasn’t in fact iOS…strange, isn’t it? The first iPhone was released on January 10, 2007; Steve Jobs told us that it ran on Mac OS X and nothing more. However, regardless of the name itself, it is important to remember that it was a poor (compared with the actual versions and even with some other operating systems at the respective moments) OS and we can hardly believe that such a thing was possible.

iOS 1

instantShift - iOS 1.0

The first version of iOS was released in June 29, 2007 and a month later a new security update of the browser was brought to the market (July 31). It suffered a lot of updates across time but there are some facts that simply help you form an idea about how revolutionary Apple ideas were. The first item is represented by the fact that the first iPhone had some apps pre-installed as: Mail, Safari, Calendar, Photos, Notes etc that are present even on the latest Apple products. It’s true, these suffered a lot of modifications but this is a living example that a good idea is timeless. Secondly, the iPhone offered a fresh and innovative alternative to the “old phones”: there was a harsh competition between classical and QWERTY keyboards choosing while Apple introduced a revolutionary idea: the use of the old and most efficient stylus on a capacitive touchscreen…you guessed, its about our fingers.

Off topic: I strongly recommend watching the iPhone presentation of Steve Jobs, this is definitely a must see for everyone in love with technology…and even for ones having a keen sense of humor!

On September 27, Apple already released iOS 1.1.1. (dubbed September ’07 Update) and it brought some new modifications that enhanced the use of iPhone as:

  • Louder speakerphone;
  • Support for TV out;
  • A new interface for Calculator;
  • Custom shortcut by double clicking the Home button.

The next major improvement was “January ’08 Update”, in fact 1.1.3. version that offered new ideas. Some of these are:

  • The possibility of rearranging the icons on home screen;
  • The “birth” of Locate me which may offer the approximate position of the user;
  • Lyrics support for music;
  • The possibility of sending a message to multiple contacts; the increase of the number of SMS stored in the phone memory (from 1000 to 75000).

The Apple products wouldn’t have had the same success without the existence of apps, but the initial version of iOS wasn’t too “friendly” with the developers. In order to help them to create amazing apps, on March 6, 2008 Apple offered a SDK (Software Development Kit) to the developers and it was the beginning of a huge industry that seems to have a huge potential.

iOS 2

instantShift - iOS 2.0

The second version of iOS was released on July 11, 2008 (with the initial release of iPhone 3G) and in addition to the App Store announcement, there were some major improvements:

  • improved language support;
  • the symbols of a password are momentarily visible when typing;
  • the Calculator was once again updated;
  • the possibility of contact searching;
  • the ability of importing contacts;
  • the user may delete and move multiple emails.

Unfortunately, this new significant improvement wasn’t quite the biggest achievement, there were reported many issues and bugs. The good news is that these were corrected; for example, in September the iOS 2.1. was presented that brought some improvements:

  • different bugs were resolved;
  • the display of 3G strength signal is improved;
  • the battery life is increased;
  • genius playlist creation;
  • once again, the support for various languages is improved.

Much more, two months later, on November 21, 2008, iOS 2.2 was released, that also added some new improvements related to security, more languages supported, the Apps Store is more user friendly (see Update All feature) and the Safari became more stable and performing.

iOS 3

instantShift - iOS 3.0

The Apple specialists weren’t still content with the abilities of the operating system and in almost a year from the launch of the second version, they delighted us with a new much improved version. iOS 3, officially released on June 19, 2009, came with a lot of novelties and serious improvements as:

  • the possibility of sending/receiving MMS;
  • cut, copy and paste options dramatically improved;
  • from now, a message or an email may be written by using a landscape keyboard;
  • battery usage is increased (some specialists say that 5%);
  • video recording with Camera app;
  • SMS application is renamed Messages and suffered major enhancements;
  • Safari passed with 97/100 points the Acid Test and with this release support HTML5 tags.

On September 9, 2009, Apple released the version 3.1 that brought a list of improvements, but clearly, a major leap was done with the release of 3.2 version. It was designated for iPad, so from now on the developers should take into account the huge displays of Apple tablets. It’s true there was some rumors, some unsatisfied people weren’t impressed by the tablet and some bugs in the 3.2 version were enough to support their thesis. Fortunately, some of them were corrected while others are still annoying the users, but overall, the operating system satisfied the majority of the users.

iOS 4

instantShift - iOS 4.0

June 21, 2010 is another cornerstone in the evolution of Apple operating system. A new version is released, in the first stage only for iPhone and iPod Touch. The great novelty is the multitasking feature that wasn’t really as impressive as people imagined and the Apple representatives described but definitely, it was a huge step forward. Some key features of new version are:

  • Multitasking;
  • Support for retina display;
  • FaceTime video call;
  • Ability to add the apps into folders;
  • Possibility to organize by thread in Mail;
  • Bluetooth and animations seriously improved.

Also, the next version added improvements only for iPhone and iPod Touch.

The 4.2 version added many improvements on all the devices using iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). I must emphasize that Apple has an interesting policy when presenting new versions of the mobile OS: they highlight two-three new features but in addition they brought minor changes that are subtle but the overall aspect is seriously enhanced. This new release is the perfect example that sustains this idea: the battery performance was improved, the iPad, from now, supports multitasking and the apps may be grouped into folders, AirPlay was introduced and simplified the Wi-Fi multimedia transfer between Apple devices were the major improvements. Meanwhile, a lot of bugs were eradicated, the UI graphics were modified, new multitasking animation, two new fonts for Notes were added, and all these made the use of Apple devices a real pleasure.

iOS 5

instantShift - iOS 5.0

On October 12, 2011 iOS comes into scene and delighted the users. The new features, some of them totally new and some expected, give enough reasons to consider it a very good version. The iOS 5 was presented in the same keynote with iPhone 4S and quite probable, the most interesting feature was Siri. It was launched in beta version, it represented a step forward in what we saw in Star Track, and it was named vocal command. Siri is a virtual assistant that is trying to offer to the user support and help in various situations. You may open various apps, find your position or search on Internet by using the help of the assistant. Unfortunately, there are some downsides as the lack or voice recognition or the answer to some questions that aren’t quite helpful, but once again, it is in beta versions and Apple representatives said that they are working hard to improve the services of Siri. Other improvements of this version are:

  • the introduction of Newsstand- similar to iBooks, it is designated to display the papers and magazines downloaded from App Store.
  • iMessage. The users of Apple devices may send through Wi-Fi and 3G texts, photos, videos, locations and contacts to other similar devices…obvious, for free!!! Much more, you may initiate a conversation on a device and continue on other one.
  • Twitter integration- it’s way easier to tweet all you have done!
  • The Mail was seriously improved: you may flag some emails, the texts may be bolded, italicized and underlined and new email folders may be added;
  • You have the option “Reader” in Safari, very useful (and quite appreciated by users) that allows reading without any adds to annoy;
  • iCloud- a new cloud service from Apple allowing to back up Apple devices.

In March 2012, the 5.1. version was released, that improved the capabilities of Siri and battery life& performance but also added many other slight modifications.

iOS 6

instantShift - iOS 6.0

Finally, we have the latest version of Apple operating system. On September 12, last year the sixth version was released and there were some modifications that made the users way happier, but at the same time there were enough bugs and issues that annoyed many people. The good news are that Siri was seriously improved (clearly, there is enough room to still improve, but it’s on the good way), Safari suffered some modifications and is a better browser than in the past, App Store and Game Center are more enjoyable. The iPad has from now a Clock app, Mail and Settings were enhanced; in the end, the huge majority of users appreciated these novelties.

Unfortunately, there are few downsides: Apple isn’t in quite good relationship with Google and it isn’t beneficial nor for users, not for these two “online giants”. Firstly, the YouTube integrated app was removed and users didn’t appreciate it. Secondly, the Maps services, until the sixth version, based on Google contribution, were for the first time realized with an intern network. The result: you know very well, there is still much to improve; anyway, some features may be the basis of a very good Apple Maps but a better approach is required when it comes to precision. Another item of iOS 6 somehow neglected is Passbook, a direct competitor to Google Wallet seems to be a very used tool in the near future, so pay closer attention to it. Apple took care to his clients and gave them, almost at the same time with Santa Clause, a small gift: an improved version, 6.1 that has the main role to fix some bugs.


As you see, there is a great competition and the user will benefit from. The specialists are working hard to correct the previous bugs and enhance the systems with new stunning features… I am very curious how will the future look? Personally, I consider that in the near future the gadgets will became even smarter and irreplaceable in our life, the Internet, technology will became a single entity, and we will enjoy these. How do you imagine the future? I strongly encourage you to share here your opinion about the future and the future mobile operating systems, use the comment for to know what you think.

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One Comment

  1. Usage stats show Android is nowhere close to iPhone. User surveys show people are extremely happy with iPhone/iPad/iPhone with no plans to switch. Android surveys show that 1/2 of them plan to switch to iPhone and consider android a mistake.

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