It has been almost four years since Google launched the Android OS. Android had a humble beginning in 2008, but over the years the OS has occupied quite a large space in the market.

Google has also honed its humor skill with the Android division. Most of the versions of the OS are named after various desserts and the names are always in alphabetical order like Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and now Jelly Bean. While the first version and its upgraded versions were not given any particular name, the company later invented its lighter side and till now the tradition of naming is continuing.

History of the beginning

Google bought Android back in July 2005. After their buyout, rumors went rife that Google started working on launching its own mobile phone. And the search engine giant in November 2007 announced that it indeed was working on its own 'Google Phone' but that was not a device rather a mobile platform, Android, that's based on Linux kernel.

Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications -- all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation, said Andy Rubin on the Google Blog.

The company worked with Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance of technology and mobile industry leaders, which has members like T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola, eBay, Nuance Communications and more.

According to Google, Android is a fully open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, middleware, user-interface and applications that will give mobile operators and device manufacturers freedom and flexibility to design products and programs.

Android Journey

Android, the powerhouse in the mobile device space, started its journey with the HTC-made T-Mobile G1. While that phone with its bizarre keyboard and not-so-impressive features could not give the platform Android needed to enter into the market, it still showed enough promise to bring something extraordinary in its way forward.

And, that's exactly what happened in 2011, when the mature and more evolved Android operating system acquired almost half of the market share (Technorati report). The report also indicated that Android could not do much to eat the bite out of Apple iPhone sales, but Windows Phone and BlackBerry became only shadows in the mobile device market.

By 2011, Android launched a series of mobile operating systems, while many of them were phone-specific, some were tablet oriented. The last available OS, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, however, targets to fits in both, small and large, devices.  

Let's check out the list of operating systems that Google has launched on the Android platform today and analyze how the platform evolved in last four years.

Android 1.0 (G1)

As said before, this version did not come with a name of dessert. But released in 2008 with HTC T-Mobile G1, the Android OS provided services like GPS and Bluetooth (but not stereo Bluetooth), integrated Google services like Gmail, Google Maps (with Street View), and Google Calendar, Android Market with about 35 apps (Amazon MP3 Store, YouTube), Multitasking but the OS did not have Microsoft Exchange Server and camcorder.

Later Google released an update of Android, version 1.1 in February 2009.

Android 1.5 (Cupcake)

Android 1.5 was the first of its kind to get a codename, Cupcake. Stories revealed that Google wanted to launch this version as 1.2, but the company finally decided to make it a major revision and made it 1.5 instead.

Although the dessert cupcake is a small one, Google's cupcake proved otherwise packing in some noteworthy features like Universal search box (search limited to the Web), Support for third-party virtual keyboards loaded with text prediction and dictionary for custom words, Video recording and upload to YouTube, toggle between camera and video modes; integrated photo gallery and camera with bulk photo deleting option, better and more polished user interface, several built-in widgets like calendar, music player and picture frame, redesigned Android Market with Browsing categories that included Apps, Games, Downloads and filters, support for gestures and voice-to-text option.

Android 1.6 (Donut)

Released in September 2009, this upgrade addressed the reboot errors and included several new features like Android Search, which will let you search both online and locally on the phone through contacts, calendars, music, and any app with the proper code, virtual onscreen keyboard, enhanced voice and text entry search that included bookmark, contacts and web, more integrated gallery, camera and camcorder, option of direct upload to YouTube and Picasa, with faster camera access, Expanded Gesture framework and new GestureBuilder development tool, Home screen widgets and folders, handwriting gestures,  Stereo Bluetooth, Google turn-by-turn navigation feature.

Android 2.0/2.1 (Éclair)

The new SKD called Éclair was launched in October 2009 followed by a bug-fix version 2.0.1 in December 2009 and 2.1 in January 2010.

The new version and its updates added features like Bluetooth 2.1 support, flash and digital zoom, scene mode, white balance, color effect and macro focus for the camera, multi-touch support, multiple user accounts, Quick Contact, live wallpapers, five home screens, improved keyboard, microphone icon for voice dictation in emails, speech-to-text option and Bluetooth 2.1 and more.

2.2 (Froyo)

Froyo (Frozen Yogurt) was released in May 2010. This version contained lots of bug fixes and brought some great features in addition. Just-in-time compilation, Automatic App Updates, USB tethering and hot-spot support, FM Radio, Adobe Flash 10.1, New Linux kernel, automatic app updates, OpenGL improvements to improve gaming graphics and performance, improved security policies, global address lookup, calendar sync, remote wipe, select, copy and paste text to clipboard, Bluetooth support for voice dialing and more.

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

Google released Gingerbread officially in December 2010.

This version was designed for optimizing speed, memory and performance. The OS also included a new version of on-screen keyboard, worked on copy/paste option, streamlined user interface, provided WebM video compression support, Near Field Communication (NFC), rich multimedia, option for viewing and controlling downloads from browser, email, and other apps, Internet telephone over SIP, App Manager, support for gyroscope, barometer, gravimeter, switch to front-facing camera from camera app and more.

The first phone that ran on Gingerbread was Samsung Nexus S on T-Mobile. The phone later was also launched on Sprint and AT&T.

Android 3.0/ 3.1 / 3.2 (Honeycomb)

Launched in February 2011, the Honeycomb version of Android OS was developed mainly targeting the tablets and was followed by two rapid bug-fix versions like 3.1 and 3.2, which only came out in July and August 2011 respectively.

The OS came with optimized Tablet UI, revamped widgets and better multitasking, private browsing, USB Host, Dual-pane modes for address book, e-mail, redesigned keyboard and improved copy/paste video chatting with Google Talk, 3D graphics support, multi-select, clipboard, and drag-and-drop option, New APIs for Bluetooth A2DP and HSP and full-screen-mode photo gallery.

Motorola Xoom is the first Android 3.X tablet to be released. Now there are a good number of tablets running on the Honeycomb OS.

Android 4.0 and later (Ice Cream Sandwich)

With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google finally left the tradition of tiny incremental improvements and launched full-fledged new OS with an array of new features.

The latest OS, which was launched in October 2011, is designed to work both on smartphones and tablets. The OS includes virtual buttons, Face Unlock, widget management, Android Beam, new Calendar app with pinch-to-zoom option, revamped Gmail user interface, new contacts and social networking features, saving web pages offline, Roboto a new typeface, improved voice integration and copy and paste, new camera capabilities, screenshot option and more.

Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean)

Although Ice Cream Sandwich is a big hit and introduced huge amount of fresh functionality and features that have been obtained by combining the features of Honeycomb and Gingerbread, the latest and unreleased version 5.0, Jelly Bean, is expected to bring more.

The expected features include File manager, Jelly Bean Lite - a lighter version of Android OS for midrange and lower end smartphones, integrated Google Chrome, Battery, Power Distribution and Efficient OS, Efficient Upgrade and more.

Android 6.0: Key Lime Pie?

While we are still expecting to see the launch of Jelly Bean, some reports suggest that the next version after Jelly Bean will be Key Lime Pie.