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5 years of Android smartphones: the milestones from HTC G1 to Nexus 5

Five years ago today, the first Android smartphone was sold: the HTC G1. Since then, there has been an incredible change with Android becoming the main mobile operating system of the world. With the mobile sector booming and more and more business embracing the portability of smartphones and the Android OS, it is amazing that it all started with the HTC G1. Check out overview of the past five years below.

5 years android teaser
From the HTC G1 to the Galaxy S2 to the Nexus 5: 5 years of Android smartphones. / © AndroidPIT


Who would have dreamt that we would be in this spot today? Five years ago, HTC took a chance with Android and helped introduce the first smartphone with the new OS: the HTC G1. The QWERTY slider phone with a trackball came to us in the fall of 2008 and brought forward the era of Android, and quickly followed suit with the HTC Magic in February of 2009. The HTC Magic say that first Android smartphone with only a touchscreen and no physical buttons.

2008: HTC G1
System: Android 1.0
Display: 3.2-inches LCD, 480x 320 pixel, 180 ppi
Processor: 528 MHz, Qualcomm MSM7201A
Memory: 192 MB
Internal Memory:  256 MB, expandable  up to 32 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 2.0, WLAN, HSUPA
Camera: 3.2 MP, autofocus
Battery:  1150 mAh
Dimensions / Weight: 117.7 x 55.7 x 17.1 mm / 158 g

From today’s perspective, however, the G1 may seem like a relic of the past. An ancient device with antiquated software and hardware. Physical keyboards and trackballs are definitely a thing of the past and have disappeared from the majority of smartphones on the market. With a 3.2-inch display with a resolution of 280 x 320 pixels, the H1 even falls short of the standards of most entry level smartphones nowadays. Combined with only 192 megabytes of RAM, it seems a wonder that this was cutting edge at some point in time.

Motorola Milestone

The fact that Motorola would be Google subsidiary only a few years later after the release of the Motorola Milestone wasn’t on anyone’s minds in 2009.  This Motorola smartphone was more than just another smartphone running Android, it was the first Android smartphone running Android version 2.0 Éclair, which was released in October 2009. Moving along from Android 1.5 Cupcake, the naming convention of alphabetical desert names took hold and continues to this day. Cupcake became Donut which became Éclair.

The Motorola Milestone - complete with QWERTY keyboard. / © Motorola

How appropriate of a name for a smartphone though, looking back on it. While in the US, the Motorola Milestone was sold as the Motorola Droid. It contained a hidden QWERTY screen and came in at a thickness of 13.7 mm, almost twice as much as the current Huawei Ascend P6. However, the Milestone/Éclair combo was a definitely winner: it was the first Motorola smartphone in the emerging market that was composed mostly by Apple and the iPhone. And thus began the iOS and Android battles.

2009: Motorola Milestone
System: Android 2.0 Eclair
Display: 3.7-inches, LCD, 854 x 480 Pixel, 265 ppi
Processor: 600 MHz, TI OMAP 3430
Memory: 256 MB
Internal Memory:  512 MB, expandable via microSD uto 64 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 2.0, WLAN, HSUPA
Camera: 5 MP, auto focus, Dual-LED
Battery:  1400 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 115.8 x 60 x 13.7 mm / 169 g

Nexus One

In January of 2010, the first device in which Google cooperated with a smartphone manufacturer was ushered into the market: the Nexus One. The Nexus One was built by HTC, bringing with it trackball that was found on the HTC G1 and a pushing the Taiwanese manufacturer to a more innovative standard when it came to smartphone.

nexus one
The Nexus One, complete with trackball. / © HTC

The Nexus One was delivered with Android version 2.1, which was still under the Éclair naming convention. However, due to poor sales compared to similar smartphones, such as the Motorola Milestone, it was pulled relatively quickly and was soon followed by a prominent player in the Android market, the Samsung Galaxy S.

2010: Nexus One
System: Android 2.1 Éclair
Display: 3.7-inches, AMOLED, and then LCD, 800 x 480 Pixel, 252 ppi
Processor: 1 GHz, Qualcomm QSD 8250
Memory: 512 MB
Interner Memory:  512 MB, expandable via microSD to 32 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 2.1, WLAN, HSUPA
Camera: 5 MP, auto focus, LED
Battery:  1400 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 119 x 59.8 x 11.5 mm / 130 g

Samsung Galaxy S

A few months after  the rather disappointing launch of the Nexus One, Samsung decided to rear its head in the Android market and established one of the most prominent smartphone lines. With the Galaxy S, we were presented with Android 2.1 Éclair and AMOLED display technology ( the same that Samsung stands behind to this day).

galaxy s
The Galaxy S, the start of the most successful smartphone series. © Samsung


Technically and visually, it clearly resembled another larger player in the smartphone market and introduced the almost bipolar rivalry that exists between Samsung and Apple to this day. The Galaxy S was similar in features to many smartphones on the market at the time, but with a  display size of 4 inches and an internal storage of either 8 or 16 gigabytes, it definitely stood out. As well, the Google Nexus S was spawned from this device.

2010: Samsung Galaxy S
System: Android 2.1 Éclair
Display: 4-inches, AMOLED, 800 x 480 Pixel, 233 ppi
Processor: 1 GHz, ARM Cortex A8
Memory: 512 MB
Internal Memory:  8/16 GB, expandable via microSD to 32 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 3.0, WLAN, HSUPA
Camera: 5 MP, auto focus, LED
Battery:  1500 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm / 118 g

Motorola Atrix

The first smartphone with a dual-core processor was introduced by non other than Motorola. The Atrix, also known as the Atrix 4G, was unveiled at CES in Las Vegas in January of 2011 and it received several awards, including the best smartphone of the festival. In addition to the dual-core Tegra 2 processor, the Atrix also introduced a display with penTile technology and brought a front camera into the mix.

motorola atrix
The Motorola Atrix, the first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner.  © Motorola

It was also the first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner – a technology that was recently “re-innovated” with the iPhone 5s and a bunch of other manufacturers. At launch, it came with Android 2.2 Froyo (Frozen Yogurt) and an updated to Android 2.3 became soon available on most carriers.

2011: Motorola Atrix
System: Android 2.2 Froyo
Display: 4-inches, AMOLED, 960 x 540 Pixel, 275 ppi
Processor: 1 GHz, Dual-Core, Nvidia Tegra 2, ARM Cortex A9
Memory: 1 GB
Internal Memory:  16 GB, expandable via microSD to 32 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 2.1, WLAN, HSPA+
Kamera: 5 MP, auto focus, LED; 0.3 MP Front Camera
Battery:  1930 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 117.75 x 63.5 x 10.95 mm / 135 g

Samsung Galaxy S2

Shortly after the release of the Motorola Atrix, Samsung introduced the successor to the Galaxy line, the Galaxy S2. With its introduced in February 2011, it became an instant hit and remained one of the top smartphones of the year. Within a year of its release, it had sold 28 million units, an astounding success. The Galaxy S2 also came sporting Android 2.3 Gingerbread and has been continually updated until now officially resting with Android 4.1.2.

Coming in around 8.5 mm thick at its narrowest point, it was one of the thinnest Android phones thus far.  It was also one of the first smartphones that incorporated the MHL technology into it which allowed uncompressed 1080p videos to be streamed to MHL-enabled TV devices while the device was charging.

2011: Samsung Galaxy S2
System: Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Display: 4.3-inches, AMOLED, 800 x 480 Pixel, 218 ppi
Processor: 1.2 GHz, Dual-Core, ARM Cortex A9
Memory: 1 GB
Internal Memory:  16/32 GB, expandable via microSD to 64 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 2.1, WLAN, HSPA+
Camera: 8 MP, auto focus, LED; 2 MP Front camera
Battery:  1650 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 125 x 66 x 8.49 mm / 116 g

Galaxy Nexus

2011 was definitely the year of Samsung: after the Koreans introduced the award winning Galaxy S2, they got the go ahead from Google to produce the next Nexus smartphone. The Galaxy Nexus or Nexus Prime was launched in November 2011 together with the new Android version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It had a slightly curved screen, however, the display wasn’t bent like the newly introduced Galaxy Round of LG F Flex.

galaxy nexus
The second in the Nexus line that was championed by Samsung: The Galaxy Nexus. / © Samsung

With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google combined two separate strands of their smartphone operating systems: incorporating parts of Gingerbread and Honeycomb into a brand new version of Android. Some important innovations included the support of multi-tasking and the on-screen navigation buttons. The name of the Android Market was changed to the “Play Store” in Android 4.0 as well.

2011: Galaxy Nexus
System: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Display: 4.65-inches, AMOLED, 1280 x 720 Pixel, 315 ppi
Processor: 1.5 GHz, Dual-Core, TI OMAP 4460, ARM Cortex A9
Memory: 1 GB
Internal Memory:  16 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 3.0, WLAN, HSPA+, NFC
Camera: 5 MP, auto focus, LED, 1.3 MP Front camera
Battery:  1750 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm / 135 g

Nexus 4

LG swooped in under the wings of Samsung to take over the reigns of the Nexus line with the introduction of the Nexus 4 to the market. The smartphone was unveiled in November 2012 and it was the first smartphone to get Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. With this update, we saw the addition of the photosphere function, the so-called Quick Settings, and lock screen widgets.

nexus 4
The Nexus 4: the first Nexus from LG. © LG

The Nexus 4 was distinguished mainly by its optical glass casing that covers the front and the back of the device. As well, it could be purchased directly from the Google Play Store and appeared in a white version after awhile. Immediately after the launch of the device, the Nexus 4 was sold out in many countries and continued delivery issues hampered the device until January of 2013. Besides the design and hardware behind the device, it was mainly the price that was the main driving factor behind the endearment of the Nexus 4 to critics and consumers alike.

2012: Nexus 4
System: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Display: 4.7-inches, LCD, 1280 x 768 Pixel, 316 ppi
Processor: 1.5 GHz, Quad-Core, Snapdragon S4 Pro
Memory: 2 GB
Internal Memory  8/16 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 4.0, WLAN, HSPA+, NFC, Miracast
Camera: 8 MP, auto focus, LED, 1.3 MP Front camera
Battery:  2100 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm / 139 g


2013 isn’t over yet and has been the year of many amazing smartphone releases, which each could represent another milestone in the Android story themselves. However, the HTC One may be the big winner when it comes to design and functionality of an Android device. Relying on the sleekness and simple design that stemmed from Apple iPhone line, the HTC delivered a simple elegance in a powerhouse of a package. 

htc one
The HTC ONe: probobably one of the best smartphones currently on the market. / © HTC

At its launch in February of 2013, the HTC One came with Android 4.1.2, now upgradable to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Beside the successful design, the One is characterized by its full HD display, stereo speakers with booming sound technology, ultra-pixel camera, and a flashing news feed in its Sense UI.

2013: HTC One
System: Android 4.1.2
Display: 4.7-inches LCD, 1920 x 1080 Pixel, 468 ppi
Processor: 1.7 GHz, Snapdragon 600
Memory: 2 GB
Internal Memory:  32 GB
Connectivity:  Bluetooth 4.0, LTE, WLAN, NFC, Infrarot, MHL, HDMI
Camera: 4 MP (UltraPixel), auto focus, LED; 2.1 MP Front camera
Battery:  2300 mAh
Dimensions/Weight: 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.4 mm / 143 g

Nexus 5

The final chapter for this year has yet to be written, it seems, as we wait for the next milestone of the Android line to be announced: The Nexus 5.  All probabilities point towads LG stepping up to the plate again to manufacturer the latest in the Nexus line which is expected to drop sometime this month with a brand new version of Android.

However, what the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 will bring us, nothing official has been announced. Even without anything official, there has been enough information leaked for us to draw our own conclusions. The only certainty though is that with the Nexus 5, the outstanding history of Android will continue to be written. Looking forward, I can only help but wonder what’s written on the wall for the next five years?

What is next?

So, what do you think the development of Android will take on in the near future? What are the next milestones that will mark the passage of Android and Google over the next five years?

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