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8 mind-blowing things about Android you'll never believe are true

You might think that there is nothing left to discover about Android – but there is, and you might be surprised by a lot of it. If history had taken a slightly different turn AndroidPIT would be about cameras. And that’s not the only amazing Android fact we’ve unearthed. Read on to discover eight things about Android you’ll never believe are true. 

AndroidPIT Scott surprised by Android 4
Eight things about Android you'll never believe are true. / © ANDROIDPIT

1. Android 3.0 never ran on phones

Android now runs on watches, TVs, and cars, but Android 3.0 didn’t even run on smartphones. Back in 2010, Apple had just announced the iPad, and naturally, Google had to respond.

Enter Android 3.0 Honeycomb, built specifically for tablets. What kind of tablets? Tablets like the Sony Tablet P, HTC Jetstream and Asus Eee pad slider. I wonder why none of those got a sequel?

androidpit sony tablet p
This is Sony's 5.5-inch Tablet P. Talk about bezels. / © Sony

2. Android 1.0 wasn’t named after a dessert

Android devices are all named after sweet treats, right? Wrong. Android 1.0 was referred to as “Alpha” or “Astro Boy”. Android 1.1 did have a sweet themed name, Petit Four (small french confectionary or cakes), but it did not follow the alphabetized naming convention that its successors have. The alphabetized dessert names came in with Android 1.5 Cupcake.

What do you think Android N will be called? My money’s on Nougat.

androidpit android early versions
Android 1.0 (left), and Android 2.1 (right). / © Google

3. Android has saved lives

Well, not the operating system itself (that we know of), rather, products created for Android. What do I mean exactly? There are a number of reported instances where smartphones have prevented what could have been fatal gunshot wounds. If that isn’t a reason to pick up the Droid Turbo 2, I don’t know what is.

4. Android is a man

android bugdroids angry teaser
Bugdroid: it's a bloke! / © ANDROIDPIT

Well, a robot man anyway. Although many dictionary definitions say that android means a robot with a human appearance, the andr- prefix is male and the vast majority of robots described as androids look male. 

There are several terms for robots that look female including gynoid, fembot and robotess. That last one dates back to 1921 and comes from the same Czech play that coined the term “robot”: R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots.

5. Android wasn’t designed for phones, let alone tablets

In 2013, Android creator Andy Rubin told a Tokyo audience that the Android of today was never intended for smartphones. It was designed for “smart cameras”. The idea was to connect cameras and PCs and then upload photos to the cloud using a service called Android Datacenter.

However, the digital camera market was starting to slow and Rubin decided that the market simply wasn’t big enough to justify the effort – so the Android team turned its attention to smartphones instead. 

Android was always designed to be free. “We wanted as many cellphones to use Android as possible,” Rubin explained. “So instead of charging US$99, or US$59, or US$69… we gave it away for free, because we knew the industry was price sensitive.”

That might not sound like a big deal, but at the time, if you were a manufacturer that wanted to use a mobile OS such as Windows CE, you needed to pay pretty hefty licensing fees or develop your own alternative, which isn’t cheap. A free mobile OS represented serious savings for phone firms, and if Android hadn’t been free it might not have been picked up by phone firms at all.

6. Every Android user owes Steve Jobs a big thanks

Before the iPhone, Android was targeting Windows devices like this one. / © HTC

We’re not trolling you. Between 2005 and 2007, Android had a single enemy in its sights: Microsoft, which, at the time, was the biggest, richest tech firm around. Back then every phone was different – so for example Motorola had one system, Nokia another, Samsung yet another – and the Android team figured that if anybody would come up with a standard operating system, it’d be Microsoft.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, the Android team knew that it had to go back to the drawing board: if it hadn’t, your Samsung or Sony would be more like a Blackberry or a Windows CE device.

7. In 2007, Android was more exciting than the iPhone

Android was more ambitious, but the iPhone was more polished. / © Romaine / Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Most people think that Apple revolutionized smartphone software, but what the Android team was working on at the same time was much more interesting – unlike the iPhone, which was largely dependent on iTunes, didn’t multitask and didn’t even do copy and paste, Android had developed a phone called Sooner that multitasked, didn’t need to talk to a desktop or laptop, would run not just on phones but on tablets too, and would connect to an online app store. Take that, Apple.

Unfortunately, the Sooner phone was really, really ugly. It was a Blackberry-esque chunk of plastic with a keyboard and a small non-touch screen. By comparison, the iPhone looked like something from a sci-fi film, used an accelerometer to magically orient the display, and its touchscreen would revolutionize the way we interacted with mobile devices.

At first nobody really thought touchscreens would take off, but of course they did. That’s why Android did a major about-face in 2008 and embraced iPhone-style smartphones. Today, phones with physical keyboards are rare (though they might be making a comeback thanks to the BlackBerry Priv).

8. Android works in space

Phones in space! / © NASA

In 2013, NASA launched a bunch of PhoneSats, ultra-cheap satellites powered by Android phones. The PhoneSats are toast now – all three of them burned up in the atmosphere – but they did their job admirably, sending photos back from space and demonstrating that it’s possible to make spaceworthy satellites from very cheap hardware.

The PhoneSats were made from two HTC Nexus Ones and a Samsung Nexus S, and the total cost worked out at roughly US$3,500 per satellite. That’s really cheap in space terms.

NASA wasn’t the only organization chucking Android smartphones into space. Also in 2013, the STRaND-1 satellite was launched into orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on behalf of Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) in England. STRaND-1 was the first smartphone-powered satellite in space, and its heart was a Google Nexus One.

As SSTL explained: “Smartphones are highly advanced and incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors – almost everything except solar panels and propulsion.” And smartphones are even smarter today.

Do you know an unbelievable Android fact that's definitely true? Let us know in the comments!


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