How Google's Android came in the smartphone market

Nowadays Android users are growing rapidly. That’s why today In this article we’ll be exploring one of the most important parts of Google which is Android & discuss How Google's Android came in the smartphone market.

How Google's Android came in the smartphone market

Although the Android OS became popular after 2010, the story behind it goes way back to 1989, not in Silicon Valley but in the Cayman Islands. It is there that Andy Rubin, a robotics engineer working in Switzerland had gone on vacation. Early one morning, he stumbled across a man sleeping in a chair outside as it turns out one of Apple’s leading software engineers had just been kicked out of his beach house by his girlfriend. Andy was compassionate and gave the man a place to stay in return, he was offered a job at Apple, right around the time when the Macintosh had peaked in popularity.

Thanks to this lucky break, Andy kicked off a great career in Silicon Valley, first by developing the Macintosh Quadra for Apple, and then joining General Magic, the company now famous for developing the predecessor of the modern smartphone. While working at these companies Andy would always develop his own side projects. They usually involved him building crazy robots, and eventually, people around the office started calling Andy the Android. Interestingly enough, one of Andy’s colleagues at General Magic was Tony Fadell, the man who would later go on to create both the iPod and the iPhone.

Although General Magic’s idea was truly innovative, it was at least a decade ahead of its time, which is why the company eventually went bust. Andy never gave up on the idea of the smartphone, however, and in 1999 he and his engineering buddies decided to start their own company to pursue that dream.

What they eventually developed was the Hiptop, a phone with a keyboard that could wirelessly connecting to the Internet.

While not innovative from a hardware standpoint, the Hiptop was nevertheless a pioneer. You see, back in 2002 mobile phones were still considered mostly a business tool, and nobody had made any serious effort to market them to teenagers.

The Hiptop’s design was the perfect blend of instant messaging, Web access, and convenience, but Andy ran into a problem before he could even start production. Back then the mobile phone industry was almost exclusively controlled by carrier companies. They were the ultimate gatekeepers for any phone manufacturer, because, without them, phones were basically useless. Carries had power over nearly every aspect of mobile phones, from how much they would cost to how they would be marketed.

The Hiptop seemed like a very risky investment, so Andy struggled to get any carrier on board. He eventually had to strike an extremely unfavorable deal with the only company that was even marginally interested, T-Mobile not only did they demand a large percentage of all the sales, they also got to rebrand. Andy’s phone, releasing it as the T-Mobile Sidekick. It was somewhat successful, but it was mostly used by urban rich kids so its popularity was limited and Danger Inc didn’t really get any public exposure out of it. Nevertheless, the phone did get into the hands of the right person: Larry Page, the co-founder of Google.

Now, back then Google wasn’t nearly as big as it is today; in fact, it was still behind the likes of AOL Search and Yahoo. That’s why Larry was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that the default search engine for Andy’s phone, was Google. Larry saw huge potential in the idea of the smartphone and wanted Google to make one of their own, but he knew that the carriers would never allow an outsider to steal their profits.

Larry felt it was still too early for Google to challenge the carriers, and so he waited. As luck would have it, over the next three years, Andy would develop a new business model that could finally end the carrier monopoly. His previous venture, Danger Inc, was like any regular manufacturer, relying on hardware sales to make its money. This came into direct conflict with carriers, who wanted their clients to use the same phone for as long as possible to prevent them from switching to competitors.

Andy figured out a brilliant way of ending this conflict of interest. Instead of relying on hardware sales, he would give out his software for free, earning money by taking a percentage of the carrier service fees. Andy knew firsthand just how difficult it was to be a developer for phone apps back then, so he wanted to make his operating system open source as well, giving everyone the chance to use it and build applications for it. He combined these two ideas into a new company, which he called Android, in 2004, and while the rest of the world laughed at his idealism, Google knew that this was what they had been waiting for.

Just a year later, when Android still had nothing more than a barely-working demo, Google bought the whole company for $50 million. Even then, Google’s motives were clear, they anticipated the rise of mobile computing and wanted a dedicated platform through which to distribute their services.

Andy and his team were brought along to do just that, and they even got their own building at the Googleplex. Over the next two years, they would develop their revolutionary idea into a fully functional operating system. But that was just the first step: they still needed to design a phone the OS would run on and to partner with a carrier to actually sell it. Finding someone to build the phone was easy enough, but getting a carrier to willingly give up their control of the phone market was difficult, to say the least.

In fact, every single carrier Google contacted turned them down. Then, on January 9, 2007, Apple unveiled the iPhone. Unsurprisingly, the Android office was in chaos the very next day. While they had experimented with touchscreen technology, nobody had imagined that Apple would be fully integrating it into their phone.

Over the next nine months, Andy’s team completely redesigned their product, adding touchscreen functionality on top if its pre-existing keyboard. The release of the iPhone, however, actually helped Android. You see, Apple wasn’t nearly as determined to break up the carrier monopoly Andy was so eager to destroy.

Steve Jobs had just gone with the flow, signing an exclusive deal with AT&T to get the iPhone out as fast as possible. But once the other carriers saw just how popular the iPhone was, they started to panic, fearing that AT&T would come to dominate the smartphone market thanks to its initial lead. This fear is what eventually convinced T-Mobile to sell Android’s first phone, the HTC Dream.

Unfortunately, it would take Andy’s team another year before they could finally release it, giving Steve Jobs plenty of time to grab market share. But Google did not come unprepared. They used this extra time to form an alliance with various carriers, software developers, and manufacturers.

Apple’s deal with AT&T convinced everyone that they had to work together. Steve Jobs threatened to destroy their entire business models, which made Android’s open-source offer much more lucrative. Because Android wasn’t a closed-off system like iOS, carriers and manufacturers could remain confident that Google wouldn’t abuse its power over the Android platform.

Thus, in November 2007, the Open Handset Alliance was born. The crusade against Apple would not be easy, however, and by mid-2009 iOS already held 40% of the smartphone market. A big chunk of its market share came from the dying SymbianOS, which was the operating system of older phones. In the midst of Symbian’s decline, Android scored its first big victory: the Motorola Droid.

By the time of its release in 2009, the carriers were so scared of fading into irrelevance that Verizon personally spend $100 million marketing the Droid as an iPhone-alternative.

From then on, the Android OS quickly reached mass-market adoption. Apple barely made an attempt to stop it because its model was of high prices and exclusivity was the polar opposite of the cheapness and variety of Android. By May 2010 Android had already surpassed iOS in market share, and by the end of the year, it was the world’s most popular mobile operating system, a title it still holds to this day.

Andy oversaw the first 18 versions of Android and is likely responsible for the tasty trend of naming the different releases after popular sweets. He did eventually leave Google in 2014.

Today he runs his own incubator in Silicon Valley and also has a billion-dollar smartphone company that just started shipping its first phone, the Essential PH1, that is so far getting mixed reviews.

Even without Andy, Android remains the dominant mobile operating system on the planet, despite facing sharp criticism from all sides on a variety of issues. Things like security flaws and malware issues haven’t hindered Android’s popularity.

As of August 2017, Android controls 72.7% of the mobile phone market, with over 2 billion active users every single month. Right now iOS is the only thing that stands between it and monopoly, and Android is showing no signs of slowing down.

In fact, its latest release, 8.0 Oreo, is Android’s most ambitious one yet. With an improved notification system, tighter background process control, and a legitimate solution to its fragmentation issue, so far Oreo is being praised all around.

At this point, Android can no longer be called just a mobile operating system. Besides phones and tablets, Oreo will also be integrated in cars, watches, TVs, VR headsets, and possibly numerous other devices thanks to a version dedicated to the “Internet of Things”. Suffice to say, things are looking bright for Android, and considering just how crucial of a part, they are in the Google war machine, they’ll likely remain on top for a long time.

Now, the technical innovations that made Android possible back in the early 2000s aren’t things that are easy to learn. All the science and math that went into creating Android may seem difficult to get into.

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