Android is 5 years old today: Here's how it all began

5 November 2012 marks Android's fifth birthday. We take a look back.

Android is five years old today -- happy birthday Android, have a cake! But how did our favourite green robot get started on his journey to mobile industry domination?

Five years ago, on 5 November 2007, the newly formed Open Handset Alliance unveiled Android -- an open-source operating system for mobile phones.

Although Google is Android's auteur, 34 corporations including T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola and Qualcomm formed part of the Alliance. The stated goal was "fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers are far better user experience than much of what is available on today's platforms".

A noble aim, but reading between the lines Android's real target was operating systems like Windows Mobile, Palm OS and Symbian -- all of which were, to put it delicately, about as much fun to use as putting a wasps' nest down your trousers.

Android's ascension to glory has been incredible to behold (it certainly polished off those three rivals mentioned above), but at the time spectators were understandably cautious.

"I don't think it'll be a success," said ex-CNETeer Rory Reid, speaking on the CNET UK podcast in 2007 . "Open-source phones have been tried before."

Formerly-of-this-parish Nate Lanxon offered an impressive bit of foresight, however, saying in the same podcast Android was "basically an attack on Microsoft in the future". Microsoft took longer to get its own smart phone-centric operating system off the ground, and now Windows Phone is racing to catch up to Android's years-long head start.

It was a little over a year before the first Android phone arrived, during which time an incredible amount of hype swirled, and people wondered whether Android would have the power to overtake the recently unveiled iPhone.

The T-Mobile G1 didn't quite manage to topple Apple's effort, but impressed us nonetheless -- we praised the physical keyboard and the Android Market (now Google Play), which let you easily add extra apps to your phone.

HTC was responsible for pushing Android into the limelight, with popular phones such as the HTC Desire putting Android into the hands of many more shoppers. Last year's Samsung Galaxy S2 was another mega-hit, and paved the way for this year's equally impressive Galaxy S3.

Android has come a long way in five years, and shows no signs of slowing. The last Android device we reviewed was the Google Nexus 4 -- likely to go down in history as one of the most important smart phones ever, thanks to its industry-rocking £239 price tag.

Google Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean , the very latest edition that introduces camera wizardry-app Photo Sphere and goodies like gesture typing.

Looking back at the T-Mobile G1, I'm amazed at how far Android has come -- will we be celebrating its 10th birthday in 2017, or will it be confined to the annals of tech history by then? Party down in the comments or celebrate on our Facebook wall.

Here Droidy's been 'shopped into an oil painting from C.M Coolidge's famous 'Dogs Playing Poker' series. Bonus points to Marc Crane for squishing in the CNET team. Can you spot us?
 

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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