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Five years of Android by the numbers

The Android operating system celebrates its fifth birthday with half a billion activations and counting on a "Galaxy" of different devices.


Google's mobile OS is five years young today -- Androids don't age, they just get updated and replaced -- and my colleagues at Crave UK have the full story of how Android began. I, however, wanted to look at the numbers that tell us how far it's come.

First let's take a look at the favorite metric of Andy Rubin and other Googlers -- the total-Android-activations number. The Googleplex tells us the total number hit a half billion back in mid-September, around the same time Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying there were 1.3 million new activations each day. Doing some quick math on the Android calculator app, I get just over 570 million total activations up to the current day. That's almost two Android devices per U.S. citizen, and quickly approaching one for every 10 people on Earth.

At the current rate of growth (taking Schmidt's word for it, of course), Android will reach a billion activations before its sixth birthday next year. That's a few years less than it took Facebook to reach a billion active users, which is pretty impressive considering that all Facebook accounts are free to set up, but few Android devices come without a price or carrier contract.

Speaking of Android devices, the most recent data I've seen puts the total number of unique Android interfaces in the wild at around 4,000, and that was in May. That figure counts custom ROMs, however, so surely there aren't that many pieces of different hardware out there. Our U.K. boys again reported on data earlier this year that put the number of unique Android devices at at least 600.

Then, of course, there are the different flavors of Android. The first two versions, 1.0 and 1.1, didn't get the cute dessert names. That started with 1.5, better known as Cupcake. Most people wouldn't get familiar with the OS until version 2.1 Eclair, however, which is still on 3.1 percent of devices today. That was followed by Froyo, which can still be found on 12 percent of Android systems, according to Google.

But chances are that if you've got an Android phone or tablet today, it's running version 2.3 Gingerbread like almost 54 percent of Android devices. That's followed by the 25.8 percent running Ice Cream Sandwich, which was slow to roll out to many devices, and has now lost its luster due to the unveiling of Jelly Bean this summer -- it's on 2.7 percent of devices.


But what to do on all those devices? Well, Android App Market AppBrain reports that there are 556,802 Android apps available right now (potential malware notwithstanding). And as for the top Android phones? Well, it's a galaxy of Samsung Galaxy devices, led by the S2, S3 and S, in that order. In fact, 8 of the 10 top Android phones are Galaxy phones, according again to AppBrain.

If the trends hold, by the time Android turns 10, there could be an activated Android device for nearly every person on the planet, but most of them will still be living in one of Samsung's Galaxies. Happy birthday, Android!