Mobile Operating Systems Overview

The field of Mobile Application Development is emerging to meet the software needs of an increasingly large number of mobile devices. A mobile device is a small handheld computing device which has an operating system and can run various types of programs (applications). Devices included in the mobile device category are: smart telephones, tablet computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), calculators, handheld game consoles, portable media players, digital cameras, and personal navigation devices (PND). A number of mobile operating systems exist in today's market place, however the market share is being dominated by Apple's iOS and the Google's Android. One of the biggest forces in evolution of mobile devices, and the dominance that now exists with the two major mobile operating systems, is the mobile telephone.

History Mobile Phones to Smart Phones

Mobile telephones played an important role in the development of mobile devices. Mobile telephones allowed for a wireless connection into the public telephone network. Some of the key events in the history of mobile telephones and devices include:

It was the convergence of several technologies that permitted the development of mobile devices. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (The Brick) was the first widely available portable cell phone. As marketed in 1983, it weighted 2.5 pounds and retailed for $3,995.00, plus hefty fees. The Brick was able to do little more than make short phone calls.

Additional capabilities for cell phones developed slowly as their trade secrets were closely guarded. After Internet technology lead to the creation of the web, there was a desire to connect to the web using these primitive cell phones. A stripped-down version of the Internet's communication protocol (HTTP) was created for these early cell phones. Called the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), it did well in Japan, but was not successful in the United States.

As cell phone capabilities improved, a number of proprietary mobile operating systems emerged. The mobile operating system market became fragmented; some being successful in hosting gaming applications with others have success hosting business applications. The competing networks of wireless communications also lead to regional fragmentation. This fragmentation was reflected in the software development community. Only a small number of contracted developers were allowed to create applications for certain cell phones.

Google's Android Open Handset Alliance

Blackberry developed the first commercially successful smartphone and enjoyed five years as the market leader. However a new leader emerged in 2007 with the release of the Apple's phone. Other forces were also stirring in the market place during this time. In 2005 Google acquired a company called Android which led to speculation that a gPhone might be in the works. Instead Google began developing an open-source platform for mobile devices based on the new acquired technology. Google joined with a large number of vendors in the wireless community to form the Open Handset Alliance(OHA) in 2007.

The mission of The Open Handset Alliance is:

Welcome to the Open Handset Alliance™, a group of 84 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Together we have developed Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.
While the responsibilities for Android are shared between Google and the OHA, Google provides the tools and documentation for Android development at their Android Developers website. Mobile Operating Systems 2012 Market Share Trends

The remainder of this document concentrates on the Android operating system. Below is a graph of the 2012 mobile operating system market shares which illustrates how the Android operating system is becoming the market leader.

Mobile OS Chart
Global Stats - Top 8 Mobile Operating Systems from Dec 2011 to Dec 2012.

AndroidAndroid Operating System History and Usage

Google's Android™ operating system powers millions of mobile devices across the world. It claims to be the largest mobile operating system and continues to grow due to it's open source nature. Neither developers nor device manufacturers pay any fees to develop for Android. Developers can distribute their Android applications under any license scheme they desire. Google maintains the Google Play digital application distribution platform which has a revenue-sharing component as well allowing developers to publish free applications. The tools and documentation needed for Android development are freely available from Google's Android Developers website. Android applications are typically developed using the Eclipse IDE and Java programming language. I documented the setup procedures for the Android development environment on the Android Setup page. I have notes on Android development on the Android Development page.

Android Incorporated was founded in Palo Alto, California in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. Google acquired Android Inc. in August 2005. There are currently several versions of the Android operating system in use. Each new version is named alphabetically after a desert.

Usage of Android Versions
Version Codename API Distribution
1.6 Donut 4 0.2%
2.1 Eclair 7 2.4%
2.2 Froyo 8 9.0%
2.3 - 2.3.2 Gingerbread 9 0.2%
2.3.3 - 2.3.7 Gingerbread 10 47.4%
3.0 Honeycomb 11
3.1 Honeycomb 12 0.4%
3.2 Honeycomb 13 1.1%
4.0.1 - 4.0.2 Ice Cream Sandwich 14
4.0.3 - 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich 15 29.1%
4.1 Jelly Bean 16 9.0%
4.2 Jelly Bean 17 1.2%
1Data collected during a 14-day period ending on January 3, 2013

Top | Versions
API Specifications | Eclipse

  1. Android Developers, Platform Versions. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
  2. Google - Android Open Source Project. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  3. Google - Android Developer. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  4. Darcey, Lauren and Conder, Shane (2012). Android Wireless Application Development Volume: 1 Addison-Wesley, ISBN 978-0-321-81383-1.