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Who Owns Android?

by Anđelka Ostojić

The smartphone world is commonly split into two sides – Android phones and iOS phones. We all know Apple owns the iOS system, but who owns Android? Is Android owned by Samsung? If not, who created Android?

The question of Android ownership is a simple question with a short answer, but other questions surrounding the creation, development, and use of Android make the whole matter a bit complicated. Is it Google? And if Google owns Android, what does this have to do with Samsung? How come Samsung phones have the Android operating system?

As you can see, from one simple inquiry, a whole lot of questions grow.  Let’s try to find all the answers together.

In this article, you can find:

Who Owns Android OS?

Let’s start with the easiest question – who owns Android?

Google owns Android

Google launched Android OS in 2007, with the first Android-powered device rolling out a year later. The confusion about the ownership – is Android owned by Google or Samsung – stems from the fact that Android OS powers a host of smartphones owned by Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony.

Most modern mobile manufacturers use Android for their phones, barring Apple and those linked to Windows OS. Most of those companies belong to the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a consortium of 84+ software developing firms including HTC, Sony, Dell, Google, T-Mobile, and Nvidia. The Alliance, together with Google, is responsible for developing and distributing the Android operating system. Google established the Alliance and provided funds and sponsorship for the OS launch in 2007.

However, since 2007, the whole ownership of the OS belongs to Google. Google handles the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), the source code for the open-source software licensed under the Apache License.

Google Android Open Source Project

However, the open-source software is not open-source entirely. Many Android phones come with pre-installed app packs such as the Google Mobile Services. The Google Mobile Services pack includes Gmail, Google Play, and Google Play Services.

Forked Android Versions

But here is the thing – not all phones (and mobile manufacturers) use the same version of Android. Depending on the company, the phone maker might decide to tinker with the OS and implement a thing or two on their own. This then creates a forked version available on certain phones only.

One example is Samsung, whose Samsung One UI is only based on Android but uses proprietary features, elements, and design. Huawei also customizes the operating system to adjust it to the Chinese market. Amazon has its own Fire OS, which is another forked version.

Samsung and Huawei Android

This is where the confusion around OS ownership comes from – these companies have personalized versions which only resemble the original version. Who owns these Android versions?

Again, the original is owned by Google, but the companies behind these forked variants are responsible for their platforms.

Who Created Android?

The official story of this operating system might begin with Google, but Google did not come up with the concept by itself. The company actually acquired Android Inc, a software company based in Silicon Valley, in 2005.

Android Inc, founded by Nick Sears, Rich Miner, Chris White, and Andy Rubin in 2003, started the Android OS project with digital cameras in mind. The team saw potential in creating a device smarter and “more aware of the owner’s location and preferences”. They soon switched from cameras to mobile phones and started working diligently on expanding their mobile phone system.

Andy Rubin Android
Image Source: 9to5google.com

However, they lacked funds. Investments were missing, and the firm was close to closing its doors forever. However, in a historic move, Google saw the power such a system could wield and decided to invest in the venture. The company then acquired Android Inc, taking Rubin, White, Miner, and Sears along.

Once the transition was completed, the team led by Rubin continued work on the project at Google. The prototype was a Linux kernel-powered mobile device platform. However, before the first commercially available Android phone could see the light of day, the teams had to go through several versions and variants.

Supposedly, the first phone did not have a touchscreen, but the appearance of the first Apple iPhone and announced Nokia and BlackBerry touchscreen phones presented a challenge to the new-fangled Android.

The first Android phone – the HTC Dream (T-Mobile’s G1) – officially came out on September 23, 2008. Upon launch, Google submitted several patent requests in the mobile telephony field to protect inventions.

HTC Dream - The First Android Phone

History of the Android Platform

If it weren’t for the geniuses working at Google in 2005, the world would never have had Android. This might sound like a ludicrous fact to all of us, as we are used to its phones being everywhere. Nearly every device in a smart home runs on this OS (excluding those who run on iOS/macOS).

But if Google hadn’t spotted the company which was then on the brink of extinction, who knows how would the world look today? Thankfully, we don’t have to think about it, as Google did take up the OS project and created the most successful mobile operating system in the world. The OS is the world’s best-selling OS for smartphones and tablets, rivalled only by Apple iOS. As of May 2021, Android is used by 3 billion customers per month.

History of Android

Google made sure to create a base of apps which could work with its OS, expanding it to hold over 3 million apps in the Google Play Store. If you want to learn more about Android apps and tutorials, SmartPhone Tutorials covers a range of app tutorials and guides. Google even established Google Pay, a digital wallet platform allowing users to pay for items using their Android phones, tablets, and wristwatches. The payment wallet was initially launched as Android Pay in 2015 but changed its name to Google Pay in 2018.

Android Versions

One thing Google consistently does well is innovation. The Android operating system constantly gets updates, thanks to which everything runs smoothly across all devices. However, the experts working on the OS also have a great sense of humor – and that humor is reflected in the names of all Android versions and updates. Each version has a company codename, but some versions also have commercial names instead of numbers. In fact, only the last three versions carry numbers in the name, while all previous were named alphabetically – after a dessert.

The first one to roll out was the Android Cupcake, the second update for Android 1.0 and 1.1. It came out in 2009, followed by Donut and Éclair. In order of appearance, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing Android Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and Pie.

Old Android Versions
Image Source: www.bv02.com

After Android Pie, Google launched Android 10 (codename Quince Tart) and 11 (codename Red Velvet Cake). The most recent version is the Android 12 (codename Snow Cone) launched in October 2021. The version is set to have an update named 12L whose codename and release date we still don’t know. Users often ask about Android 13, but for now, there is no info about the potential OS version.

Parting Words

Now that we’ve solved the mystery of who owns Android, it’s time to get back into action. Play games and use your Android apps safely knowing Google is always backing you up – regardless of your phone manufacturer. Stop by our Android app tutorials and learn important hacks for your smartphone!

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