The tale of two Androids: Before and after the iPhone

Android: Before and After iPhone

Taking the stand on Friday in the second U.S. Apple vs. Samsung patent lawsuit, Google’s Android engineering vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer said that the company did not copy iPhone when designing Android. However, Re/code and AppleInsider have obtained internal Google documents submitted into evidence that remind us just how different Android was in the beginning, with the first Android devices not even supposed to support touchscreen displays.

“We like to have our own identity,” Lockheimer said while defending Android, revealing that he joined Google in April 2006 to work on Android. The documents in question, however, show how the identity of Android was shaped around the iPhone’s launch, turning it from a BlackBerry lookalike into an iPhone alternative.

The “Android Project Software Functional Requirements” document that was confidentially shown in July 2006 to potential hardware makers reveals Google did not conceive Android with touchscreen devices in mind, at least at first.

“Touchscreens will not be supported,” the document said. “The product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption. However, there is nothing fundamental in the products architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future.”

The document also reveals that Android was based on Linux 2.6 with Java on top, and that it would use Microsoft’s FAT 32 file system – apparently the technology that helps the Windows maker cash in on Android devices each year.

Furthermore, support for widgets and third-party apps were also mentioned as well as the inclusion of some sort of browser, although some details were not exactly clear. “Other portions still ‘TK’ in 2006 were multimedia frameworks, the handling of music and pictures, and any outline of how an Android phone might support email accounts, folders, attachments or rich text,” AppleInsider says. It appears that even though “the hours were pretty grueling,” as Lockheimer put it during his testimony, many of the Android features were still to be determined.

An updated version of the document dated November 2007 reveals that Google’s Android plans have been significantly changed both when it comes to hardware features but also software features – the iPhone was unveiled in early 2007 and launched in late June that year.

“Lockheimer said the vision evolved as the company learned what it heard screen manufacturers tell it what was coming down the pipeline,” Re/code writes.

According to the second doc, Google now required the use of touchscreen in Android-based devices. “A touchscreen for finger-based navigation – including multi-touch capabilities – is required. Stylus-based navigation is not supported,” the document reads. A QWERTY keyboard was also required. The company also explained other features that were not clear in the July 2006 presentation, including a full-fledged WebKit web browser and a Media Player app “capable of managing, importing and playing back content encoded in various forms.”

Even though Android evolved on its own, and Google managed to turn it into the unequivocal dominant player of the mobile business – at least by market share – these documents proved that the iPhone had a major influence on the company. The second document proves that Google’s major Android makeover took place in April 2007 (version 0.99) – the July 2007 document details Android 0.91. Moreover, these documents also seem to back up previous unconfirmed reports that detailed how Google was forced to change Android once Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and how the Android team was stunned to see what Apple was working on.

One of Samsung’s main defence arguments in the trial is that the software features found inside its Galaxy-branded Android-running devices Apple is attacking are running software entirely developed by Google. Apple has never sued Google directly over patent infringing matters.

The documents submitted into evidence detailing Android before and after the iPhone follow below.

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