The Android era: Cupcake to Gingerbread

Google's first Android phone, the HTC Dream, wasn't much to look at when it debuted in October 2008, with its trough for a keyboard and its bizarrely jutting chin; but it kicked off an avalanche of Android phones, just the same.

The now-mature Android operating system currently accounts for 48 per cent of the global market share, according to research firm Canalys, with a staggering 85 per cent slice of the pie in South Korea and 71 per cent stake in Taiwan. iPhone sales remain strong, but Windows Phone poses only a shadow of a threat.

There are consequences of such a blistering growth spurt, and, in Google's case, it's been fragmentation — too many versions of the operating system available at the same time. While most models now host Android 2.2 Froyo and the newer Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), there's also the tablet-specific Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).

Ice Cream Sandwich is set to change all of that, conquering fragmentation with its one-size-fits-all solution for Android screens large and small. Always searching for the next treat in its enticing alphabet of releases, tipsters are sharing news of what's to come after the ice cream, even though manufacturers and carriers are still upgrading existing devices to Gingerbread. (More details below the chart.)

It's always good to get a little perspective, and, in light of that, here's a look at the milestones in Google's Android operating system, from its humble beginnings to its current ambitions in tablet domination.

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