The very first device marketed under Android was the HTC G1, released under the name HTC Dream in France in March 2009. But did you know that before that, Google had already experimented with its platform on its own in-house hardware? If the answer is no, here is the Google Sooner.
We are slowly approaching 15 years of Android. Google will blow out the 15th candle of its operating system next November and since a prototype of the Pixel 7 has appeared on eBay recently, it’s an opportunity to dive back into Google’s history for a moment. matter. And if we go back far enough in time, as suggested AndroidPolice, we end up with the very first Android smartphone to have existed… and it’s not the HTC Dream, which nevertheless unofficially inherited this title. This is a more secret device developed internally by Google: the Sooner.
The first smartphone to run Android
The Sooner is the real first device to have run the Google OS. With its look of old BlackBerry of the time, we were far from the current touch screens and even the HTC Dream which offered both a keyboard and a touch screen. The version of Android that this phone was carrying was still radically different from its commercial version and then represented the first draft of Google’s future platform. Platform which will end up as we know by sinking its competitors of the time outside iOS: Symbian OS, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone and WebOS.
HTC’s CEO at the time, Peter Chou, admitted in an interview that this prototype was based on one of their Windows Phone devices at the time: the HTC Excalibur. The origins of Android are therefore linked in some way to Windows Mobile. As far as hardware is concerned, the Sooner met the canons of the time for devices designed for “productivity”. We laugh about it today, but BlackBerry phones dominated the “high-end” segment for a while and the Sooner takes these codes and appropriates them in a design that breathes the 2000s: a d-pad in the center with a alphanumeric keyboard and navigation keys with which we find the ancestral keys to answer or hang up/decline a call.
The keys were even backlit, which gave it a pretty cool look for the time. Its low resolution screen was of course not tactile, each text entry had to be made from the physical keyboard. A notable advantage that most contemporary smartphones no longer have was its compactness. It also offered a rather pleasant grip thanks to the use of polymer.
An early iteration quite different from the commercial version
This is a version of the system that has never seen the light of day outside the company’s premises and a lot has changed between the two versions. But seeing it, we better understand Google’s initial intentions when creating the OS. It was more of a proof of concept than a real working device, and the applications developed for this smartphone were used to demonstrate the performance of the software. It was more a question of software than hardware here.
Instead of some usual applications such as Gmail or Maps that could be found in version 1.0 of Android, we were entitled here to some more unusual applications such as the game Quake or another application called “Tweet” which was also present. It wasn’t explicitly Twitter, and the app icon was a photo of a bird taken from someone’s home. Most of the items present in the settings were just there to fill the gap and weren’t actually functional.
In terms of specifications, this smartphone wouldn’t even shake a connected watch today and offered a spec sheet that now seems timeless: a Texas Instruments OMAP850 200 MHz single-core SoC (yes, like the calculator brand ), a 2.43-inch LCD screen with a definition of 320×240 pixels, 64 Mb of RAM and storage, a tiny 960 mAh battery, a 1.3 Mpx camera and a Mini USB charging port.
The Google Sooner home screen // Source: Android Police
The Android 1.0 home screen // Source: Android Police
The Google Sooner application launcher // Source: Android Police
The Android 1.0 application launcher // Source: Android Police
There was no onboard Wi-Fi on this phone, the only way to receive data here was the 2G network which is very rare these days. The software obviously ran less well on this first version, even compared to version 1.0 launched later. The application launcher was also radically different.
This one was static and you had to use the d-pad to navigate between the featured apps which you couldn’t change. No customization except for the wallpaper, you had to do with what was there. Now looking back, we can see how far we have come since then, but for those who have known this incredible time when everything seemed new, this smartphone will undoubtedly bring a little bit of nostalgia.
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