15 years doesn't seem like a long time ago, but believe it or not, in 2008, there were very few of what we would today call "smartphones" out in the wild. BlackBerry launched its first smartphones a few years earlier, but they were mainly for business users. Microsoft had Windows Mobile which was used by a number of mobile phone makers.
However, smartphones really began becoming popular for regular consumers when Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007.
Even before Apple launched the iPhone, Google bought the Android team in 2005 and started working on its own smartphone operating system, one that could be licensed by any phone maker. On September 23, 2008, 15 years ago today, the first ever Android smartphone was announced.
The HTC Dream, which was called the T-Mobile G1 in the US and also in parts of Europe, was not a total touchscreen device like the iPhone. It had a 3.2-inch touch display that could slide out to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard.
Inside there was a Qualcomm MSM7201A processor which included an Adreno 130 GPU. The GT Dream also had 192MB of RAM, 256MB of expandable internal storage, and a 1,150mAh battery that could be removed.
Today, most of those specs seem extremely primitive, although many phone owners right now wouldn't mind having a removable battery or expandable storage on their current smartphone.
The event to announce the new phone was a big deal. It included a press conference in New York City, as Google, T-Mobile, and HTC teamed up to officially introduce the HTC Dream. Ars Technica reported on the event at that time:
In addition to being chock full of Google's open source goodness, the companies have worked to ensure that the Android-enabled Dream is also chock full of familiar features and apps. Users will have one-click access to all of Google's mobile apps, such as Gmail, Google Maps (including street view, a feature that is infuriatingly missing from the iPhone), Google talk, Google Calendar, and more
The New York Times, in its own story about the HTC Dream announcement, noted that HTC previously was a big supporter of Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS. However, it decided to go all in with Android, including putting in a large number of HTC phone engineers at Google's Android offices.
The HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 officially went on sale about a month later on October 22, 2008. T-Mobile priced it at $179 with a two-year contract. In April 2009, CNET reported that T-Mobile had sold one million units of the first Android phone, which was a fairly respectable amount at that time.
That same report quoted a report from the research firm AdMob, which stated that Android had 6 percent of the total smartphone market in the US at that time. It was in fourth place behind iOS/iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile.
15 years after the introduction of the first Android phone, it's a very different situation. Apple's iPhones currently claim 54.7 percent of the entire smartphone market in the US, according to this report from Oberlo.
The rest are all smartphones that use Android. They are led by Samsung, which launched its first Android-based Galaxy phone in June 2009, less than a year after the launch of the HTC Dream.
BlackBerry no longer makes smartphones, and Microsoft's attempts to enter the market, which included buying Nokia's phone business, didn't work out. Even HTC, the maker of the first Android device, has mostly exited the smartphone business, after selling much of it to Google several years ago.
However, the Android era of smartphones still continues as Google prepares to launch Android 14 early in October alongside its own Pixel 8 phones. And it all really began 15 years ago today.