Developers: an Android 2011 Retrospective

When we look back at this year, we'll think of it as the year of the birth of the dual-core mobile super chip, the double CPU processor becoming the status quo for a smartphone or tablet running Android, this the single most important thing to those who use the devices as tiny computers while the term "4G" dominates the memories of the masses, but it's developers that mattered most. There's no thinking about Android this year without recognizing that it's still running alongside Apple's iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad 2 as its primary competitors, and as its own user interface changes drastically, its competitors instead tweak functionality inside their already set-in-stone aesthetic. Then there's the battles between manufacturers, carriers, and Android versions too, but none of this existed outside the underground of hackers, developers, and tweakers galore!

The masses switched their Android versions from Froyo to Gingerbread on the whole, and by the end of the year we had Ice Cream Sandwich. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was the hero device for the Android version near the end of the year and the Gingerbread hero, Samsung's Nexus S, got the update soon after. Because of the massive hacker and developer communities in the wild working with Android at the moment, Ice Cream Sandwich is quickly being distributed to those brave enough to unlock their devices (breaking warranty in the process) for custom modification.

Hacking is not just a passing fad for Android devices, it's a massive subculture. Here on SlashGear we end up writing about hacking-related stories for Android as often as we do about Apple patent applications. It's a strange comparison to make, but there it is: as iOS fans ears poke up at the sound of a new product innovation from Apple, so too does the Android community listen in when news of a new version of CyanogenMod is released. CyanogenMod is a ROM made by the biggest community of developers working on a single project in the wild – ask anybody. What they do is take the most recent version of Android and perfect it with a hand-picked selection of modifications.

Between Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, you should know, the modifications made by Google have been extremely indicative of how well they're listening to the developer community at large. Developers and hackers have been hired on by groups like Samsung and Apple this year to bring the unmitigated brilliance flowing forth from their fingers to bring the heat to their real live products. What we've learned this year, above all else, is that there's such an awesomely excitable developer base for Android out there today that they affect the decision making of every person in power from the bottom to the top.

But don't get it twisted: the carriers still hold the reigns here in the United States. Everything from Verizon keeping Motorola devices locked down from development to Sprint releasing the most horribly mouth-packing name for a device in the history of smartphones, it's all the carrier's fault. There's good reason for every bad decision, of course, and manufacturers are certainly not without blame for biffs, but mistakes have been made inside these past 12 months.

Android remains strong though, and masterpieces have been released as well, all of them open for development by the masses to the max. I'm currently still loving the AT&T Galaxy S II from Samsung running things like Ice Cream Sandwich alpha, the LG Optimus 2X (aka T-Mobile G2x) still has my favorite form factor in the history of Android, and ASUS is currently in the process of releasing the Transformer Prime, a tablet with a keyboard dock, processor, and display that make the iPad 2 look as old as it really is. There's sure to be no break between the years here in the winter season leading into 2012 for hackers, ICS on the tips of everyone's tongues, and the year ahead will be no less than spectacular for developers and adventurous consumers alike.

Stay tuned to SlashGear for the rest of our glances back at 2011 and of course, stick around for the next twelve months which will begin with a bang at CES 2012!