The History of the Android Robot

Image of many different Android robots
Corbin Davenport / How-To Geek

The Android operating system powers billions of phones, tablets, embedded devices, and other hardware. Since its inception, a green robot has served as a mascot, serving as inspiration for many more variants over the past 15 years. Here’s a look back.

The Original Robot (2007)

The iconic mascot for Android was created by Irina Blok, who was working as a designer at Google when Android was under development in 2007. She told The New York Times in 2013 that she was inspired by the man and woman symbols that often appear on restroom doors, and it’s not hard to see that in the final design, with legs and arms that end in half-circles. However, in a later interview with Insider in 2015, she said that wasn’t true and “it was just about creating something that everybody could relate to and something that developers in particular liked.”

The initial design wasn’t presented to anyone at Google. However, the design quickly caught on with the Android team and other employees at Google. Blok told Insider, “It just became this viral movement on its own. The next thing I knew, there were all kinds of robots. There was one that was a little kitty, there was one that looked like Sarah Palin. They were like multiplying everywhere.”

Android robot
Irina Blok

The logo was also released as open source, without the tangled web of trademarks and brand guidelines that affect many similar logos and mascots. Blok says on her website, “Not unlike Linux Penguin, the logo helped to establish identity for the new product and generated excitement among engineers.”

To this day, the Android robot (which is Google’s official name for it) remains under the Creative Commons license, so anyone can use it with the proper attribution. However, the regular Android typeface logo and name is still a Google trademark.

It didn’t take long for Google to use the Android robot in official communication, like the Android.com website and developer presentations at Google I/O. Google used a few different variants, and so did manufacturers building products with the new operating system. Custom ROM developers also took to the robot for use in branding.

Android Market Icon (2008)

Perhaps the most-seen variant of the Android robot (at least in the platform’s first few years) was the icon for the Android Market, the original app store for Android devices. The finalized icon was a shopping bag, with a white exterior, green interior, and a sideways Android robot in the right corner. An earlier version seen in a blog post from 2008 has a robot in a darker green color.

Google

Google decided to rebrand the Android Market as “Google Play” in 2012, since by that point, it was more of a digital media hub (with music, books, and videos) instead of just being an app store. The old Android icon disappeared in favor of a triangle resembling a play icon—a design choice that persists to this day.

Androidify Robots (2011)

Google released the Androidify app in 2011, allowing you to create your very own Android robot with custom clothes, colors, and accessories. It was a fun app, and it received a few updates over the years.

It was also a prominent part of Google’s “be together, not the same” marketing campaign for Android a few years later, which advertised the wide variety of Android devices as a selling point for the operating system.

Unfortunately, updates for the Androidify app eventually ended, and the app was pulled from the Google Play Store in 2020.

Andy & Cid (2009 & 2012)

CyanogenMod was one of the most popular custom Android ROMs for years, and the first few versions used a version of the Android robot on a skateboard, nicknamed “Andy.” It was seen on countless forum threads and developer hubs, and Andy was visible in the default boot animation for several years.

CyanogenMod logos
Andy (left) and Cid (right) Cyanogen

In 2012, the CyanogenMod team replaced Andy with a more original mascot: Cid. A blog post explained, “We love Andy too, he has served us faithfully for close to 3 years now. However, he increasingly became a symbol of what CyanogenMod was when Steve (Cyanogen) started it, a ‘playful spin’ on AOSP, and reflective of our immaturity as a project. We believe we’re more than just “stock Android for a zillion devices”, and we felt the need for a distinct identity; a change was needed.”

CyanogenMod development ended in 2016, after Cyanogen Inc decided to shut down its infrastructure. The code was forked and turned into LineageOS, which is still around today, but sadly does not have a robot-themed mascot.

Gingerbread Android (2010)

Android 2.3 Gingerbread was released in 2010, and Google created a unique Android robot for the occasion. The robot was updated to look like a gingerbread cookie, complete with frosting for the face and sleeves, a green bowtie (bowties are cool), and two red buttons.

Gingerbread Android robot logo
Google

Google also constructed a lawn statue of the Gingerbread Android robot, which was placed alongside an existing statue of the normal green robot and non-robot food statues (such as an eclair and cupcake).

This became a tradition for future Android releases: each new major version was named after a sweet treat, a custom robot was designed, and a statue version was installed at Google’s headquarters.

Mini Collectible Robots (2010)

Dead Zebra Inc, a company founded by artist Andrew Bell, started selling officially-licensed Android robot collectible figures in 2010. The first series included a real-life version of the classic green robot, but also included a “hi-voltage” orange design, a brown copper-like version, a “worker” robot in business casual attire, and a yellow “octopoid” robot.

Two Android figures
Two figures from Series 1 Dead Zebra Inc

Dead Zebra went on to release many more collectible robot figures from many different designers, as well as other Google and Android-related merchandise. You can buy the current figures from the company’s online store.

Bee Robot (2011)

Google introduced Android 3.0 in 2011 as the first version of Android optimized for tablets. It was nicknamed “Android Honeycomb,” so Google turned the Android robot into a bee. The bee robot is blue, not yellow — a choice inspired by the blue accent colors from Android’s then-new Holo design language.

Android robot that looks like a bee
Google

Unfortunately, the bee robot didn’t get a humanoid statue at Google HQ, like the Gingerbread one. Instead, the statue for Android 3.0 was a massive honeycomb with a normal bee on top and the normal Android robot sticking out from one of the tiles.

Dancing Robot (2011)

The Android robot occasionally appeared in the real world, sometimes even in inflatable costume form. This clip of someone dancing in an Android robot suit in front of a Sony booth (advertising the then-new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc) in Taiwan, is nothing short of incredible.

It seems like the same robot made an appearance at Google I/O 2011, and once again was busting moves like there was no tomorrow. There were also a few less impressive impersonators with more rigid costumes, like one at a Kyocera booth at CTIA 2011. I’m sure they were all trying their best, though.

Ice Cream Sandwich Robot (2011)

Google graced us with another robot variant in 2011, alongside the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The main logo for the release was a 3D render of the robot in the shape of — you guessed it — an ice cream sandwich. There was also a pixelated 2D version that appeared as an easter egg in the Settings app.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich robots
Google

This robot also appeared in statue form at Google HQ, giving a friendly (but motionless) wave to all onlookers. Notably, the statue was not built to be edible.

Recovery Robot (2011)

There’s another version of the Android robot that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who was flashing custom ROMs and repairing bricked phones. This one seemingly never had an official name, so we’ll call it the “Recovery Robot.”

It appeared on many Android devices in the bootloader and recovery partition, with its body open to indicate you were messing with the core functionality of the operating system — one wrong command could permanently brick the device.

If the device was idling in the bootloader or recovery partition, the robot appeared on its back with a red warning icon. While an operation was running, such as flashing a new recovery partition or wiping the system, the robot switched to the animated version with moving gears and antennae.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when this variant first appeared, but our best guess is that it was in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, released in 2011. Android 2.3 Gingerbread and earlier versions used different artwork, but the recovery robot can be found in the source code for Android 4.0. Android 3.0 was never properly open-sourced, but tutorials for the Motorola Xoom (the launch device for Android 3.0) show the older artwork in the recovery screens.

The animation is missing in the code for Android 5.0 Lollipop and newer, which you can see in videos about the Nexus 6 (which launched with 5.0) — the robot on its back is still visible, but when an action is in progress, the robot goes away. The static image can still be seen in modern Google Pixel devices and a few other phones and tablets.

Jelly Bean Robot (2012)

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was released in 2012, and sure enough, we got a new matching robot to go with it. The main version was a 3D render of the robot head on top of a jar of jelly beans, without any arms or legs. There was also a 2D version as an easter egg in the Settings, which appeared as a red jellybean with a smiling face and the robot’s antennae.

Google

Google once again commissioned a matching statue for the new Android version, which did have legs, but with a transparent head to match the body. According to an interview with the statue’s designer from TechCrunch, each jelly bean in the statue was nine inches long, and there were over 180 jelly beans in total.

The statue eventually overheated, however, causing the head to partially melt and pop off, and also some of the jelly beans were stolen. The statue was later repaired to its former glory.

KitKat Robot (2014)

Android 4.4 was released in 2014, and it marked the first time Google made a brand deal for the release’s name: KitKat. This time around, the Android robot was a chocolate KitKat bar. Google and Nestle also worked on a few animated advertisements.

KitKat android
Google

Google created a statue of the KitKat robot for its headquarters, which looks exactly like the official render, but the statue unveiling didn’t go well.

Google published a video of the event, as it had with every prior statue event, but the video showed a Google employee holding the Nexus 5 phone — which had not been announced yet. The video was taken down, but not before it could be reuploaded by others.

Oreo Robot (2017)

The next release was Android 8.0 in 2017, nicknamed Oreo. The next letter in the alphabet for Android’s codenames was the letter O, so Oreo was a great choice, but Google also gave the android a superhero theme. A promotional video showed the Oreo robot appearing in the sky and covering the sun — the announcement was the same day as a solar eclipse.

Android Oreo robot
Google / OREO

Unfortunately, this was the last time Google created a special robot design to coincide with a new release of Android. The blog posts and other pages for Android 9.0 Pie displayed the regular Android robot holding a slice of pie.

Body-less Robot (2019)

Google decided to refresh Android’s brand again in 2019, alongside the release of Android 10. Android versions would no longer have public names based on deserts, as Google said “the names weren’t always understood by everyone in the global community.”

The company cited L and R as sounding similar in some languages, and confusion around what the latest version was, which are fair complaints. However, the company has continued to use dessert names internally.

Google also introduced a new logo for Android, which officially incorporated the robot… or its head, anyway. Who knows where the body went. The robot remained green, with the text changing to black to improve contrast on colorful backgrounds.

Android logos
Google

The official blog post explained, “The design of the logo draws inspiration from the most recognizable non-human member of the community, the Android robot. The robot belongs to everyone in the community, and has long been a symbol of the fun and curiosity at the heart of Android. Now, it has a special place in our logo.”

The Android robot changed once again in 2023, but it still doesn’t have a body. However, it does now have a more 3D design, and the text logo now uses a capital “A” for Android.

New Android logo
Google

Hopefully, in the future, Google will bring back the full Android robot. It was always a fun part of the operating system that seems to have been lost in recent years. Bringing back the Androidify app would be great, too, perhaps as something like Apple’s Memoji system.

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