Google: Android just hit this huge milestone

Google has clocked up an extra 500 million Android devices in two years that connect to the Play Store.

Google has announced there are now 3 billion active Android devices, once again showing off that it's the most widely used operating system in the world. 

Google announced the milestone at its annual Google IO developer conference, which focuses on developers building Android apps, AI, and Chrome apps. 

With 3 billion Android devices in the wild, Google has maintained its comfortable lead over Apple, which in January reported there were 1.65 billion active iOS and macOS devices – up from 1.4 billion a year ago. 

Google, which launched Android in 2008, reported in 2019 it had reached 2.5 million active Android devices, so it's grown by about 500 million in the past two years. It cancelled the IO conference last year due to the pandemic so it didn't provide an update.    

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Microsoft in April declared that it had 1.3 billion monthly active Windows 10 devices, a year after hitting its two-year overdue 1 billion target, but nonetheless with impressive growth thanks to the pandemic and a surge in laptop purchases for home schooling and working from home. 

In 2017, Google said Android had reached 2 billion active users; in 2014 it said it had 1 billion active Android users, meaning Google has tripled the Android user base in the past six years. 

Despite Android devices connecting to Google Play now being double the number of iOS devices connecting to the App Store, Apple still rakes in more revenue from app sales than Google. iOS users spent $21 billion on apps in Q1 2021, while Android users spent around $11 billion on apps from Google Play.

Google on Tuesday also revealed the full version of Android 12 with a first public beta, which looks to be a major update and includes a new UI, privacy features, and enhancements. 

Google is following Apple on the privacy march and promises Android 12 will give users more information about what data is being accessed by apps. Google says in a blogpost that it's also trimming permissions that apps have. 

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There's a new privacy dashboard that gives a 24-hour view of accesses to location, microphone and camera. In Android 12, users will know in real time when an app accesses the device's mic or camera feeds. Developers are being required to get a user to click first before accessing these sensors.  

Google is also giving Android 12 users a toggle for the camera and mic to cut off an app's access when they choose. Users are also getting a clear choice about how precise any location data is shared with an app. Like iOS, Android 12 will notify users every time an app reads data from the clipboard. 

"Android 12 is our most ambitious privacy release to date," said Sara N-Marandi, a product manager for the Android Platform Product.