An Android 101: What is Android?


For the technologically challenged, it may be difficult to understand what Android is.  Some people think it’s a phone; others think it’s a tablet PC.

Actually, Android is the software that makes those electronic devices work.

Android is a Linux-based operating system being used in an increasing number of today’s smartphones and other mobile devices.  It was initially developed by Android Inc., but the company was acquired by Google in 2005.  Google collaborated with hardware, software and telecommunication companies including Broadcom Corp., Intel, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Texas Instruments to form the Open Handset Alliance whose goal is to develop open standards for mobile devices.

On November 5, 2007 the Open Handset Alliance unveiled itself and introduced the first Android product.

Why is Android Unique?

Android is unique because it has an open-source license.  This means Google allows hardware manufacturers and phone carriers to use Android on their smartphone and tablets for free.

Because the software is open-source, developers can work and collaborate freely to improve the Android operating system, create new and innovative mobile services, and make these available to the end user more quickly.

Although the Android OS is open-source, device manufacturers cannot use the Android trademark without Google’s certification that the device complies with Google’s Compatibility Definition Document (CDD).  Likewise, only devices that comply with CDD are eligible to license Google’s close-source applications such as Android Market.

What is Android in a Nutshell

  • Open-source license
  • Optimized for use in mobile devices
  • Improved 2D and 3D graphics
  • Provides media support for common audio, video, and still image formats such as MPEG4, MP3, AAC, JPG, GIF, PNG)
  • Supports various hardware-dependent features including GSM telephony, Bluetooth, 3G, WiFi, EDGE
  • Comes with an integrated browser based on the WebKit engine
  • Provides support for cameras, GPS, compass and accelerometer
  • Growing number of Android apps (200,000+ and counting)
  • Comes with a number of Google features, including Search and Maps

Android Versions

Android has undergone a number of updates to its base operating system since it was first released.  Typically, these updates focus on fixing software bugs and adding new features.  Interestingly, each new version of Android is given a code name based on a dessert item.

  • 2.0/2.1 (Android Éclair) – revamped the user interface; included support for HTML5 and Exchange ActiveSync 2.5
  • 2.2 (Android Froyo) – improved speed with JIT optimization and Chrome V8 JavaScript engine; added Wi-Fi hotspot tethering and Adobe Flash support
  • 2.3/2.4 (Android Gingerbread) – improved user interface, soft keyboard, copy/paste features; added support for Near Field Communications
  • 3.0 (Android Honeycomb) – tablet-oriented version; supports larger screen devices; additional new user interface features

What is in Store for Android?

With the growing popularity of Android devices, it is possible that Android will be the most popular platform for smartphones worldwide by the end of 2011.  In the U.S. alone, Android has already taken a slight lead in the smartphone market.  This is because the Android OS is available for use in multiple devices made by different manufacturers.  This offers Android users more choices in devices in terms of features, quality, wireless carriers and price.

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