Android is the most popular smartphone operating system around when you look at the sales figures. This is because it is available on the widest variety of multifunctional handsets and continues to redefine what users should expect from their mobile.
Android began life as the work of an independent developer, but it was snapped up by search giant Google back in 2005. The first handset to offer Android to consumers was the HTC Dream which hit the market in 2008. Since then Android has steadily risen from obscurity to become widely used, with well over three quarters of a million devices which run the platform being activated each day.
What distinguishes Android from other mobile phone operating systems such as Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and RIM’s BB OS, is the fact that it is a largely open source platform. That means that not only can various manufacturers licence Android for their handsets, but they can also tinker with the software to add things like custom user interfaces, applications and services.
The flexible nature of Android has resulted in critically acclaimed interfaces such as HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz which enhance the basic features of the software, allowing manufacturers to put their own stamp on the platform.
Android is not just available in a single iteration but has been developed over the years and is defined by a few key versions. The latest edition is known as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and this represents the most cohesive version yet as it is intended to work on both smartphones and tablets. Android 3.0 is the tablet-specific iteration which came before it, while the phone-friendly Android 2.3 Gingerbread is still the most popular, found on roughly 60 per cent of all compatible handsets at the moment.
The slightly fragmented nature of Android means that some services are compatible with certain handsets but not with others. The hardware of a handset is typically a limiting factor, although most rely on individual manufacturers to produce an update for their back catalogue of phones, so even if the latest version is not supported now it could be further down the line.
One of the benefits of owning an Android phone is that you have access to almost half a million applications via the Android Market. This is Google’s digital download service that is the equivalent of the App Store on the iPhone.
The Android Market is packed with applications and games and is known for having the highest proportion of free content of any mobile app service. There are still plenty of premium apps which can be bought at a cost, but if you want an affordable way to fill your phone with content then Android is the way to go.
The scalable, multi-faceted nature of Android means that it can be found on class leading, cutting edge mobiles as well as bargain basement smartphones. A typical handset will feature Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity along with GPS, Bluetooth and a camera, so even if you are strapped for cash, Android can help you enjoy the smartphone revolution.