What is Android?

Android Explained

Android
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Android is an OS (operating system) owned by Google, used in smartphones (some still prefer saying ‘sophisticated mobile phone’) and tablet PCs. For those of you who are novices to the computer world, an operating system is the first and main software that is installed on your computer, mobile phone or any electronic device. It controls all the operations, other software and hardware of your computer.

In its original sense, Android means a robot that has human shape, hence the small green robot on the Android OS logo. Android is a Linux-based operating system that is now the most used among mobile operating systems. In fact, when you say Android today, nearly everyone thinks of the mobile OS rather than the original definition.

What Makes Android so Popular?

We have been using mobile phones for decades and – most of us without knowing – we have been running mobile operating systems on our machines. Apple’s iOS that runs on the iPhone has changed the way smartphones look and work, and Android as a competitor has brought this demarcation further.

Android includes all the goodies you can have in a modern and sophisticated smartphone, including full multimedia, connectivity, user-friendliness with touchscreen support, multi-tasking etc. But what makes the big difference is that it is fully open.

This makes it possible for just everyone, expert or not, to develop applications for Android phones. As a result, an Android user can download and install great applications for free from the Android Market, from a wealth of tens of thousands of apps.

Moreover, unlike Apple’s iOS, Android powers devices that are built by many different manufacturers worldwide, Samsung and HTC being the leaders.

This grows the Android community worldwide, causing the devices to fit into all spheres of activity, into all global and local markets, also fitting most budgets. If you want an iPhone, you need to pay the price, since there is one and only, although you may save some bucks on the phone’s specs like memory. On the other hand, you have both cheap low-end and expensive high-end phones running Android. So you get to use the OS even with limited hardware features, and for cheap.

Android Versions

When you download an app from the Android Market, or when you ask yourself whether your favorite app is supported, one consideration is important: the Android version. Throughout the versions, features kept being added and improvements made

I noticed that most apps require version 2.1 and later. The most used version today is 2.3 Gingerbread , which adds multi-touch software keyboard, support for extra large screens and high resolutions and embedded Voice over IP support as improvement over version 2.2 Froyo which was already rocking with everything that other smartphone operating systems were offering.

The latest version is 3.0 Honeycomb, which is optimized to tablet PCs and video communication.

Phone Models Running Android

Here is a list of the most popular phone models that run Android, and that have pleased many: Samsung Galaxy family (including S, S2, Ace, Geo and Mini), Google Nexus S, Motorola Photon, HTC Droid Incredible, T-Mobile G2x, Samsung Infuse 4G, HTC Thunderbolt, HTC Sensation 4G, Motorola Droid Razr, HTC Rhyme, HTC Evo 4G, HTC Wildfire, Samsung Epic Touch 4G, among many others.

Android tablet PCs: Asus Eee Prime Transformer Prime, Sony Tablet S, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Toshiba Thrive, Acer Iconia Tab, T-Mobile G-Slate, Lenovo IdeaPak, HTC Flyer, Motorola Xoom, LG Optimus Pad, among many others.

The Android Market

If you own an Android phone or tablet, you will find the Android Market one of the most interesting places to go. How do you go there? Just type market.android.com on your computer’s browser or that of your Android device and you will land on a Web site that shows thousands of apps one more interesting than the other. Most are free to download and install. Some others are priced very low.

The apps are for all areas of activity, starting from the most useful productivity tools to the silliest games and time-wasters, passing all the way through widgets, tweaks, viewers, managers and what not.

Each app carries its rating, which is a good indication as to its safety and worth. You also have plenty of user reviews, along with a lot of useful information on the app itself, including the number of downloads and popularity.

Making Free Phone Calls on Android

Thanks to VoIP, you can make free calls to your contacts around the world through you computer or mobile device. Android makes this even more easy and interesting. To make free or cheap local and international VoIP calls on your Android device, you need to have Internet connection with decent bandwidth, either through a 3G or 4G data plan or a Wi-Fi hotspot, and you need to install a VoIP app from the Android Market. Here is a list of the main apps for using VoIP on Android.

Android Features

Android OS has many features, among which are the following:

  • Enhanced interface with the array of icons on the menu. Android adapts to high quality 2D and 3D graphics, with multi-touch support.
  • Android supports multitasking, i.e. many applications can run at the same time, like in a computer. This is not possible with simple mobile phones and many other smartphones.
  • All new means of connectivity are support : GSM, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS etc.
  • Android supports many languages, including those with right-to-left text.
  • Multimedia messaging system (MMS) is supported.
  • Java runs great on Android. Applications for Android are developed in Java, but instead of a Java Runtime Environment, Android uses the Dalvik Executer, which is lighter on resources.
  • Android supports most voice and video media formats, including streaming media.
  • Additional hardware like sensors, gaming devices, other touchscreens can be integrated in Android.
  • Voice and Video over IP. VoIP has many benefits, and Android manages cameras and has embedded support for seamless use of VoIP for free and cheap calls.
  • On versions 2.2 and up, tethering is possible, which is the ability to use the Android device as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.