Technology 101: What is Android?
When it comes to smartphones, Android is by far and away the leader of the pack, with 38 percent of the world’s market share (Apple’s iOS is in second place at just 26 percent). Yet despite its popularity, there is still a lot of confusion around the Android name. Is Android a phone? Is it a lot of phones? Is it the “Google Phone?” The Basics: What is Android? Before we get into the details, it helps to have an idea of what exactly Android is. Android is an Operating System created by Google for smartphones. You can think of it in the same way you think of Windows being the operating system for your PC. Google’s approach with the Android platform was much like Apple with its iOS (the operating system for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad). It focuses on an app-driven experience where anyone with the knowhow can develop an app for Android and release it to the public through its own App Store (currently with around 400,000 apps). The similarities between Google and Apple end there, though. Where Apple creates and develops its own iOS devices, Google makes the Android operating system available to third party manufacturers. So smartphone manufacturers like HTC, Sony Ericsson, and Samsungcan all produce Android phones, just like PC manufacturers (HP, Dell, Asus) all produce Windows PCs.
Clearing up the Confusion
Android has often been referred to as the “Google Phone,” but there really is no such thing. Google produces Android as software only; however, Google does have its Nexus line (currently featuring the Nexus One and Nexus S) which are devices that Google contracts other manufacturers to build and feature 100% pure versions of Android. Because of Android’s openness, many manufacturers customize their Android devices with different levels of functionality. The Nexus line as well as Android phones featuring the “Google Experience” designation run Android exactly as Google envisioned it.
Some other confusion stems from Verizon’s naming techniques, giving all of its Android devices a name beginning with “Droid.” This has led many people to think that all Android phones are Verizon Droid devices, and therefore, only available on Verizon. The truth is that the “Droid” name is no more than Verizon’s branding for Android devices. Other Android phones exist on just about every major cellular carrier around the world.
The Short Version In a nutshell, Android is a smartphone operating system created by Google, available on hundreds of different smartphones and tablet devices. You can think of them all as little Google versions of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Have any Android questions? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll be happy to help.