Android is both an operating system and a software platform for mobile devices such as tablet computers, smartphones, and netbooks. The mobile operating system was founded by the Open Handset Alliance, created by the IT giant Google. It is an open source software platform used by numerous developers to provide modern apps for mobile devices. The system is based on a strongly revised version of the Linux kernel so that it differs from the different distributions of classical Linux systems. The operating system is operated via touch screens and its own user interface, which can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Founded by Andy Rubin, Android, which developed software for mobile phones and primarily provided location-based services, was acquired by Google in the summer of 2005. The system was originally designed for use with digital cameras and most of it was not developed from scratch. For the most part, several already open source building blocks were assembled. The most important of these are the Linux kernel, the Java programming language, and some program libraries and daemons from other lesser known projects. In November 2007, Google announced that it was working with members of the Open Headset Alliance on a mobile operating system. On October 21, 2008, Android was officially launched and made available to the general public. The first mobile device based on Android was the HTC Dream, which was launched in the USA on October 22, 2008. Android was designed from the beginning as a mobile operating system with a wide range of features, so this first device was already equipped with a GPS receiver and acceleration sensors.
Over the years, the mobile operating system has been continuously developed, optimized and supplemented with new functions and features, so that Android now has the largest market share in the field of mobile operating systems. Starting with version 1.5, the Open Handset Alliance has started to name the following Android versions after desserts. The first letters of the English names for desserts follow the alphabetical order. For each version, there is a special mascot which can be displayed in the settings of the smartphone. The respective versions are replaced by regular OTA updates. However, these updates are not developed by Google itself, but by the respective device manufacturers and made available as a free download. The first versions of the mobile system up to version 2.3 were designed exclusively for use on smartphones. These include
- Version 1.0 “Base”
- Version 1.1 “Base 1.1”
- Version 1.5 “Cupcake”
- Version 1.6 “Donut”
- Version 2.0 – 2.1 “Eclair”
- Version 2.2 “Froyo”
- Version 2.3 “Gingerbread”
Since then numerous other versions have been released, whereby version 3.0 (Honeycomb) was only intended for use on tablets. With version 4 the separation between devices was abolished so that Android is now available for both tablet computers and smartphones. To date, the following versions have been released:
- Version 3.x “Honeycomb
- Version 4.0.x “Ice Cream Sandwich”
- Version 4.1.x – 4.3.x “Jelly Beans”
- Version 4.4x “KitKat”
- Version 5.0.x / 5.1.x “Lollipop”
- Version 6.0.x “Marshmallow”
- Version 7.0.x / 7.1 x “Nougat”
- Version 8.0 “Oreo”
- Version 9.0 “Pie”
All versions of the operating system have multiple Home screens on which app links and widgets can be created. Although each new version adds changes and optimizations to the structure, the basic concept has remained the same since the first version. The individual start screens can be moved to the left and to the right by horizontally wiping the touch screen. At the top of the user interface are the status display, which displays the time, reception, and various icons and notifications. When the top bar is dragged down, the DeepL Access menu is displayed.
Due to the numerous versions and manufacturer-specific updates, the Android landscape is anything but uniform. Although most devices support updates to newer versions, there are also smartphone manufacturers who do not provide updates for older devices. However, if this functionality is supported, it makes sense to update the smartphone regularly to the latest version. This is especially important because new versions provide the device with the necessary security updates and fix existing bugs in the software. In the meantime, security updates for most devices are obtained via the OTA function (Over-the-Air). The update can then be downloaded and installed directly to the device via the Internet connection. In addition, update via the PC is also possible.
Existing Android Software
The apps available for the Android operating system are purchased via the so-called “Google Play Store”. The store used to be called the “Android Market”. The Google Play Store offered more than 1.5 million different apps in May 2015. This gives Google’s App Store the largest app offering and has overtaken the previous market leader Apple. Developers can offer their apps on Google Play. However, they can only be sold if they are located in certain countries, such as Switzerland, Austria or Germany. Apps that are made available to users free of charge make up around 70 percent of Google Play’s offering. Just like the Apple and Microsoft app stores, Google Play is a closed ecosystem where Google dictates the rules. The IT giant retains some degree of control over Android software. Only licensed Android distributions can access Google’s closed-source applications such as YouTube, Google Maps or Google Calendar. On the other hand, Apple and Microsoft devices are equipped with their own operating systems. Apps developed for Android are therefore not compatible with Apple and Microsoft smartphones and must be adapted to each new operating system.
Distribution and success of Android
Over the years, Android has developed into a universally applicable operating system that is continuously developed further across all manufacturers. In the USA, more Android smartphones than iPhones were sold for the first time in the first quarter of 2010. The great popularity of the operating system is primarily due to Google’s decision to make Android available free of charge to manufacturers and developers. However, this decision also led to a strong fragmentation of the Android landscape. In a study conducted by Staircase in 2012, a total of 3997 different devices from 599 manufacturers were identified. Particularly in China, many manufacturers use an unlicensed version of the system that does not include Google applications such as YouTube or Google Maps.
Many well-known manufacturers offer devices based on Android. In addition to devices from HTC, Samsung, LG, and Sony, special premium smartphones developed by Google are also available, which are marketed under the “Pixel” product line. The Pixel product line is high-performance devices that are equipped with an Android distribution developed by Google and receive new updates and versions within a very short time. The Pixel smartphones are the successor to the Nexus product line, which Google has developed and distributed in collaboration with leading smartphone manufacturers such as LG and Samsung. Although the pixel devices are advertised with the slogan “Made by Google”, they are manufactured by HTC.
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