What is Android?

by Hough on November 27, 2011

Android is a mobile operating system that is based on a modified version of Linux. It was originally developed by a start up of the same name, Android, Inc. In 2005, as part of its strategy to enter the mobile space, Google purchased Android and took over its development work (as well as its development team).What is Android?

Google wanted Android to be open and free; hence, most of the Android code was released under the open-source Apache License, which means that anyone who wants to use Android can do so by downloading the full Android source code. Moreover, vendors (typically hardware manufacturers) can add their own proprietary extensions to Android and customize Android to differentiate their products from others. This simple development model makes Android very attractive and has thus piqued the interest of many vendors. This has been especially true for companies affected by the phenomenon of Apple’s iPhone, a hugely successful product that revolutionized the smartphone industry. Such companies include Motorola and Sony Ericsson, which for many years have been developing their own mobile operating systems. When the iPhone was launched, many of these manufacturers had to scramble to find new ways of revitalizing their products. These manufacturers see Android as a solution — they will continue to design their own hardware and use Android as the operating system that powers it.

The main advantage of adopting Android is that it offers a unified approach to application development. Developers need only develop for Android, and their applications should be able to run on numerous different devices, as long as the devices are powered using Android. In the world of smartphones, applications are the most important part of the success chain. Device manufacturers therefore see Android as their best hope to challenge the onslaught of the iPhone, which already commands a large base of applications.

Android versions

Android has gone through quite a number of updates since its first release. Table 1-1 shows the vari-ous versions of Android and their codenames.

Tablet 1-1: A Brief History of Android Versions

Android  verSion releASe  dAte codenAme
1 .1 9 February 2009
1 .5 30 April 2009 Cupcake
1 .6 15 September 2009 Donut
2 .0/2 .1 26 October 2009 Eclair
2 .2 20 May 2010 Froyo
2 .3 6 December 2010 Gingerbread
3 .0 Unconfirmed at the time of writing Honeycomb

Features of Android

As Android is open source and freely available to manufacturers for customization, there are no fixed hardware and software configurations. However, Android itself supports the following features:

Storage — Uses SQLite, a lightweight relational database, for data storage. Chapter 6 discusses data storage in more detail.

Connectivity — Supports GSM/EDGE, IDEN, CDMA, EV-DO, UMTS, Bluetooth (includes A2DP and AVRCP), WiFi, LTE, and WiMAX. Chapter 8 discusses networking in more detail.

Messaging — Supports both SMS and MMS. Chapter 8 discusses messaging in more detail. Web browser — Based on the open-source WebKit, together with Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine Media support — Includes support for the following media: H.263, H.264 (in 3GP or MP4

container), MPEG-4 SP, AMR, AMR-WB (in 3GP container), AAC, HE-AAC (in MP4 or 3GP container), MP3, MIDI, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, JPEG, PNG, GIF, and BMP

Hardware support — Accelerometer Sensor, Camera, Digital Compass, Proximity Sensor, and GPS

Multi-touch — Supports multitouch screens

Multi-tasking — Supports multi-tasking applications Flash support — Android 2.3 supports Flash 10.1.
Tethering — Supports sharing of Internet connections as a wired/wireless hotspot

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