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Definition: Android


An operating system for smartphones, tablets and laptops from the Google-sponsored Open Handset Alliance. With myriad models to choose from, Android is the leading mobile platform with approximately 85% of the worldwide smartphone market. Combining mobile and desktop platforms, more devices with the Android operating system are currently in operation than any other OS.

Android is a Linux OS, and apps are programmed in Java. Users download applications from Google's Play Store (formerly Android Market), the Amazon Appstore and other online sources (see Google Play and Amazon Appstore).

The first Android smartphone came out in 2008 and quickly became a major competitor to the iPhone due to its availability from multiple carriers and numerous handset manufacturers. In addition, Androids could multitask, whereas iPhones could not at that time. By 2011, Android outsold every other smartphone. Androids were the first smartphones with large screens (see phablet).

Like Windows Vs. Mac
Like Windows computers, Android hardware is made by many different manufacturers. Also like Windows, Android vendors can add their own set of apps and different interface features to their phones (see app launcher). In contrast, like the Mac, the iPhone, iPad and iPod are made only by Apple. They feature one interface, one set of included apps and only a few current models. See iPhone vs. Android, how to select a mobile device, Open Handset Alliance, AOSP, Android fragmentation, mobile compatibility and mobile device vendor control.

The Google Phone
In 2005, Google acquired Android, Inc. and two years later unveiled smartphone specifications for third-party manufacturers. In 2010, Google began to offer "pure Android" versions, devoid of vendor add-ons (see Google Nexus and Pixel phone). When it acquired Motorola Mobility in 2012, Google became a phone manufacturer itself. However, in less than two years, Google sold the company to Lenovo while retaining numerous patents. See Android camera, Android rooting, Android laptop, Android antivirus program, Chromecast, Android TV, Galaxy S, HTC G1 and smartphone.




Early Models
After T-Mobile introduced the first Android phone in 2008, other carriers and vendors followed, eventually introducing more than a thousand models. See GSM and CDMA.








No Phones on These Androids
In 2009, the ARCHOS entertainment center (top) and Barnes & Noble e-book reader were some of the first Androids sans phone. Soon after, myriad Android tablets and devices were introduced. (Images courtesy of ARCHOS and Barnesandnoble.com)