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What is the Android™ Mobile Platform?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers

The Android™ mobile platform is an operating system that is used on several smartphones. It was built upon the open Linux kernel, and developed by Android, Inc., which is owned by Google. One of its most popular details is the fact that it is an open-source software stack, which means that any developer can create applications as they please, unlike many other cell phone operating systems. Not surprisingly, there are more than 100,000 applications available on the Android™ mobile platform as of 2010. Java programming languages are typically used on all applications for Android™ phones.

Most cell phone operating systems are proprietary, which means that only one company can develop applications. In contrast, the Android™ mobile platform is open source, allowing developers to create new applications in Java languages, to be used on any phone with this operating system. Most applications can be run at the same time, which means that users can listen to music while reading an e-book, for example. Additionally, due to the open source nature of the platform, new applications are always being developed.

Android logo.
Android logo.

Not only does this system allow developers the freedom to create applications, but it offers various tools to help them along. For example, developers can integrate the phone's core tools into their applications, including ringtones, camera, and text messaging system, to name a few phone basics that can be altered. Developers are encouraged to use the phone's hardware and location information, and set alarms and notifications when creating applications. Additionally, the application framework of this operating system allows developers to view C/C++ libraries. Such accessibility makes it possible for anyone with some innovative ideas and knowledge of Java languages to create new applications at any time.

Woman using an Android™ phone.
Woman using an Android™ phone.

The same open source capabilities that make the Android™ mobile platform attractive to developers also make it appealing to the typical user. Many people do not know how to make applications, but are interested in using the ones that others create, as they allow users to completely customize their phones. In addition, information from several parts of the Internet can be pulled together onto the phone, keeping everything in one place. For instance, when friends on social networking sites upload their phone numbers, pictures, and status updates to the site, this information can be automatically posted to the user's phone so that all information on each friend is current and in one location. Cell phones are not the only devices using this software; there are a variety of netbooks, tablet computers, and e-readers that also use this operating system.

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Discussion Comments

Android may be open source, but the hardware manufacturers and cell phone companies that sell Android-enabled devices often develop their own "features" to inflict on people who buy those devices. Samsung has its own alterations to the Android OS, as do HTC and a host of other companies. Some of those features may prove useful while others may prove irritating. Also, the tendency of companies to modify Android to suit its devices often means Android owners won't necessarily get the latest updates to the operating system when they expect. Samsung, for example, has to modify Android to implement its own changes to the OS and that means its customers may have to wait (or might not get an update at all).

If you want something that's "plain vanilla" Android, you might want to check out those devices that are branded as coming from Google. You'll get faster updates and an operating system that works exactly the way Google intended.

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    • Android logo.
      By: Google
      Android logo.
    • Woman using an Android™ phone.
      By: taka
      Woman using an Android™ phone.
    • An Android™ phone.
      By: seen
      An Android™ phone.
    • Some tablet computers use the Android™ mobile platform.
      By: bloomua
      Some tablet computers use the Android™ mobile platform.