Tuesday, October 20

What is this Android thing?

You may have heard the word Android being mentioned recently around the mobile phone world, well here is a quick post on what the fuss is all about.

Android is a new-ish Operating System (OS) that has been developed by around 50 big names across the device and software industry (the Open Handset Alliance) to try is to offer a low-cost, fully-featured, open-source OS. Then hand that over to the cell phone manufacturers so that they can concentrate more on designing desirable hardware, rather than divide their efforts on the OS and hardware.

Android’s roots are based in the open source Linux platform, but it has been optimised for the smaller mobile platform. It has also been done very nicely too!

Who is involved in Android?

Some of the companies involved are Google, HTC, T-Mobile, Motorola, Samsung, Garmin, Vodafone, eBay, Toshiba, Dell, LG, Sony Ericsson, ARM, Acer, plus a massive following of Open Source development. So you can see it has some weight and momentum behind it. Google are probably at the forefront of these and provide a big driving force behind it. So, you may also hear the term Google phone, they are effectively one and the same - just differences on what applications are pre-installed. (Though it is a little more than that in reality.)

What does Google get out of all that? More mobile searches, which may be one of its biggest sources of growth in the coming years, plus a chance to drive the direction the mobile world operates, rather than relying on others to do it.

Is Android for just phones?

At the moment Android is available off the shelf, on top end phones from HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung. Mobile carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint, and Vodafone are also rebranding the phones as their own too, so the same phone may have more than one name!

But Android is not just for phones, Acer are just about to launch the Aspire D250 net book, which will dual boot Windows XP and Android. You will note that names like Toshiba and Dell are in the Android club. While they are rumoured to be releasing android phones soon, is this the start of a new mass produced laptop environment.

Why do I care about a new OS?

An OS is the environment that you use every day to do the stuff you want to do on your computer/phone, so it can help/hinder you, and even drive you to frustration when it gets it wrong. I hear Vista users mumbling away at this point. An OS can make or break your relationship with a bit of IT kit.

Well from my own usage I would say that the Android experience is a refreshing change. Things are natural to do and things just seem to work.

Android is also going to be appearing on a lot of phones over the coming months, so it is coming to a phone shop near you soon!

What can I do with an Android phone?

Answer: how long is a piece of string...? Well, not quite, but the top end phones are now becoming very adaptable bits of technology, and Android phones are helping to lead the way. Let’s list a few things that can be done. Phone, Email, SMS, MMS, Browsing, IM, Calendar, Contacts, MP3 player, Calculator, Camera(Stills and movies), Slideshow player, Voice recorder, Memos, Office type applications, SatNav, Weather checking, Google maps, Compass, Social networking, games, and of course learning all sorts of things. This is just a list of the stock or mainstream free applications. If that doesn’t appeal then there are around 10,000 applications in the Android Market that can very easily be installed. They range from classic and whacky games, an interactive map of the stars (very cool!), dictionaries in various languages, GPS tracking, office utilities, social networking to fuel prices. You hear the advertisement “There is an app for that...” - Well on Android there certainly is, arguably even more than the iPhone (that should provoke a response from the iPhone fans).

You can see the most popular apps online here. This is just small sample available to the devices and installing them from the phone is very easy, even for the Technophobe. You just search for key words, scroll up and down the different application tap and install on the one you want.

Is this Nirvana?

It is not all perfect yet as there are still some gripes. Yes the phones are generally costly at the moment (similar to iPhone) as the phones being released are all top end. But I think the prices will come down as the number of handsets increase and it becomes more main-stream and it gets used on lower spec devices. Some things are not as quick (split second timing) to do as an iPhone equivalent, but newer versions are just getting quicker and with Android you can easily upgrade the OS – something you can’t easily do on an iPhone.

But it is a huge and very interesting leap forward forward for mobile phones and will certainly help shape the mobile world in the year or two.

But I still want an iPhone!

Yes, the iPhone is a very nice and trendy phone with great functionality. Android is right there beside it as it can do everything an iPhone can do and more. Some things it does better and some things not as well. One thing you cannot do is ignore Android.

Android is here to stay and with predictions that 75 million android phones will be sold in 2012 it is only going to get bigger.

Go into a mobile phone store and ask to play around with an Android phone, you will be surprised what can be done on a phone nowadays. Then let your creative mind think about the possibilities in using it for learning!

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