What is Android?

A guide to Google's Android phone operating system and Android phones in general

What is included on an Android phone?

As its Google's mobile operating system, any Android phone comes pre-loaded with a range of Google services including Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Calendar, Google Latitude and YouTube. Android phones also come with a mobile web browser, meaning you can access the Internet on your phone wherever and whenever you are; provided of course you have mobile coverage and an appropriate data plan.

Because Android is an open source piece of software, Google actively encourages manufacturers to make basic changes to the look and feel of the user interface. This means that the interface of an Android phone from HTC will look and feel different from an Android phone from Sony Ericsson, despite the fact both phones run the same software platform.

What is Android

The interface of an Android phone varies between manufacturers; above is Sony Ericsson's XPERIA X10, which uses a custom "skin" to distinguish itself from other Android phones.

An Android phone requires the use of a Google Account, and this provides a great way of automatically backing up your data. An Android phone automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts databases over-the-air. If you add a new contact or calendar event on your PC, it will automatically appear on your phone and vice versa. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one on the phone itself. In the unfortunate event that you lose or misplace your phone, your data will be stored on your Google account; the next time you sign into your account on another Android phone, your contacts and information will be available.

What is the Android Market?

The Android platform was built with mobile apps firmly in mind, and these are downloadable through what's called the Android Market, which comes with every Android phone. Both free and paid apps are available, and paid apps can be purchased with a credit card. Although the Android Market doesn't boast as many apps as the iPhone, it is rapidly increasing as more devices are released, and currently boasts over 140,000 apps. This makes it the second most popular mobile app store.

Unlike the iPhone, developers who create applications for Android devices have much more flexibility. An Android application can all be built to have full access to a device's capabilities; as an example, there are a number of apps in the Android Market which completely change the look and feel of the home screen, something that is not possible on the iPhone. Some current popular Android apps include Shazam, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Skype, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Paper Toss and Doodle Jump.

What is Android

The Android Market is Google's answer to the Apple App Store. Popular apps include Angry Birds..

Android software updates

As part of the OHA's commitment to innovate and respond more rapidly to consumers', Google constantly updates the Android platform in what is called a software update. On average, the Android platform is updated two or three times a year, and each software update provides new features, enhancements and improvements.

These updates are free and are usually provided over-the-air -- this means the software is pushed to your device wirelessly, so you often don't need to plug your phone into your computer to receive the update. The timing and delivery of Android software updates depends on a number of factors including your mobile phone manufacturer, and your mobile carrier.

Each version of Android software comes with a number code and a matching nickname, usually related to food deserts. As an example, the very first version of the Android OS was 1.5 or "Cupcake," while the latest version is currently 2.2 or "Froyo" (which is short for Frozen Yogurt). Other Android software versions have included 1.6 or "Donut" and 2.1 or "Éclair," with future releases dubbed 2.3 or "Gingerbread" and 3.0 or "Honeycomb." The 2.3 version of Android has already been announced and confirmed, and will ship with the Google Nexus S.

Android phone reviews

Read more from our selection of our Android phone reviews:

HTC Desire

HTC Desire HD

Samsung Galaxy S

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini Pro

Motorola Milestone 2

Motorola Defy

LG Optimus One

HTC Wildfire

Huawei IDEOS

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide
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