Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?

android small   Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?There’s been a lot of buzz about the new Android-powered cell phones that have been coming out more and more lately. Some of them are touted by their mobile carriers as potential competitors for the iPhone and others are ready to be completely personalized by their owner. Android phones have also been luring people in with their Google branding, making some call Android phones “Googlephones”. But what is an Android phone and what’s so special and different about this new and emerging mobile phone operating system? Let’s find out.

Before we get into the specifics though, let’s look at an overview of how the Android mobile phone operating system came to be. Android originally began as a product of Android Inc. in 2003 and was founded by a group of people including Andy Rubin, a co-founder of Sidekick phone manufacturer Danger, and Nick Sears, a former vice president at large US mobile phone carrier T-Mobile. In 2005, Google bought the company, and although they knew little about Android’s inner operations, it caused people to speculate whether Google was interested in getting into the mobile phone market. During the years following the acquisition, Google worked to develop a Linux-powered operating system (kernel) for phones and Google was also reported to be meeting with device manufacturers to make phones with the new operating system.

homescreen final   Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?

As Android grew to more phones on more carriers worldwide, its popularity also grew. After fine-tuning the code that runs the inner-workings of the operating system, Google released the source code code to all, which developers and others saw a a big step forward because this made Android the only widespread open source cell phone operating system.

androidsonskateboard final   Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?

More and more carriers are picking up Android phones for use on their network. The new Motorola Droid as well as other new Android cell phones like the HTC/T-Mobile G1 are attracting a new audience for their ease-of-use and large feature set. While Android’s market share is still at only about 4%, the Android Market has over 9,000 applications and continues to grow, showing that Android, while different, is still headed towards being a big name in mobile operating systems.

droid final   Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?

Google also encourages developers to build for Android by offering huge prize money to popular and winning applications in the Android Market. Through user voting in their “Android Developer Challenge”, Google awards developers of popular applications with up to $250,000. Android’s market (the equivalent to the Apple App Store or Windows Mobile Marketplace) also has a smaller fee developers have to pay to submit applications. Instead of $99, developers can submit their applications for $25. Finally, Android also has what some consider to be an easier-to-learn and easier-to-use developer framework, which uses the widespread Java programming language. So, Android is also different because it is very developer-friendly.

Do you have an Android phone? What do you like about Android phones? Share your thoughts in the comments below and also check out the Top 10 Free Android Apps [Part 1] and [Part 2] and the Top 5 Free Games for Android phones.

Image credit: laihiu and bfishadow

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

14 Comments -

0 votes

Chuck

I have a Motorola Droid thru Verizon. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now. I’m not a big techy…so I’m sure there’s a ton of power here that I’m not taking advantage of. But some of the things I’ve liked so far include:

- it’s more like a real phone than any of the PDA/smartphones I’ve had in the past (and that’s got to be at least a dozen of them, including Blackberrys, Palms, HTC and others…not an iPhone, though). The call quality is clear and has plenty of volume. I’ve had no problems at all.
- I love the Googleization. I can search quickly and easily in many ways…even by speaking the search term and clicking a button. Impressive!
- Nice email integration. Lacks a bit in the intuitive navigation area (it took a half hour to figure out how to delete an IMAP account after I had messed up the configuration)
- Web browsing is the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile device. I can actually see the page as anyone else would see it. And it actually allows me into my bank’s crappy web site for funds transfers, etc (and I have tried this on a ton of devices, including the iPhone…none of which worked)

What I don’t like:
- it’s a bit buggy. It’s locked up on me 3 times in 2 weeks (and of course, I don’t necessarily notice it right away when the screen is already black) to the point where I had to remove the battery to reboot
- music management is kludgy. Truthfully, I think it SUCKS, but there may be other options I don’t know about yet (I’ve tried a half dozen things so far)…so all I will say for sure is that nothing native to the device for music management is intuitive. Hate me all you will, but I’m an iTunes user because it’s the easiest mechanism I’ve seen for subscribing and accessing podcasts. Droid should have something as good on a basic level of functionality. I’d even be willing to drop up to 50 bucks for a third party app to get it done. In the meantime, I have to juggle my Droid AND a Touch in order to manage my audio needs. I’ve finally scrubbed the SD card because the stupid Droid loves to just start playing music for no discernable reason. This is inexcusable.
- Apps should be easily “quittable”…not just fade into the background (for a lot of reasons which I shouldn’t need to list or justify here). Yes, I know there are app killers out there. I have one and use it. But some things don’t respond properly…and I should be able to quit from within an app instead of having to boot ANOTHER app to manage simple stuff like that.
- Apps are poorly described and rated and its likely that some third-party sites need to jump in here. When you have this many apps, someone looking thru the Market needs INFORMATION lest they drown
- The Listen app from Google is a nice idea, but very poorly implemented. I listen to one weekly podcast that I know has 75K+ listeners, but it’s completely inaccessible thru Listen. This needs to be fixed soon. Again, I have to hang on to my Touch until this stuff gets worked out…which means duelling access to my stereo Bluetooth earpiece.

There’s a lot to love here, but I hope it grows up quickly. I know there’s a new release of the OS in the works. Verizon is usually the very last of the big companies to get updates to their customers. I hope to have a lot of this stuff fixed soon.

0 votes

Grant

Wow- very nice review of the Droid and Android! Hope you’re enjoying the phone so far :) Thanks for the comment!

0 votes

nick362

I had to reboot (ie remove the battery) my Droid two or three times the first week I owned it. It only seemed to happen after I used the camera. I got mine in early December, I have not had to reboot/pull the battery since.

Cool apps:
Google Sky Map
Goggles (take a picture and search)
GameOn (place real bets online!)
Flashlight (simple but handy!)
Evernote (requires an evernote account)
Ringdroid
Google Scoreboard

Apps that could be better:
Google Listen (from someone else’s recommendation I’ll give TuneWiki a shot) Listen has a lot of potential, from what I understand the developers are working on a way to manage feeds online, and that will integrate w/listen.

The standard mp3 player is OK, but it seems like there are a lot of steps to navigate. What’s cool is you can create a playlist, then add a Shortcut to that playlist.

Barcode scanner – I can never get barcodes to scan correctly, could be a personal issue.

0 votes

appuruGuru

I recommend using TuneWiki for your music. I have about 2500 songs and it handles it very well. Since the update I don’t recall having the phone lock up on me once…but before the update I went through quite a few Droids. So far it’s running great and I can’t wait for the next update. Based on what I’ve seen so far on the Internet, Android 2.1 is looking pretty nice.

0 votes

Steven ‘CountStex’ Jones

I’ve need on Android since early November, and really liking it. I’m on the Samsung Galaxy, which is a pain as it appears we’re not getting any upgrades so I’m stuck on 1.5 however as a 1.5 device it is great. The thing with Google is they are all about allowing the third party developers to make a platform great, they fully expect all the killer apps to come from the community and it’s this open nature which is starting to see developers, if not switch totally to Android development, at least add it to their bows.
2010 should be a great year, with the 2.x platform seeing the system able to surpase the sort of things an iPhone can do.

0 votes

Grant

Good point that Google depends on developers to make their platform great- I agree! I also agree that 2010 holds a great year for technology in general. Thanks for the comment!

0 votes

Tobias Verhoog

Great piece on Android, Grant. I’d really like having an Android phone. I’ve held a HTC Hero in my hands in a shop this week and it looks very nice. The whole opensource approach is of course very promising. Right now the Android Market has a lot less apps in there than Apple’s App store, but by having so many models who access the Android Market you’d think this is a smart way to overcome this barrier.

0 votes

Grant

Thanks Tobias! I agree with you- I think that open source software has a big future everywhere, but certainly in mobile phones. With what you said about the apps, I think that all of these new phones like the Droid and Nexus One (“Googlephone”) will hopefully encourage developers to make more apps to compete with the iPhone!

0 votes

jollyrogue

Nice article. I got myself a HTC Hero on contract through Orange (UK).

It’s honestly the best phone i’ve ever had and have no quarrels with it. I even put up with its little bit of lag because i like it so much :).

There are only 2 problems that i have with it.

1) The marketplace is a little poor in comparison to the app store i used on my ipod touch (before i sold it to get the phone), It just need more quality games and apps.

2) Bluetooth.. Arghhh, what a nightmare. I was always using my Sony Ericsson C902s bluetooth to transfer music and photos/video between my computer/friends phones and my phone. But because of the firmware or something i’m on, there isn’t any profile or something for transferring files. (no, not even bluetooth apps that dont require rooting work)

Music player is simple and works fine for my current needs. Might give tunewiki a try though.

0 votes

Aibek

Thanks for posting this Chuck. I am thinking of getting an M Droid phone as well, your notes clarified a couple of things for me.