Geeks Weigh In: What Makes an Android Phone Different?

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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.

what is an android phone

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.

what is an android phone

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.

what is an android phone

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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

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Comments (14)
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.