What is Android?
Many of you will have heard of Android in relation to mobile phones but might not know exactly what it is or refers to.
If you own a computer, and if you are reading this you almost certainly do, you will have probably heard of Windows. Windows is the best known example of an operating system. There is a strong chance your computer runs on Windows, which is by far the world's most popular and famous computer operating system and is running on the majority of computers in the world today.
Android is a mobile phone operating system built into every smartphone that uses that system. The operating system is what makes everything you see on screen happen, and controls the phone's functionality, such as the call dialler, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functions.
Are there any others?
The two other operating systems you may know are iOS, which is the one iPhones and iPads use and was developed by Apple, and Windows Phone which has been developed by Microsoft as you might expect.
There are others, but the only other one you are likely to have heard of is BlackBerry, which naturally runs on BlackBerry phones. Originally called BBX, it is now simply known as BlackBerry OS.
It's interesting to note that while we generally consider eastern countries like China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea dominate the smartphone manufacturers with names like Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and Huawei all originating in the East, every popular operating system has been devised by American companies with the exception of BlackBerry who are Canadian.
So what does Android do?
Well your smartphone is like a mini computer - hence the name smartphone, as they are much "smarter" and do so much more than the basic mobile phones of years ago. Android is the most popular smartphone operating system and was developed by Google.
Android is basically the thing that makes everything work on your smartphone. Over one million programs or applications, known as apps, are now available on the Android platform. These are obtainable from Google Play, the marketplace which is the online catalogue or app store where you can find all the apps you and you phone will ever need.
Brands using the Android operating system include:
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Google Play market was formerly known as simply Android Market, but Google have a regular habit of changing the names of their products.
Apps vary tremendously, in fact you can find just about everything your imagination can conjour up! These include things like simple torches which use your phone's LED flash as a torch, notepads, calendars and 'To Do' lists apps, to more complicated things like live weather forecast apps and driving maps for use with satellite navigation.
You can get language courses and translators, photo editing apps, apps to enhance your phone's music player such as graphic equalizers or bass boosters, to electronic on screen pianos and drumkits. There are weights and measures conversion tools, distance measurement tools, speed measurement and location based apps which can remind you where you parked your car or where the nearest ATM cash machine is.
There are also more sophisticated apps for use in education and business. The best thing about all these apps is competition amongst developers is intense, so many apps are free and paid for by small embedded ads or are offered as a free trial version. But even the paid-for apps can cost as little as 79p to just a few pounds.