Android, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears and Chris White. The company was formed with the idea of developing an advanced operating system for digital cameras. Later looking at the size of the market of cellular phones, the company decided to make an operating system in competition with Symbian and Windows Mobile.
Google acquired Android Inc. on August 17, 2005, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Google. Google marketed the new platform to mobile manufacturers around the world. On November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of technology companies including Google, device manufacturers such as HTC, Sony and Samsung, wireless carriers such as Sprint, Nextel and T-Mobile, and chipset makers such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, announced the strategy to develop open standards for mobile devices. Android was launched the same day with HTC Dream, the first android phone in the market.
Today new cellular phones being sold in the market come with new operating system, which is Android giving Apple a run for its money. Android is a Linux based operating system designed for handheld devices be it smart phones or tablets. Android is an Open Source platform whereas Google releases the code under the Apache License. The Open Source allows the software to be freely modified by software developers. This is the reason why Android has the largest community of application developers. It is estimated that there are over 700,000 applications available on Android and are readily available for download on Google Play, Android’s app store.
Open source platform
Android is currently the most popular platform used by 71 percent of mobile game developers. As on March 2013, the market share of Android among smart phones was 64 percent. The market share in USA alone is 51 percent whereas China is 90 percent. With the number of developers around the world, Android has long taken over Apple. Samsung based on the android platform has the highest market share in the world among smart phones.
As Android is a platform which can be molded to work with any device, it has been used to design game consoles, digital cameras and electronics. There are 1.5 million application available for download and applications have been downloaded 50 billion times. As of September 3, 2013, over 573 million Android devices have been activated whereas 550 ,000 devices are being activated every day.
Android based devices are based on the “Direct Manipulation” where the user can touch the screen to run applications. The device is capable of sensing the motion of the hand by tilting the screen from landscape to portrait, which is useful in gaming. An Android home screen is made up of icons or widgets just as a desktop computer which can be accessed by touch of a finger. Users can also go through several pages just like a book, which can be customized. Applications to modify the home screen or could be downloaded from Google play whether free of cost or at a minimum charges, which is usually between USD 1 to USD 10. The applications can also be downloaded from the Amazon Appstore. Another advantage is that android devices are not open to virus attacks as faced with desktop computers.
Though the advantages are many, the applications being run on an Android device require usage of more battery, a cause of concern for many. An Android device usually requires a recharge every 12 hours when used regularly. The platform, is however, designed to minimize the usage of battery through “suspending” the application when the phone is not in use. This means that the app would technically be open but use minimum to no battery. Secondly, the phone would automatically switch off different applications or those left idle if the battery is low.
There are applications on Google Play, which are designed to minimize the battery usage through optimizing the phone. Another challenge is the speed with android sales of tablet devices. This is primarily due to lack of tablet based apps as compared to regular applications for mobile phones, lack of interest of developers to make applications for tablets and the availability of every possible application on a cellular phone making tablets an addition to what already exists. Apple iPhone though not based on Android has captured the market; however, BlackBerry Playbook, HP Touchpad, Motorola Xoom, Dell Streak and Amazon Kindle based on Android have not been able to capture a wider market.
Android applications offer the next generation of communication technology and has become widely popular. People have upgraded their cellular phone only to take advantage of Android technology. iOS seems to be the only competition with Android. iOS 8, the technology as seen with iPhone 6 claims to be faster and more efficient than the latest various Android being 4.3 Jelly Bean and 5 lollipop. Apple is losing markets share at the back of more and more smart phones carrying the Android platform with wide user acceptability.
New devices being launched include SmartWatch as launched by Sony and Apple watch by Apple watch, which run on an Android platform with a display screen the size of a wrist watch. Retailers and Restaurants are making their own android apps for customers to stay connected. Major news channels which as Barns and Noble, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, BBC, FOX have all launched their Android applications.
Even US army has their own Android app, which shows the scope at which companies can stay connected with their customers. Android is the next generation in handheld technology. The challenge for companies with the competition in the market is to provide maximum features at lower cost with the same android platform to gain market share. The users in the end are in a win-win situation to have the best solutions available at a more affordable cost. It will be interesting to observe new uses of Android in devices and appliances other than phones and tablets in the future.