Android Operating System

What Does Android Operating System Mean?

The Android Operating System is a Linux-based OS developed by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). Android OS shipments overtook those of Symbian in the 4th Quarter of 2010, dislodging the later from the number one spot among smartphone OSs.


Techopedia Explains Android Operating System

The Android OS was originally created by Android, Inc., which was bought by Google in 2005. Google teamed up with other companies to form the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which has become responsible for the continued development of the Android OS.

Each time the OHA releases an Android version, it names the release after a dessert. Android 1.5 is known as Cupcake, 1.6 as Donut, 2.0/2.1 as Eclair, 2.2 as Froyo and 2.3 is dubbed Gingerbread. Once a version is released, so is its source code.

Android’s underlying kernel is based on Linux, but it has been customized to suit Google’s directions. There is no support for the GNU libraries and it does not have a native X Windows system. Inside the Linux kernel are found drivers for the display, camera, flash memory, keypad, WiFi and audio. The Linux kernel serves as an abstraction between the hardware and the rest of the software on the phone. It also takes care of core system services like security, memory management, process management and the network stack.

The Android OS is designed for phones. Its many features include:

  • Integrated browser, based on the open source WebKit engine
  • Optimized 2D and 3D graphics, multimedia and GSM connectivity
  • Bluetooth
  • EDGE
  • 3G
  • WiFi
  • SQLite
  • Camera
  • GPS
  • Compass
  • Accelerometer

Software developers who want to create applications for the Android OS can download the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) for a specific version. The SDK includes a debugger, libraries, an emulator, some documentation, sample code and tutorials. For faster development, interested parties can use graphical integrated development environments (IDEs) such as Eclipse to write applications in Java.

In the 4th quarter of 2010, smart phones running Android OS garnered the top spot for most shipments. The Android OS can be found in phones from different manufacturers, including the Samsung Nexus S, HTC Evo Shift 4G and Motorola Atrix 4G. A couple of new mobile OSs are now based on Android, including Open Mobile System (OMS) and Tapas.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.