Android is an operating system designed by Google and that can be found on multiple devices. The OS is found on a variety of devices from a variety of manufacturers in various form factors. It is most commonly seen on smartphones and tablets.
Design and front end features.
Matias Duarte, an Ex Danger software designer (Sidekick phone makers) and Palm phone software designer, joined Google's android design team in 2010. With his lead, the team has implemented it's unique android design language called 'holo', with a focus on clean, line based design, and a signature 'holo' blue being used in android apps such as google music.
In May of 2012, the android team declared a 'war on lag', and introduced the hardware accelerated feature dubbed 'Project Butter', aiming to be much faster than the previous Android 4.0. In update 4.2, Google introduced lockscreen widgets. Allowing users to pin a specific widget to the lock screen, that can be swiped away for more widgets, pressing on a prompt within the lockscreen would unlock the device and automatically go to the same app of the specific widget.
Android is an open source OS based on Linux and ARM architecture. The Android was designed with Google specific applications in mind. It usually runs any application or service that associated with Google (Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Talk, Google Translate, YouTube, etc.). It also possesses functionality for GPS and accelerometers. The latest version available is 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean). Future versions will retain the confectionery/dessert naming motif.
The home screen is extremely customizable. The OS comes originally with 5 screens. Much like Apple's iOS, users can put different applications and shortcuts on this screen, however the Android gives more options for customization Above and beyond this, the open OS allows for third party developers to release their own home homescreen launchers to suit the needs of the individual (i.e. SlideScreen, LauncherPro or ADW launcher to name a few).
Applications and shortcuts can be placed anywhere on the home screen. The Android introduces Widgets. These widgets allow users to browse an app without actually opening it. For example, users can browse status upgrades on Facebook or go directly into Google Search from the home screen. The android also supports moving backgrounds (live wallpapers) that can either respond to touch, time of day, or move to music.
As of Android 4.0 (codename 'Ice cream sandwich'), Google added the feature to open a panel of multitasking windows, allowing the user to switch between apps or games instantly.
Android Market/Google Play
Launched in October of 2008 as Android Market, Google Play is Google's distribution channel for apps, books, music and movies. The store features over 500,000 apps and games. Apps can be found by browsing categories or searching. Within each category there are multiple screens listing the most popular free and paid apps, popular new apps, and currently trending apps. Some categories have contain further categories that can be browsed.
To distribute apps on the Google Play Store developers must register for the Google Play developer and pay a one-time fee of US$25. Developers make 70% of a profit from the app, while the last 30% go to Google. The is not a strict approval process. Once a new or updated app passes an automatic malware detection process, it will go live after a few hours. Applications which violate Google Play policies are reported to Google by the Play Store's users.
Unlike the App Store on iOS, it is not required to distribute through the Play Store. Developers may elect to distribute though other stores such as the Amazon Appstore, or handle distribution themselves. However, app stores themselves may not distributed via the Play Store per the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement's non-compete clause.
On March 6, 2012, Google re branded the Android Market to "Play Store" as per their shift of focus to include all of their download services into one concept, Google Play.
Android Open Source Project
Google releases Android's source code through the Android Open Source Project, where it is then available for use by device manufacturers and hobbyists to create their own versions. In order for a derivative of Android to be allowed to call itself Android, it must comply with the Compatibility Definition Document. The CDD details the many things that must not be changed and what is permitted to be changed to meet compatibility requirements. Devices that do not meet these requirements cannot be marketed as Android and will not be distributed with the suite of Google applications. AOSP-derived products that do not meet Android's compatibility requirements include the Kindle Fire and the Ouya.