What Is Android?
What is Android? We're not talking about robots. In this case, we're talking about smartphones. Android is a popular, Linux-based mobile phone operating system developed by Google. The Android operating system (OS) powers phones, watches, and even car stereos. Let's take a closer look and learn what Android really is.
Android Open-Source Project
Android is a widely-adopted open-source project. Google actively develops the Android platform but gives a portion of it for free to hardware manufacturers and phone carriers who want to use Android on their devices. Google only charges manufacturers if they also install the Google apps portion of the OS.
Many (but not all) major devices that use Android also opt for the Google apps portion of the service. One notable exception is Amazon. Although Kindle Fire tablets use Android, they do not use the Google portions, and Amazon maintains a separate Android app store.
- Beyond the Phone
Android powers phones and tablets, but Samsung has experimented with Android interfaces on non-phone electronics like cameras and even refrigerators. The Android TV is a gaming/streaming platform that uses Android. Parrot makes a digital photo frame and a car stereo system with Android. Some devices customize the open-source Android without the Google apps, so you may or may not recognize Android when you see it. The list of customizations and applications goes on and on.
- Open Handset Alliance
Google formed a group of hardware, software, and telecommunication companies called the Open Handset Alliance with the goal of contributing to Android development. Most members also have the goal of making money from Android, either by selling phones, phone service or mobile applications.
Google Play (Android Market)
Anyone can download the SDK (software development kit) and write applications for Android phones and start developing for the Google Play store. Developers who sell apps on the Google Play market are charged about 30% of their sales price in fees that go to maintain the Google Play market. (A fee model is pretty typical for app distribution markets.)
Some devices do not include support for Google Play and may use an alternative market. Kindles use Amazon's own app market, which means Amazon makes the money off of any app sales.
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