Throughout the years, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the operating systems (OS) of the Blackberry and iPhone, but I’ve written little about the largest operating system for smartphones: Android. That’s because I was schooled on the other two operating systems and might be biased. Recently, though, I revisited Android technology to see how far it has come before I passed judgment.
Androids, also known as Droids, have skyrocketed in popularity over Blackberry and iPhone. If you choose to investigate one of these devices, don’t expect it to feel or operate anything like the other two platforms. Although the home screens look similar to the newest versions of the other two platforms, the functionality of an Android is quite different. There are less limitations because of proprietary issues with the other two platforms, and the ability to work with a much broader network of applications is possible. Google was smart enough to realize this OS was going to change the future of smartphones when it invested in it the late 1990s and bought the company in 2005.
Androids have had quite a rollercoaster ride since the first model hit the shelves in 2008. The initial concept of having an OS that was more open and app friendly than the front-running Apple iPhone operating system (iOS) was attractive to many people. The average Droid cost was less than the iPhone, and there were numerous free apps, which made the phones appealing to consumers who didn’t buy into Apple’s proprietary concept.
Unfortunately for Android manufacturers, this rollercoaster started on a high and quickly fell into its first low once users realized the open app market can be confusing. This sent consumers running back to stores to return devices. Unlike Apple, which test-markets and approves every app it releases, Android’s open app policy attracted almost every app developer in the world to test his app on the open market, with little real-world approval. This meant many apps were cumbersome and not user-friendly. Apple made sure it capitalized on this glitch and retrieved a vast number of users back to its iPhone.
But Google wasn’t about to lay down. It quickly recognized the platform was attractive to many tech types and the younger generation. Google made sure Androids worked seamlessly with all Google applications — even purchasing and partnering with some of the fastest-growing Internet communication services. Most of us have used their services, such as Gmail, and even visited Google Play, where you can find more than 1 million downloadable apps. Android maintains its presence as the largest OS in the world, and companies such as Samsung were forward thinking enough to make sure it climbed on board early. Samsung has become the largest installer of the Android OS and, in 2013, held more than 80 percent of the mobile phone market.
For those who might not be as tech-savvy as some of the younger generation who were attracted to the complexities of the Android OS, your fears should be calmed by newer versions. Manufacturers didn’t want to limit their market only to the young or technology-driven consumers. Today’s Android phones are much easier to use, and apps are rated on various sites to help users pick products that fit their technology comfort levels.
If you haven’t picked up an Android OS in a few years, talk to a product expert the next time you’re in a mobile provider’s store. You might be surprised how much these devices have matured.
You can reach Stanbridge, a PMP and longtime technology columnist, at email@example.com.