Android is an operating system for smartphones, tablet PCs, PDAs, and mobile devices. It is an open source system using the Linux kernel, developed by Android, a startup acquired by Google, and officially announced on November 5, 2007. There also exist other types of devices using this operating system, such as tv sets, clock radios, car stereos, and even cars.
In the Developer’s Guide, Android is defined as a stack of software designed to provide a turnkey solution for mobile devices – smartphones and touchscreen tablet. This stack has an operating system (with Linux kernel), key applications such as web browser, phone, and address book as well as middleware between the operating system, and applications.
The stack is organized into five distinct layers:
- The Linux kernel drivers.
- Software libraries such as WebKit, OpenGL, SQLite, or FreeType.
- A virtual machine and libraries to run programs designed for the Java platform.
- A framework – SDK applications.
- A standard lot of applications among which there is an office environment, an address book, a web browser, and a phone.
The features offered by Android include the GSM telecommunications networks, Bluetooth, WiFi, and UMTS, media funtions including H.264 video, MP3 audio, and jpeg images, and other formats.
It ensures the possibility to use sensors, such as motion sensors, camera, compass, and GPS receiver, touch screen, storage database, rendering images in 2D or 3D using the graphics processor, the display of web pages, the multitasking performance of applications and sending SMS messages.
Although not a part of the software stack, the development environment that includes a phone emulator and a plugin for Eclipse can also be seen as a feature of Android. In addition to this, there also is Google Play, an online store where you can purchase and download applications for Android, which plays a vital role in the popularity of this operating system.
Android is distributed as open source under the Apache license. The license allows manufacturers to integrate Android into their devices to make changes allowing them to distinguish themselves from their competitors and it was adopted by many manufacturers of iPhone competing products.
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