Monday, June 20, 2011

Android Operating System

Android broke onto the market as a serious player sometime after the iPhone and has swept the nation, and the world, as a contender to iPhone, Blackberry, and now, Windows 7. Very popular among nerds, techies, and people who call Apple users cult members, Android is full of options and has a very open operating system allowing you to customize it and add things to it in many ways that other phone operating systems lack. That being said, does that make it an option for you? How does it benefit you? To find out, read on.
The Android phone operating system is a phone system for the more advanced smart phone user. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's only for "techies." My wife has an android phone that she loves, and she's anything but a "techie." The reason I say that it's for the advanced smartphone user is because there are a lot of menus to navigate that tend to slow down the less tech-savvy consumers. It also takes me much longer to explain to someone who's never owned a smart phone before how to use an android phone, than it takes me to teach them how to use a Windows 7 phone or an iPhone.

Android is created by Google, and they are very "hands-off" managers of the Market (where you buy applications) and the software updates (newer versions of the software that are released). Android phones are available from all major carries. Android is the operating system behind the very popular "Droid" series and the popular "Evo" series phones. A lot of relevant phone manufacturers make Android devices, some of them even primarily use Android as their operating system of choice; Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC... even the Barnes and Noble Nook Color runs on Android operating system, so you'll find this OS on things other than phones. The Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom tablets have android on them.

The first big positive thing about the android phone is that it has a lot of really cool customization features that really allow users to make their phone truly theirs and that don't cost a lot of money, if any at all. You can make basically any song, noise, or voice recording into a ringtone, and with the application "Ringdroid," you can even clip segments of songs to make into ringtones directly from the phone. This is something that Apple's iPhone, Windows 7 Phones, and Blackberry can't do. With iPhones, you need to by any ringtones you may want from iTunes. Blackberry you get them from the carrier-specific app store and with Windows you're stuck with whatever you get when you buy the phone. With Android you can also set "live wallpapers" which is a moving wallpaper for your phone. Although this option is available for Blackberry as well, it drains the battery way faster on Blackberry whereas I don't notice a difference when I have a live wallpaper set on my android phone.

Another really popular thing about them is that any old person can make an application for the android phone and load it on there. Of course, by any old person I mean any old person that has a clue what they're doing when it comes to programming. I wouldn't know where to start. For me, the fact that you can do this on a phone means absolutely nothing and isn't practical for the everyday user. Another downside to this is that not every application in the Android Market is guaranteed to work on every single android phone and tablet. One application may work really well on a Droid X and may even fail to initialize on an HTC Inspire (or the other way around). This can make for a really poor user experience.

Android has always taken a lot of flak for its poor battery life. It's true that the original android phones had horrible battery lives and no amount of warranty exchanges could fix it. Some newer Android phones have battery issues, also, even if it's not common. Carriers often recommend "cheap" fixes like telling a customer to buy an extended battery to fix the phone they just spent $300 on. To me, this is not a fix at all... it's insulting. AND it adds so "much chunk" to phones that are already enormous that it makes it a bit impractical. However, most new Android devices have addressed this issue and a couple even have better battery lives than even the iPhone 4. How's that for switching things around?

A distinct advantage that Android devices have over any other phone operating system is a little something called a widget (update, iOS 5 for iPhone is going to have widgets as well!). A widget is a small version of an application that gives you a preview of what the application is, or even lets you control certain parts of it from the home screen. All Most smart phones have icons on the fronts screen that allow you to access the application without much hassle, but this prevents you from even having to access the application in some instances. Take the Google search bar for example. This little widget allows you to do a Google search of just about anything right from your phone. If you're lazyobnoxious version of Sweet Home Alabama, a song that happens to make its way onto every single radio station ever created and was one of the few songs to make it on the "banned" list at my wedding reception.

Android does do notifications really well. The bar at the top that displays your battery life, network status and notifications pulls down in a drawer-like fashion and from there you can see what all those mini-pictures that often haunt the top of your phone are for. This prevents confusion and frustration.

Over-all, iPhone operating system does a lot of the same things that Android does, but better. The hardware is more stable, the software is more stable. You don't see the glitches that often come up in Android devices on iPhones. Although there have been improvements in leaps and bounds in the stability of the operating system, they still just can't match Apples quality. Because so many different phone makers make Android devices, you never really know what you're going to get when it comes to quality. Then, because each phone maker makes multiple devices every year, they don't have the time to refine each one because they're busy building the next one, whereas Apple tends to only release a new phone once every year in a while and makes sure their phones are (for the most part) glitch free before they hit the market.

So what operating system do I like the most? I don't have a clear front-runner. I like the stability of iPhones. I like the customization abilities of the Androids. I like the ease of use and simplicity of the Windows 7 Phones. I like something? about Blackberry OS is also an option that is available. Just like a clothing, everyone has different opinions, and if the sales representative does their job and makes sure that they correctly qualify you for a phone while you're in the store by finding out what you're looking for in a phone, you will be happy with the recommendation you're given.

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