A beginner's guide to Android

A beginner’s guide to Android

If you’re not technically minded, the science behind smartphone operating systems can seem complex, and even unfathomable.

That’s particularly true for the Android operating system, which runs in mildly revised forms across numerous handsets from a variety of smartphone manufacturers.

If you’re steeped in iOS, or still clinging onto an antiquated Nokia handset, the prospect of getting to grips with Android could seem intimidating.

Yet in reality, there’s nothing to fear from the world’s most popular smartphone OS.

A short history lesson

Android is one of many Google-owned software packages, like the Chrome OS which underpins Chromebook laptops.

Indeed, Chrome and Android share common DNA, so getting to grips with Android will be child’s play for anyone with a Chromebook.

Both are derived from the Linux operating system, developed in the 1990s as an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows OS.

Unlike Windows, Linux is open source. That means its program code can be modified and reproduced without having to pay royalties.

This made it perfect as a platform for controlling smartphones.

Google was keen to develop an alternative to Apple’s iOS, which was under development simultaneously but emerged a few months ahead of Android’s public release in 2008.

Both platforms underpinned a new generation of smartphones which had evolved beyond the rudimentary calls-and-WAP nature of their predecessors.

Android’s arrival saw mobile devices evolving into multi-functional smartphones, capable of running dedicated programs designed to suit compact screens and sluggish 4G connections.

Known as applications (or apps), any number of programs could be downloaded onto a phone from a repository of utilities known as an app store.

Android endured early growing pains, with five different versions launched inside its first year, but new versions are now released annually.

The confusing cake names of earlier versions have given way to basic numbering, while each new generation offers holistic improvements without imposing radical change.

Getting to grips with Android

Android is reminiscent of iOS, as well as older mobile operating systems like BlackBerry OS or Symbian.

Apps are displayed as individual tiles on the phone’s home screen. On Android 11 (the latest version), you can swipe up on the device to view every installed app in alphabetical order.

A single tap launches that standalone program, whether it be a calculator or calendar, social media or communications utility, game or streaming media service.

However, many pre-installed Android apps can’t be deleted – only deactivated or hidden. This is especially true for Google-owned applications like Maps and YouTube.

It is possible to comprehensively modify Android, but only by breaching the terms of your user agreement and engaging in a process known as rooting.

Rooting invalidates any warranty, though it does allow you to install apps other than those in the curated Play Store, as well as adjusting the handset’s performance and appearance.

Even so, most consumers will find the stable and intuitive Android interface perfectly suited to their everyday needs.

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