Android is one of the hottest and fastest growing mobile operating systems. Last year, Android edged out Apple’s iOS as the market share leader in smartphones. While the Apple iPhone is the only smartphone using iOS, countless handset manufacturers have chosen to use the free and open source Android platform instead.
In the tablet world, Android still has some catching up to do. While there are countless models of Android tablets from a wide variety of both well-known and obscure brands, there are only three iPad models presently available. Nonetheless, iPad is nearly synonymous with tablets. Other operating systems, such as Windows and the short-lived WebOS, have also been seen on tablets. However, Android remains the number one iPad rival and has a long way to go in gaining tablet market share.
The Evolution of Android
Android versions 1.0 through 2.3 were designed specifically for smartphones, devices with a 7” or smaller screen size. Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb, was the first built just for tablets. With the recent launch of Android 4.0, Google has brought together elements of the previous versions to create a unified interface and experience across device types.
As more and more smaller manufacturers continue producing Android tablets, it makes sense to wonder if they will edge out the iPad. Big names in the e-reader world such as Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook have both launched Android based tablets that go above and beyond e-book functionality. On the other hand, budget brands and little known companies are churning out Android tablets with decent specs and rock bottom prices. However, these products generally pale in comparison with the iPad.
What is the advantage of buying Android device? Proponents of free and open source software prefer Android because it is built on a Linux kernel and utilizes primarily open source code. This avoids the costs of licensing a third-party operating system, such as Microsoft Windows, or wholly developing their own operating system, such as Apple has done with iOS. As a result, the Android world is generally much more open and flexible.
Android users are not tied down to a single source for apps, games, e-books and other digital content, as is the case with iOS users. Tech geeks and tinkerers like the ability to easily root their Android devices, test out custom software images and tweak the operating system. Even without advanced technical knowledge, Android users generally enjoy more options for customizing their mobile devices.
Looking ahead to the launch of Windows 8 later this year, some are speculating that a Windows tablet may finally rival the iPad. Meanwhile, Google is beefing up its content ecosystem in an effort to make Android tablets even more useful. For example, an Android tablet will generally offer the most seamless integration with Google services such as GTalk chat and video conferencing, Google’s e-book and music stores, online Google Docs office suite, and the recently launched Google Drive cloud storage service.
Those who are already happy owners of Apple devices may be most comfortable sticking with what they are familiar with. Windows fans may prefer to hold out for the Windows 8 release. Android is often best suited for tech savvy users who like to have lots of options and maybe get their hands dirty once in awhile. Nonetheless, as Android becomes more user friendly for the mainstream consumer, it will likely continue to be a major player in the mobile device market.
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