Android is an operating system for
cellphones, just like the Windows Mobile platform, or the
Symbian platform you’ll find on Nokia phones. So why the big fuss? Well two reasons. Firstly, it was developed by Google, and we all know what Google did for the web.
Secondly, it is open source, meaning that the code used to create Android is open for anyone to use. This allows
developers to create applications for Android or incorporate new technologies as soon as it is introduced. So the
development of Android is not restricted to just a few
engineers in certain companies, but a whole community.
Android is also supported by the Open Handset Alliance, a
consortium of companies that include big names such as Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, HTC and Intel. These handset
manufacturers are able to create proprietary interfaces or tools for their phones, and have released or are scheduled to
release phones with Android on it.
Consumers will be able to make use of the Google tech
supported by Android (such as Google Maps, Calendar etc), as well as the wide array of applications that is available for free, or to buy on Android Market online.
So what of the UI?
We installed Android on a Forerunner Neo test phone and can report back on its user interface. Android bears a number of similarities to the iPhone OS. Users can flick the screen to scroll through items and its browser is built on Webkit. Android does not however offer multi-touch so all that pinching and
expanding iPhone users so love, is not there. But Android does support “long press” which allows users to hold their finger on a menu or item to bring up additional functions. It also
supports cut and paste and running multiple background
applications. The UI also features a dedicated search button in true Google style. The search button can be used for searches on the device and the web, which is useful.
The best bit about Android is its integration of Google apps, such as Gmail, Google Talk, Google Maps and YouTube. If you’re already a big fan of Google apps all you have to do is enter your Google account username and password and you can access your mail, calendar, contacts etc. directly from the cloud. What it doesn’t support is multiple Google accounts though, which is a real irritation if you have more than one Gmail account.
The Bottom Line
So, while Android is still in its infancy the depths of its
potential have yet to be comprehended. With the imminent launch of the HTC Android device in the country, you may just be kicking yourself if you recently committed yourself to an iPhone contract.