What is Android?

Android icon

iPhones have iOS, Windows Phones have Windows 10 Mobile - and most of the other smartphones out there are rocking Android. So what exactly is it? broadbandchoices is here to answer all your questions.

Well, to put it simply, Android is the operating system (OS) that you'll find on the majority of smartphones. It's the interface that you use and interact with every time you use your phone - just like how you'd use Windows on a PC.

It's the most common smartphone OS in the world, beating out iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Firefox OS, Sailfish, Symbian, and the likes.

Android is owned and run by Google, and uses the company's trademark bright, blocky colours in its design. And to sweeten the deal, each major Android update is named after a tasty treat: the latest is called 9.0 Pie.

A brief history of Android

Android, Inc. was founded back in the olden days of 2003, when Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White decided to develop a new kind of operating system. Initially they wanted to make a more customisable interface for digital cameras, but they soon upped their game and set about making one for mobile phones instead.

In 2005, Google bought the company out for something in the region of $50 million - two years before Android as we know it was officially unveiled. The first version of Android proper, 1.5 Cupcake, entered the market in 2008. Its first appearance was on the HTC Dream.

The company launched the Nexus range in 2010 - smartphones that run Android in its raw form with little to no editing, and have hardware with specs that Google says are most ideal for the platform.

Since then, Android has only grown, expanding out to tablets and increasing its share of the smartphone market. Today, it covers somewhere in the region of a whopping 80% of phones sold worldwide.

Which phones run Android?

If it's a smartphone but isn't an iPhone or a Microsoft Lumia (now discontinued), it's almost certainly an Android. Most phones made by Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, Motorola, Huawei, and even BlackBerry in some cases all run the Android OS.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

That usually goes for companies' entire range of phones, from cheap budget models right up to the high-tech flagships. The Samsung Galaxy, LG, and Sony Xperia lines all use Android, for instance.

It's not just on smartphones, either - you'll also find Android on a number of tablets. Again, if it's not an iPad or a Microsoft tablet, chances are it's an Android.

It's only on Nexus and Pixel devices, however, that Android runs in its raw form. Most manufacturers overlay their own custom skin onto the OS, so each kind of phone tends to look and feel a little different.

Is Android better than iOS?

The great Android vs iOS battle has been raging on since the dawn of time (well, since 2008, anyway). As the two most popular mobile operating systems, when you get a new smartphone you'll probably have to pick between the two. Unless you're more into Windows Phones, that is.

These days, which OS is 'best' honestly just depends on your preferences. Both iOS and Android are excellent in their own ways, so it really comes down to what you want in a smartphone and which one you're most comfortable using.

iOS is generally known for being more smooth, intuitive, and easy to use - but it's not nearly as customisable as Android.

Read our full review: iPhone vs Android

Android vs Apple

Advantages of iOS:

  • Intuitive, easy-to-use interface
  • Looks stylish and feels smooth
  • Integrates perfectly with other Apple products - MacBooks, iPads, iTunes, Apple TV, iCloud, and so on
  • You get the core Apple apps, such as Siri, FaceTime, Messenger, Apple Music, and Apple Pay
  • It's the same on every iPhone, so when you get a new one you know exactly what you're getting

Advantages of Android:

  • Incredibly customisable - pretty much anything can be changed, even at a user level
  • Google apps are all integrated together, and many can be accessed on the web - Google Now, Gmail, Google Maps, Android Pay, and so on
  • Much, much more choice over which phone you can get - with iOS, you're limited to iPhones
  • Android phones are cheaper than iPhones, on the whole
  • Easier to manage your files
  • Bright and colourful interface, if you're into that

Switching between iOS and Android phones? Read our guide first.

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