Android is the name of the mobile operating system owned by American company, Google. It most commonly comes installed on a variety of smartphones and tablets from a host of manufacturers offering users access to Google’s own services like Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail and more.
This means you can easily look for information on the web, watch videos, search for directions and write emails on your phone, just as you would on your computer, but there’s more to Android than these simple examples.
Android phones are highly customisable and as such can be altered to suit your tastes and needs; with wallpapers, themes and launchers which completely change the look of your device’s interface. You can download applications to do all sorts of things like check your Facebook and Twitter feeds, manage your bank account, order pizza and play games. You can plan events from your phone’s calendar and see them on your computer or browse websites on your desktop Mac or PC and pick them up on your phone.
Another neat feature of Android is that it automatically backs up your contacts for you. When you set up an Android phone you’ll need to create a Google Account or sign in with an existing one. Every time you save a number to the address book of your Android phone it will be synced to your Google Account.
The benefit of this is that if you lose your phone all of your numbers will be saved. The next time you get an Android phone (or an iPhone or Windows Phone if you prefer) and sign in with your Google Account, all of your contacts and friend’s numbers will be displayed in your new phone’s address book immediately, no need to transfer or back them up anywhere else.
Syncing is a way for your phone to keep all your information; websites, contacts, calendar entries and apps up-to-date. This can happen over your phone’s mobile data or WiFi connection, seamlessly, in the background.
Google is constantly working on new versions of the Android software. These releases are infrequent; at the moment they normally come out every six months or so, but Google is looking to slow this down to once a year. Check out our handy, comprehensive guide to every Android version out there.
Versions usually come with a numerical code and a name that’s so far been themed after sweets and desserts, running in alphabetical order.
- Android 1.5 Cupcake
- Android 1.6 Donut
- Android 2.1 Eclair
- Android 2.2 Froyo
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Android 3.2 Honeycomb – The first OS design specifically for tablets, launching on the Motorola Xoom
- Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: The first OS to run on smartphones and tablets, ending the 2.X naming convention.
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean: Launched on the Google Nexus 7 tablet by Asus
- Android 4.2 Jelly Bean: Arrived on the LG Nexus 4
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
- Android 4.4 KitKat: Launched on the LG Nexus 5
- Android 5.0 Lollipop: Launched on the Motorola Nexus 6 and HTC Nexus 9
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow: Launched on the LG Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- Android 7.1 Nougat: Launched on the HTC-made Google Pixel and Pixel XL
The latest version, Android Nougat, aims to make the OS faster with a feature called ‘instant apps’, offers improved battery life with Doze on-the-go and adds native VR support. Here’s what’s changed between the different Android versions.