Android is an operating system developed by the Open Handset Alliance controlled by Google, for mobile gadgets such as tablet computers and smartphones.

Android Inc., was the initial developer of Android and it was purchased by Google on August 17 2005. The Open Handset Alliance, which is a consortium of many software, hardware and telecommunication companies, was then formed and the Android operating system was distributed on November 5 2007. Since then Android phones have grown by leaps and bounds and steadily captured the mobile market.

Most of the Android code was released by Google under the Apache license which is a free software license. The functionality of the Android devices is extended by the large number of apps that are developed by a community of developers maintained by Android.

As of October 2011, there were more than 300,000 Android apps that are available for download and the number has been ever increasing. The number of apps that were downloaded has been known to exceed 10 billion. Such apps can be downloaded from the Android Market that is run by Google or from third-party sites.

Android operating system has had a number of updates since the original release, and each version had a new feature or fixed a problem with an older version. The latest version of the operating system is called Ice Cream Sandwich, which has an added feature of facial recognition.

Android phones have all the capabilities of smartphones such as storage, messaging, connectivity, multiple language support, Java support, web browser, media support, multi-touch, streaming media support, Bluetooth, multitasking, video calling, voice based features, screen capture and tethering.

HTC dream was the first phone to run on Android that was commercially available. Since then the phones have added a number of brilliant new features and the latest Samsung Galaxy series of phones are the very best in the market for smartphones.

The growth of Android phones

As per the information provided by Canalys, a research company, Android had a share of 2.8 percent of the worldwide shipments of smartphones as of Q2 2009. By Q4 2010, it had captured 33 percent of the market to top as the best selling smartphone platform. As per Gartner estimates, nearly 52.5 percent of the smartphone market belonged to Android as of Q4 2011.

In February 2010, only 9 percent of the United States smartphone market was held by Android. But as the number of mobile subscribers increased, this number gradually increased to 21.4 percent as of Q3 2010. The U.S. sales of Android surpassed that of iPhone in the first quarter of 2010. iPhone sales grew as well, which indicated that Android was capturing the RIM market in the U.S. Also, it is pointed out that since Android is a multi-carrier and multi-channel operating system, it was able to quickly duplicate the success of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

As of June 2011, 550, 000 new Android gadgets were being activated on a daily basis and there were around 190 million Android devices in the smartphone market as of October 2011. This grew to 200 million users on November 16 2011.

Google bought Motorola Mobility for US $12.5 billion, on August 2011 thereby strengthening its hold on the market. This led to the opening of the first Android store in Melbourne in December 2011.

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