DEFINITION of 'Android Operating System'

A mobile operating system developed by Google. The Android operating system is primarily used in touchscreen mobile devices, such as cell phones and tablets. Its design allows users to manipulate mobile devices intuitively, with phone interactions following common motions such as pinching, swiping, and tapping.

BREAKING DOWN 'Android Operating System'

The operating system was developed by Android, Inc., a software company located in Silicon Valley, before Google acquired it in 2005. Investors and the electronics industry had speculated over what Google’s intentions were in the mobile market since the acquisition. The company announced the operating system in 2007, with the first Android-powered device reaching the market in 2008.

Software and application developers can use Android to develop mobile apps, which are sold through app stores, such as Google Play.

Because it is developed as a Google product, Android users are given the opportunity to link their mobile device to other Google products, such as cloud storage, email, and video services.

The Android source code is released in an open source format, with Google indicating that it prefers the development of open standards. Despite being released as “open”, Android is often packaged with proprietary software when sold on handset devices.

The emergence of Google’s Android operating system has lead to the “smartphone wars”, with Apple’s iOS serving as the chief competitor. This is similar to the “cola wars” between Coca-Cola and Pepsi as of the 20th century. As of 2014, Android was the most popular operating system for use on mobile devices, with over one billion active users.

The increased popularity of the system has also lead to lawsuits over patents. As a defense maneuver, Google purchased Motorola Mobility in 2011.

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