Android is the most popular mobile operating system that powers our phones, tablets, smartwatches, smart TVs, and many other connected devices. From using a selfie camera, to searching the Web with Google Assistant, to navigating real-world GPS traffic, it can be said that Android touches every aspect of our lives (unless you’re an exclusive Apple user, of course)
Accordingly, there are many Android terms that are familiar to us but we may not be aware of what they do. The following A-to-Z glossary explains these Android terms.
First unveiled in November 2007, Android is both a mobile development platform and a Google brand. In fact, only around 70 percent of Android devices are based on Google. The remaining run on separate Android forks such as LineageOS, OxygenOS by OnePlus, Fire OS by Amazon, PhoenixOS, CyanogenMod (now discontinued,) and many more. All these forks are based on Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but none can commercially use the term “Android” to market their software.
Android’s range of device applications includes smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, PCs and laptops, gaming consoles, smartwatches, and connected vehicles.
Android Debug Bridge (adb) is a terminal-based developer tool used to communicate a client computer with an Android phone, tablet, smartwatch, or any other Android device. It contains both specific commands built into the adb library or other commands in the terminal built over a Unix shell. There are many applications of using adb: installing apps outside Play Store, creating a full backup of the phone (on your computer), extracting APK from the phone, and installing an app on a secondary device.
Android applications (“apps” for short) offer a glimpse into the real functionality of Android devices. They consist of both preinstalled Google apps with Google mobile services (GMS) – such as Google Play, Gmail, Chrome, YouTube, Google Maps – and published apps to be downloaded from Google Play, Android’s official app store for Google-certified devices. You can also run third-party Android apps outside the Google ecosystem, and of course, there are apps that were designed for a non-Google marketplace.
Android Auto runs the Android platform and apps on a car display panel. While the primary motivation was to assist GPS navigation for drivers, today the platform offers a wide range of communication and entertainment options. With Google Assistant built in, one can easily go hands-free and stay connected to people through call and chat mode. (Although, we do not recommend that while you’re driving.)
Android One is an authentic Google certification for participating devices which guarantees at least two years of OS upgrades, long battery life, high quality hardware, monthly security updates, and only the most essential Google apps to reduce the problems of bloatware. You can find the list of devices endorsed by Google at the official link of Android One.
Android Open Source Project (AOSP)
AOSP is Android’s official open source system development project which can be used to create custom forks of Android, such as Phoenix OS. Although no credit to Google is required, it does oversee the general direction of AOSP.
Android Recovery Mode
Android phones come with a built-in recovery mode separate from the operating system. It can be accessed through a combination of key presses on the Android device. This can help you fix your Android phone problems such as automatic restarts, slowdowns, or other issues. There are various ways to get into recovery mode based on the manufacturer or specific Android device you use. For example, with most Samsung devices, you can press and hold the Power, Volume Up and Home buttons simultaneously to boot into Recovery mode.
Android Studio is the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android devices. It supports Windows, Mac, and Linux, is based on JetBrains’s IntelliJ IDEA software and uses Java, Cotlin, and C++. The freeware can be downloaded from Android Studio’s official site and contains features that include a rich layout editor and built-in integration with Google Cloud. Apart from Android Studio, the Android apps can be designed on Visual Studio, AIDE, Eclipse, Droid4X, Bluestacks, and more.
Android TV is a customized entertainment platform enabled by Android for display on a “smart TV” device. With Google Assistant built in, it lets you play your photos, YouTube and Netflix videos, Spotify music, and other digital streaming app contents on a large screen. It also plays your regular Live TV shows, such as ESPN or NBA, and games such as Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto.
In various countries, Android TV is programmed by respective “global partners,” such as TV service providers, TV and streaming device brands, and Internet Service Providers.
Android operating systems have seen many different versions from its first launch, which trace a substantial evolution over the years. The following Android versions were released by Google.
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- Android 8.0 Oreo
- Android 8.1 Oreo
- Android 9 Pie
- Android 10
- Android 11 (the latest as of this post in Oct 2020)
Every Android phone sold in the market comes with pre-installed apps. Apart from these, there are many apps by the carrier that are considered “value-add” apps requiring extra payment. Since these extra apps consume valuable system memory and extra space, they are considered “bloatware.” To reduce the bloatware problem on your Android phone, consider buying only those devices that support Android One.
Most factory Android devices come with a built-in ROM (or “stock ROM”). Since Android is an open source project, you may choose to develop your own custom ROM and add useful features to the ROM. LineageOS and Bliss OS are popular examples of Custom ROMs.
To run your favorite Android apps and games on a larger PC or Mac screen, you need an application called an “emulator,” which recreates the mobile environment for a larger screen. You can go with many popular emulators, including GenyMotion and BlueStacks.
By doing a factory reset, you reset the Android phone to its default state. All Android handsets are equipped with a factory reset option. Of course, you need to back up all your data before proceeding with a factory reset.
Fast charging is an important feature in current Android phones, which is indicated in wattage (W) in device specifications. (The higher the wattage the better.) Handset manufacturers use various terms, such as “Quick charge,” “Super charge,” and “Superfast charge” to promote the high speed of charging. The downside of fast charging is that the device may get heated up, and it takes its toll on battery life.
Find My Device
Find My Device is a Google service that makes it easy to locate, ring, or erase your device from the Web. If you’ve misplaced your phone, you only have to sign in into your official Google account associated with the handset, and Find My Device will trace its global location. You can remotely delete your associated device data even if it falls into the wrong hands.
Google Assistant is Google’s official artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant that helps users operate Android apps by interfacing with their natural voices. This is an advanced voice recognition technology which improves results with frequent usage, as it’s capable of self-learning. Google Assistant is currently available on Android handsets, Wear OS, Google Home smart speakers, Android TV, Android Auto, and many third-party devices.
Google Play is Android’s official app distribution environment which allows the user to download any app published within the Google ecosystem. To publish their apps with an aim of monetization, developers need to spend a one-time fee of $25 and get an approval from Google. Despite being the world’s largest mobile apps repository (followed by Apple’s App Store), Google Play is conspicuously absent in many countries, such as China, the largest Android apps market.
LineageOS is a free and open-source Android custom ROM, which is big on user personalization, security, and privacy. As a custom ROM, it has its own ensemble of open-source apps that mirror Google Play and pre-installed Google apps.
Nexus was a range of consumer devices by Google which operated on the Android operating system. The most recent version was the Nexus 9 tablet by HTC, which included features such as a multi-touch screen, accelerometer, gyroscope, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat support. The Nexus range of devices has now been superseded by Google Pixel devices.
If you’re a OnePlus smartphone user, then you are using its official Android-based operating system, OxygenOS. It is a huge upgrade on Stock Android with several smart, swift, efficient, and intuitive features. Unlike many other forks, OxygenOS integrates official Google apps such as Gmail, Google Maps and Google Duo.
Pixel is the latest range of flagship Google devices based on the Android operating system. They have superseded the Nexus range. Pixel Android phones include Pixel 4 and Pixel 4a. Pixel C and Pixel Slate are the latest tablets. Pixelbook Go is Google’s latest Pixel device.
TWRP (Team Win Recovery Project) is an open source custom recovery image for Android devices. It provides a touchscreen-based interface that allows users to install third-party firmware, and is used in flashing, installing, and rooting Android devices. You can download the latest TWRP for your own device at the official link.
Wear OS is Google’s official operating system for Android-based wearable devices, including smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables. It is operated using Google Assistant, and uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, and more in the roadmap. It contains features such as an always on feature and a “tilt to wake screen” setting. Users are currently operating their WearOS devices on their phones, bikes, while walking, and much more.