Android is a giant cluster of concepts, companies, and efforts. There are manufacturers, carriers, differing software versions, form factors, screen resolutions, roms, custom launchers, custom UIs, apps, and more. My intent is to walk you through some of these concepts, as they stand in March of 2012. This guide is intended for smartphone consumers, as developers and early adopters will likely already know all of these things.
Top Things You Should Know About Form Factors
- Android Operates on devices of any size. From a smartphone with a 3 inch screen, to a tablet with a 10 or 13 inch screen.
- Many applications are poorly optimized for tablets. The more popular the application, the more likely it will work great on whatever type of device you use.
- There are devices such as the Galaxy Note that support both phone and tablet use cases.
Top Things You Should Know About Android Software Versions
- Android 4.0.3 is the most recent version to be released and available on phones (about 2% of devices have this version).
- We are expecting Google to announce Android 5.0, Codename Jelly Bean in June of 2012.
- Android 4 or above is necessary to get access to the latest features, such as face unlock, or data usage monitoring.
Top Things You Should Know About Android Manufacturers
- If you are looking to take control of your device, HTC makes the most unlockable devices.
- Samsung currently makes the smallest, fastest devices, and is the largest manufacturer of Android devices.
- Motorola's Mobility group was purchased by Google, so expect tight integration between Android and future Motorola devices.
Top Things You Should Know About Android Carriers
- All US Carriers have Android devices, but each carrier has a different set of devices. Additionally, devices typically cannot be moved between carriers because of incompatible networks in the US.
- Verizon has the fastest, but most expensive network.
- Sprint has some of the most unique devices, including the 3D camera and display on the HTC Evo 3D.
Top Things You Should Know About ROMs
- ROMs are great if you have technical ability, and want to modify or take control of your device. ROMs are community-built versions of Android that often combine proprietary and open source features.
- CyanogenMod and AOKP are among the most popular ROMs for many devices, but each device will end up having tens of ROMs specific to that device.
- The biggest problem for ROM developers trying to release working software for devices is the proprietary drivers needed to interact with hardware. This has worsened with Android 4.0, as many of the previously-software components such as camera, now have large demands upon the hardware.
Top Things You Should Know About Tethering
- Both USB and Wifi tethering are built into the Android platform, but are often removed by Carriers.
- You can install the ClockworkMod Tether application on your phone to add tethering back, if it was removed.
- Tethering may be visible on Verizon or T-Mobile devices, but it may warn you that they want to charge you additional fees to use the feature.