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Android Official Logo [8]
Type Operating System
Launch Date September 23, 2008[1]
Status Active
Product Line Android
Platform Mobile Phones
is an open source operating system for mobile phones, tablet computers, and netbooks developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance. Many popular mobile devices utilize the Android operating system including the Motorola Droid (series), Samsung Galaxy (series), and HTC Sensation. Google also released a set of reference devices under its Nexus program with the help of HTC Samsung, LG, Asus, Motorola and Huawei such as the G1, Nexus One, Nexus S, Droid Incredible, Galaxy Nexus, and the newly released Nexus 6p. The Android operating system is the most popular mobile platform with over 1.4 billion active users as of September 2015.[2] The Android operating system is based on Linux kernal, with middleware, libraries, and APIs written in C, and allows applications which are compatible with Java. Due to its growing popularity and competitive relationship with other companies' operating systems like iOS, Android's ethical implications are becoming increasingly evident and include issues such as patent wars, open source issues, and data concerns.


Smartphone market share as of March 2011.

Android was created in Palo Alto, California, in October of 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White to develop smarter mobile devices. Google purchased Android in August of 2005 and was marketed to handset makers and carriers on the basis that it was a flexible system that could be easily upgraded.[3] Android has been through multiple updates since its first release. The most recent version, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, was released in October, 2015. Android source code is available under free and open source software licenses, and Google's Linux kernel is available under the GNU license. [4][5]

Open Sourcing and Patenting, Control Issues

The Android Operating System is powerful and accomplishes many technological tasks with relative ease. The release of Android's open source code under a free software licensing system called Apache has allowed third party programmers to manipulate, revise, and innovate new applications for the Android Operating System and Android mobile markets. The open sourcing of Android's operating system lets programmers and developers tweak and make changes to Android's specifications.

While the community of developers working on Android has produced revolutionary applications for Google's growing share in the mobile market, the conflict of ownership and patenting will become more of a problem. For example, the Android operating system's ability to hold multi-core processors allows for advanced program capability, storage, and availability. If a developer were to enhance the processing ability of Android 2.2, would Google have a patented share or would the developer have full control and ownership? Third-party developers are beginning to wonder whether or not their programs and applications will be unique and owned by the creator, or if Google will authorize a policy in which they can patent or control a share of all profits from third party development of Android operating system programs and applications.

On August 15 of 2011, Google acquired Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars (USD). The acquisition included more than 17,000 issued Motorola patents and another 7,000 pending.[6] The sizable portfolio of patents will help protect Google's business from other competitors, such as Apple, and put Google on the offensive.[6]

Compatibility, Special Features, and Multi-Tasking

Android's success has been based on the fact that it is compatible with multiple platforms and able to operate to full capacity seamlessly. The ability of Android OS to multi-task (e.g. read pdf documents, surf the Internet, and play music) and bring 4G all while maintaining full capability as a mobile phone is what has made Android so popular. It stands as the prime competitor to Apple's iPhone in the smartphone market. Because of the release of the source code to several developers, Frank Feinbube, Professor of Information Technology Systems and Engineering at the Hasso Plattner Institute believes:
"Android is setting the standard for mobile devices and will only improve with features such as SQLite for relational data storage, Bluetooth and wireless capability, ability to include data sharing between applications, and run multiple core libraries efficiently." [7] pp. 1-23
Android features an integrated browser and media support for audio and video in several formats including MPEG4, MP3, AAC, AMR, JPG, PNG, and GIF. The ability to switch between 3G and 4G internet is also an attractive aspect of Android smartphones. It allows users the flexibility to switch between hardcore internet usage, and simple tasks such as checking the weather or email.

Smart TV

The customizable nature of Android have allowed the operating system to have functionality beyond just smartphones. Android has been adapted and is used on many smart TV devices, called Google TV. Customers can browse the internet and watch television simultaneously on their internet ready televisions.

Android Wear

The Android platform is also on many wearable devices. These devices, mostly watches, have a wide range of versatility. Their features include veiwing your calender, fitness stats, and contacts. These devices can also send and recieve messages, aswell as answer calls. They are also compatible with a wide range of apps including the Uber app, running and gps apps, and Android pay (an app that is connected to your credit card, and you can make payments using your Android device).[8]

Android Emulators

It is also possible to run an Android instance on a personal computer through the use of various emulators. These programs, including AMIDuOS, Andy, and Bluestacks, allow one to run a virtual Android phone on one's computer [9]. These services are available for free, a one time fee, or monthly subscription fee, depending on the program [9]. Most of these emulators are geared towards gaming, allowing users to play their favorite phone games through the downloadable apps on the android platform. Paid apps are still purchased through the Android app store so these programs are not profiting directly from the sales.


Latest version of the Android Market.

Android Market

An online software store created by Google in 2008, the Android Market features a variety of applications organized around Apps, Games, Music, Books, and Movies. The market is not open source and the developers of the apps receive 70% of the profit, with the remaining 30% going to carriers and payment processors [10]. Developers in 29 countries may place applications on the market, while users from 131 countries may purchase and use the applications [11]. Android Market automatically filters applications that are compatible with the device and service provider you are using.[12] In March, 2012, the Android Market app was rebranded to the name Google Play.[13]

Ethical Concerns

The Android Market causes a potential security threat for users in that they may purchase applications that contain viruses. In 2011, the application DroidDream was released to the market, and this application allowed hackers to access personal information on the infected phones.[14] The market's use of anonymity promotes this type of behavior by decreasing the chances the hackers will be identified and held accountable for their actions. There are many more ethical concerns with the Android Market compared to Apple's App Store. Since Android utilizes open software, it is easy to program applications and make them available for download in the Android Market. Apple, on the other hand, has a long, grueling process for approving applications, which helps to ensure safe and secure programs.

"Patent Wars"

Many smartphone manufacturers use Android technology — particularly the operating system — for their devices. As a result, many smartphones currently on the market run similarly, if not identical operating system software. The competitive nature of the smartphone market has led to different software patent owners suing phone manufacturers for infringing on patents via the software that they ship on their phones, especially when competing against other technology giants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung.

The "open" nature of Android's technology has made Android phone manufacturers easy targets for those looking to gain on patent infringement. Apple has filed many patent infringement claims against Android phone manufacturers, with former CEO Steve Jobs going so far as to characterize Android as a "stolen product."[15] These claims happened to occur while Android's smartphone marketshare was in a state of rapid growth.[16] In 2011, Apple filed a class action lawsuit against Samsung, one of Android's largest and most profitable device manufactures, for the infringement of three patents. These patents included the "slide to unlock" Patent '721 and Patent '449 for camera and folder organization as well as Patent '647 or the "Quick Links" patent for initiating phone calls by tapping on phone numbers.[17] While a U.S. court initially found Samsung guilty of the patent violation, an appeal later declared the initial ruling invalid. Since 2014, both companies have agreed to scale down patent litigation and withdrawn patent lawsuits in several countries outside the United States. [18] If these lawsuits begin to gain any traction in the legal system, it may set a precedent against open source software. Any implementation of the software could potentially be negated by a patent infringement claim in one of the thousands of patents that a smartphone contains. The International Trade Commission poses an imminent threat to ban the importation of devices that run the Android operating system.[16]

Open Source

Android saw a quick rise in popularity not only because of its creator, Google, but also through its open source nature. The code is "open" for use by anyone to use and re-implement. This non-proprietary nature differentiates it from Apple's App Store. The App Store is extremely careful in allowing apps to be sold in its domain. This causes much grief among developers who complain about the fact that Apple is unreasonable with its responses but ultimately leads to a more elitist store; only well-developed apps are allowed entrance. The Android Market is much more liberal in its allowances. In fact, it has almost no restrictions for its entrants. The few things it cares about are listed here:

  1. Sexually Explicit Material
  2. Violence and Bullying
  3. Hate Speech
  4. Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior
  5. Personal and Confidential Information
  6. IP Infringements
  7. Illegal Activities
  8. Gambling
  9. Malicious Products[19]

Apple's App Store restrictions are very exhaustive and cover thousands of binding policies. This delineation between the two has led to polarized content. Android sports an explicit market of applications that bend the rules. As a result of its open-sourced nature, Android's content is not quite as refined as that of Apple's and its applications tend to be a bit less stable. Android opted to limit censorship, but as a result, their applications could create entropy in the infosphere. Balancing these key interests is an ongoing ethical dilemma, and both Android and Apple have fallen on opposite sides of the spectrum.


Google, in as much as one can own an open-source project, "controls" Android development and determines its upcoming features. Because of this relationship, some features are pushed to the Android system before any other markets get access. For example, Google Voice, a popular VoIP service was exclusively offered on the Android Market. More recently, Google has launched a new, indoor, map system that enables users to view the layout of buildings to more easily navigate to their destination. There is currently no set date to push this feature to the Apple App Store.

Another differentiating factor about its open-source nature and relationship with Google is inter-operability. The Android operating system has multiple formats for different devices and can be used by many different carriers on many proprietary devices. Users are also allowed to modify the Android operating system as well through a process known as rooting, which is the equivalent of the popular iOS "jailbreak" modification. Rooting is a process that allows you to attain root access to the Android operating system code. It gives you privileges to modify the software code on the device or install other software that the manufacturer wouldn't normally allow you to. This raises potential ethical issues because Android users can modify Google's default Android operating system and create illegitimate versions that might be sold off to unaware customers. However, the benefit of being able to root the Android system is that users are allowed to be more innovative with the Android system, creating innovative versions and features that might be incorporated into future Android systems and benefit the creativity and technological advancement of Google and its Android flagship phones.

Additional ethical concerns involve Google's introduction of Google Play Services in 2012. Because of open licensing agreements between Google and device manufacturers, the Android OS has become notorious for slow or non-existing system updates with the majority of users using outdated versions of Android OS. As of April 2016, only 4.6% of Android users were using the most up to date version of the operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow. [20] To help stem update stagnation, Google introduced the Google Play Services API in 2012. The Google Play Services API was automatically added to devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and above. It allows Google to push fast and silent updates to core system services providing older devices with new functionality without OEM intervention. [21] The introduction of the Play Services API gives Google inherently more influence and control over the original open sourced nature of the Android OS. It also means that there are no checks preventing Google from being able to introduce new software on existing devices with many have ethical implications for consumers.

Google Voice

Google Voice sports a free VoIP service that allows users to take on a wholly new number (or keep their own for $20). Android and Google Voice integration is extremely powerful and has allowed many users to bypass a significant portion of their carrier charges. Although many companies have complained about this, it is still profitable to use the Google Android operating system, a system that is increasingly rivaling Apple's iOS.[22]

Google - Possibly Unethical Actions

While Android is claimed to be open source, Google has not fully disclosed the source code used in Android 3.0 as of October of 2011. Android includes a header file based on one distributed with code which is protected under GPLv2.[23] Compiling android using the GPLv2 licensed code could mandate that either Android or both Android and applications for the platform release their source code. Google implemented their own version of the functions and structs outlined by the header file to avoid this mandate. However, the GPLv2 can be interpreted as implying not only that a header file is covered as a derivative work but also that an individual loses any further right to redistribute the end product of compilation even if they release source code in compliance with the license.[24][25]. Linus Torvalds also further points out that including such header files is necessary for a program to interface with libraries and even the kernel. [25] This means that it is impossible to compile code that runs on an operating system without including such header files and that using this logic any code that includes header files referring to GPLv2 code must also use the same license. This interpretation is practically unenforceable because of the sheer number of people involved in any given project, each of which often depends on many other similar projects[25][26]It may also be impossible to gain the permission of some authors if they are deceased.

More importantly, using a header file does not violate the ethical goals of the GPL according to Richard Stalman and Linus Torvalds.[27][25] Although the Free Software Foundation believes that the permanent rights-loss interpretation is a real problem, it does not see Google as accountable or its actions as immoral. [26] Instead it names itself as the most accountable for the problem because it wrote the GPLv2 without the expectation that software licensed under it would having hundreds of contributing authors or wide scale adoption. [26] They suggest solving the problem by licensing future versions of Linux source code under the GPLv3, which explicitly outlines when and how distribution rights to software are restored. [26].

It is still possible to argue that the act of creating code that matches a description created by the Linux community is exploitative even though there are completely interchangeable open-source replacements for the structs and functions the header defines. However, on the whole Google is arguably a net-contributor to the open source community in many ways such as the Summer of Code open source event it sponsors or its Google Code repositories. Therefore, even if Google may be doing something that is slightly questionable, the sum of the actions it performs is tends towards "good" in Floridi's sense of expanding the infosphere by helping others to create projects that accelerate its growth.

Version History

Android version 4.0's home screen displayed on the Galaxy Nexus.
Version Number Version Name Released Date
1.0 Android 1.0 September 23, 2008
1.1 Android 1.1 February 9, 2009
1.5 Cupcake April 30, 2009
1.6 Donut September 15, 2009
2.0 Eclair October 26, 2009
2.2 Froyo May 20, 2010
2.3 Gingerbread December 6, 2010
3.0 Honeycomb February 22, 2011
4.0 Icecream October 19, 2011
4.1 Jellybean June 27, 2012
4.4 Kitkat October 31, 2013
5.0 Lollipop November 12, 2014
6.0 Marshmallow September 29, 2015
7.0 Nougat August 22, 2016

Lawn Statues

For each new version of Android released, Google adds another statue to the lawn in front of Building 44, where the Android team is based. Beginning with Android version 1.5, the codenames for the versions have been named after desserts. The statues are created in New Jersey by Themendous and then transported to the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Generally, the statue is unveiled a few days before the version of Android is released. In keeping with Google's humor, each version of the Android software begins with the next letter in the alphabet. Thus, the most recent version is a "Jelly Bean" representing the 10th version. The first two versions, in theory beginning with "a" and "b", do not have public codenames. [28]


Android eating an Apple.

The Android logo was designed by Ascender Corporation. The Android green is the color that represents the Android operating system. The print color is PMS 376C and the RGB color value in hexadecimal is #A4C639, as specified by Android brand.[29]

Android holds an estimated 2.8% share of worldwide smartphone shipments, and by Q4 2010 had grown to 33% of the market. Android continues to be a top-selling smartphone platform. By Q3 2011, Android held and estimated 52.5% of the smartphone market.[30]

In May 2010, Androids first quarter U.S. sales surpassed that of the rival iPhone platform. According to a report by the NPD group, Android achieved 25% smartphone sales in the US marked, which was up 8% from the December quarter.

iPhone and Android OS has been battling back and forth for years for a position at the top. In the Q2 2010, Apple iOS was up by 11%, indicating that Android and iPhone still have to compete with heavy consumer demand.[31]

As of November 16, 2011, Google reported that there are about 200 million Android devices had been activated.[32]

As of September 12, 2012, Google announced that they have reached 500 million Android devices activated.[33]

As of September 29, 2015, Google announced that they have reached 1.4 billion Android devices activated.[34]

See Also

External Links


  1. “Announcing the Android 1.0 SDK, Release 1.” Android Developers Blog,, 23 Sept. 2008,
  2. Arthur, Charles. Mobile generating equivalent of $2.5bn a year, says Google chief. Guardian. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  3. Elgin, Ben. Google Buys Android for Its Mobile Arsenal. Bloomberg Businessweek. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  4. Android (operating system). Wikipedia. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  5. Licenses. Android Open Source Project. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mclean, Mike. Google and Motorola - A match made in patent heaven? EDN. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  7. Feinbube, Frank. "Android: Operating Systems and Middleware." Hasso Plattner Institute, IT Systems and Engineering, 17 November 2011. Web. 11 December 2011.
  8. Retrieved on April 20, 2017
  9. 9.0 9.1 "14 best Android emulators for PC of 2017." Android Authority. March 3, 2017.
  10. Eric Chu (22 October 2008). "Android Developers Blog: Android Market: Now available for users". Android Developers Blog. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  11. "Supported locations for merchants". Android Market Help
  12. Android Market [1]
  13. Google Rebrands [2]
  14. "The Mother Of All Android Malware Has Arrived: Stolen Apps Released To The Market That Root Your Phone, Steal Your Data, And Open Backdoor | Android News, Reviews, Apps, Games, Phones, Tablets, Tips, Mods, Videos, Tutorials". Android Police. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  15. Dignan, Larry. Steve Jobs: Android a 'stolen product.' ZDNet. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Android Patent War. The Wallstreet Journal. 05 December 2005. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  17. Torres, JC ,"Samsung cleared of 2014 Apple Patent Infringement Case", February 28th, 2016.
  18. Hyunjoo, Jin. Apple. Samsung Electronics Agree To Drop Patent Lawsuits Outside U.S. ' 'The Huffington Post.' ' 05 August 2014.
  19. Android Market Developer Program Policies. Android. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  20. Kellen,"Android Distribution Updated for April 2016: Marshmallow Closes in on 5%", April 5, 2016
  21. Amadeo, Ron. Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary ' ' 20 October 2013' '
  22. Google Voice
  23. Brooker, Brandan. Android: The OS of the Future. Blogspot: brookersection. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  24. Proffitt, Brian. [3]Android Foes Still Beating GPL Non-Compliance Drum. ITworld. 15 August 2011.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Android foes still beating GPL non-compliance drum,[4]
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Android GPLv2 termination worries: one more reason to upgrade to GPLv3, [5]
  27. [6]]
  28. Android Statues [7]
  29. Cha, Ariana Eunjung. “4chan Users Seize Internet's Power for Mass Disruptions.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Aug. 2010, Washington Post-4chan Washington Post-4chan
  30. Gartner. “Gartner Says Sales of Mobile Devices Grew 5.6 Percent in Third Quarter of 2011; Smartphone Sales Increased 42 Percent.” Gartner, 15 Nov. 2011, Gartner Newsroom - Mobile Sales Increase Gartner Newsroom - Mobile Sales Increase
  31. Whitney, Lance. “Android Hits Top Spot in U.S. Smartphone Market.” CNET, CNET, 4 Aug. 2010, CNET Android hits top spot in mobile market CNET Android hits top spot in mobile market
  32. Whitney, Lance. “Google: 200 Million Android Devices Now Active Worldwide.” CNET, CNET, 17 Nov. 2011, CNET Google: 200M active Android devices CNET Google: 200M active Android devices
  33. Shankland, Stephen. 09-12-2012. Google: 500 million Android Devices Activated
  34. Callaham, John Google says there are now 1.4 billion active Android devices worldwide September 29,2015. Retrieved on April 20, 2017

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