It is an operating system based on the Linux kernel with a user interface based on direct manipulation, designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. The operating system uses touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, and a virtual keyboard. Despite being primarily designed for touchscreen input, it also has been used in televisions, games consoles, digital cameras, and other electronics.
As of 2011, Android has the largest installed base of any mobile OS and as of 2013, its devices also sell more than Windows, iOS and Mac OS devices combined. As of July 2013 the Google Play store has had over 1 million Android apps published, and over 50 billion apps downloaded. A developer survey conducted in April–May 2013 found that 71% of mobile developers develop for Android.
Android’s source code is released by Google under open source licenses, although most Android devices ultimately ship with a combination of open source and proprietary software.Initially developed by Android, Inc., which Google backed financially and later bought in 2005,Android was unveiled in 2007 along with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance—a consortium of hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.
Android is popular with technology companies which require a ready-made, low-cost and customizable operating system for high-tech devices. Android’s open nature has encouraged a large community of developers and enthusiasts to use the open-source code as a foundation for community-driven projects, which add new features for advanced users or bring Android to devices which were officially released running other operating systems. The operating system’s success has made it a target for patent litigation as part of the so-called “smartphone wars” between technology companies.