Q & A
Q: What is it?
A: Android is an operating system that can be found on a variety of consumer goods from phones to gaming console to servers and laptops. Android is not itself any of these things, it is only software.
Q: What should I know?
A: Part of what drives any operating system is its usability and the number of useful applications being developed for it. The 'open source' nature of Android is part of what allows it to adapt to so many hardware systems, and offer such a wide selection of applications, however this also leads to the problem of fracturing.
Fracturing refers to the fact that support for each and every build is reliant on a team dedicated to that device. This means, (while not always) that just because one device gets an update, not everyone else can simply use that update. Earlier versions of Android such as Eclair and Frozen Yogurt (2.0 and 2.3 respectively) are still prevalent on many low end smartphones, and lack enticing features such as USB drive mounting, hardware video acceleration, and others.
If you want the best chance at staying up to date, there are two options. The first option is to choose a Google Genuine Experience Device (GED) which now amounts to essentially the NEXUS line of devices. The second option is to get a device with an unlocked bootloader and a respectable grassroots userbase. This option is not for the faint of heart, and is outlined in my Android Ownership guide.
Q: Why would anyone do that?
A: The top reasons for going the second route (which can take place even on a GED) is to gain control over the device, allowing you to run programs or interact with features that may have been neglected or disabled. It also permits the removal of 'bloatware', referring to applications which are included as part of licensing and advertising agreements. Finally you may just want a specific piece of high end hardware to have the best possible interface.
Q: What if none of that interests me?
A: The potential for customization aside, there are many reasons to consider Android. Most of the Google NEXUS line are still great, affordable devices. They can adapt to various needs in terms of e-mail, social networking, or good old fashion calling. The other advantage is that with the maturation of both processors and software, new devices from Samsung, Sony, HP, and even NVidia will run much faster than their predecessors.
Q: So I bought one, now what?
A: You may wish to at least glance at theAndroid Ownership guide. If you are a resident of the greater Toronto area, the cellular carrier chapter of the Toronto Telecom Guide might also prove useful to you. Then I would suggest seeking out a blog that delves to the appropriate knowledgebase for you. All available links for further research are at the bottom of the article.