The Android operating system is the most popular mobile operating system in the world. Any phone running Android is often referred to as an Android phone.

Android phones are categorized as smartphones mainly because they can do so much more than just make calls or send and receive text messages. The Android operating system allows you to install a wide variety of applications and essentially use your device as a mini computer.

In this article, we will discuss an in-depth understanding of what Android phones are and how they are different from other phones.

What is an Android phone?

To better understand Android phones, it is important to understand what Android actually is. At its core, Android is an open-source, Linux-based mobile operating system. It was developed by the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of different companies led by Google.

Android was first released in 2008 and was created to power touchscreen mobile phones. A tablet version was released soon after, and since then the design language between the mobile and tablet versions has been similar.

Therefore, any phone using Android as its operating system is an Android phone. Even though Google develops and owns Android, the operating system is not proprietary.


As open source software, this means anyone with development experience can download Android and customize it to their liking. The Android Open Source Project allows anyone to download source code or view documentation for new releases.

Are all smartphones powered by Android?

Image of an Android phone lying vertically against a dark background

Not all smartphones are powered by Android, even though it accounts for over 70% of the global market share. Android’s closest competitor is iOS, Apple’s closed operating system, which accounts for 27.5% of the market.

Essentially, that means nearly seven out of ten mobile devices you encounter around the world will be powered by Android, although in the US it’s more like four out of ten.

Android is popular among developers and manufacturers because it is open source and highly customizable. Any company wishing to manufacture mobile phones and customize the Android operating system according to their needs.

The biggest example of this is Samsung, which uses Android for almost all of its devices. But, instead of running vanilla Android, they use a custom software overlay called One UI. This means that while Android’s core operating system remains the same, Samsung can push updates, introduce new security features and add its own apps as part of One UI.

Most manufacturers customize Android with their own skins. This helps brands to differentiate themselves from each other.

The biggest Android phone manufacturers

Samsung is not the only manufacturer in the market. Unlike Apple, which exclusively manufactures all devices running iOS and maintains strict security controls, any company can use Android.

In April 2022, the largest Android phone manufacturers by global market share according to AppBrain were:

  1. Samsung (34.7%)
  2. Xiaomi (14.1%)
  3. Oppo (10.0%)t
  4. Live (9.2%)
  5. Huawei (8.1%)

Huawei was, at one point, the second-largest Android phone maker, until Google severed ties and blocked Android from running on its smartphones due to privacy concerns. As a result, the company began shipping phones with its own operating system, HarmonyOS. It is also a customized version of Android, but without any Google apps.

How do you know if a phone is running Android?

Despite the custom skins and launchers, the basics of Android are still the same. For example, all Android devices have the Play Store and Google’s built-in apps. But, if you still want to check, the best thing to do is go to Settingsthen check About the phone. You will see the Android version running on your device.

For nearly a decade, Google has named new versions of Android after desserts in alphabetical order. For example, some previous versions of Android include Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean.

However, in 2019 the company switched to a generic naming convention, adding a number to denote each new version, starting with Android 10. Android 12 was released in 2021.

Does Android also make phones?

Android is not a manufacturer; it is the name of an operating system. However, Google, the company that basically created and maintains Android, is launching its own line of Pixel devices.

These are often considered the closest thing to an official Android phone, and Pixel devices are the first to receive the latest Android updates. However, they still pack a number of features you won’t find on other Android devices, mostly built around Google’s AI and machine learning skills.

Should you buy an Android phone?

If you need a highly flexible and customizable smartphone, then yes! Android phones also come in different price ranges, so if you need a budget device, any phone you buy will likely run Android.

However, if you want to buy an Android phone, it might be a good idea to check out its list of features, especially if you want to secure your purchase for a year or two.

Android Phone Features

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