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Introduction

Introduction

Welcome to the second edition of The Droid Pocket Guide. Boy, has a lot changed in a year! Take a gander at how much the Android world has changed since the first edition of this book came out in March 2010:

  • Android’s U.S. market share grew from 2 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2010.

  • More than 70 Android phones were released, and Android device shipments grew from 6 million to 55 million.

  • Android activations grew tenfold, from 30,000 to 300,000 per day.

  • Android Market apps grew tenfold, from 20,000 to 200,000.

Droids continue to gain in popularity because they’re powerful and packed with features. They’re also popular because there’s a Droid model for everyone’s unique set of requirements.

As you start down the path to mastering your Droid, some background information will provide a good foundation of knowledge to build on.

History and Background

One of the most compelling features of the Droid is Google, started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University and incorporated in 1998. Google branched out into mobile search in 2000, delivering its fast, powerful search results to handheld devices such as smartphones.

Note

The name Google was derived from the word googol, which is 1 followed by 100 zeros, or 10100.


Google can’t make a smartphone by itself, however. It takes a trio of forces to get a mobile phone to market, with each playing a unique and crucial role. Rounding out the trio are Google’s manufacturing partners (Motorola and HTC) and its U.S. carrier partner (Verizon Wireless). Let’s take a look at the players:

  • Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless operates the largest wireless voice and 3G network in the United States, serving 91 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone.

  • Motorola Mobility. The Droid Bionic, Pro, 2, and X are manufactured by Motorola Mobility, the mobile arm of the multinational telecommunications company based in Schaumburg, Ill. Motorola’s mobile-devices division is focusing on smartphones using Android and will continue creating new smartphones, such as the Droid, Bravo, Defy, and Flipside phones that it launched in 2010.

  • HTC Corp. The Droid Incredible is manufactured by HTC Corp., a Taiwanese firm founded in 1997. In 2006, the company launched a line of phones under its own brand name, and in 2009, it shifted focus to making phones based on Google’s Android operating system (OS). HTC is the world’s No. 4 smartphone brand and one of the fastest-growing companies in mobile technology.

The Dawn of Android

In 2005, Google acquired a company called Android with the intention of creating a carrier- and manufacturer-independent mobile OS that would run on almost any type of hardware. The Google Android (Figure I.1) is the logo and mascot of the OS of the same name and has become synonymous with mobile devices. I’d pick the Google Android over the Linux penguin in a fight any day.

Figure I.1. The Google Android, the mascot and logo of the mobile operating system.


The world got its first chance to use the new Android OS on October 22, 2008, when T-Mobile released the G1 smartphone in the United States. The G1 is sometimes referred to as the Google Phone. (Did I mention that I wrote a Pocket Guide for it too?)

What is Android?

Android is an open-source operating system, meaning that it’s free to use and modify under the Apache and General Public License (GPL) licenses, which makes it very appealing to developers. Everyone from mobile-phone carriers to handset manufacturers to individual developers can modify the OS to accommodate specific needs. No costly licensing fees or restrictions are associated with Android, as there are with other operating systems. Developers are embracing Android because of its open-source roots and are signing up in droves to create applications (referred to as apps) for the Android Market, which I cover in detail in Chapter 9.

Note

Droid is the hardware; Android is the software. I provide more details on both hardware and software in the next few chapters.


Google is investing a lot of time and money in the Android OS and is committed to making it a real competitor in the mobile-phone market. We’re just starting to see the fruits of its labor. Android is now available on more than 100 devices (up from 20 a year ago) in many languages worldwide, and it leapfrogged Apple’s iOS to become the No. 2 mobile OS for the three-month period ending in November 2010. (The top dog is industry heavyweight Research In Motion, manufacturer of the iconic BlackBerry.) Android has been adapted for use on tablets, e-readers, notebooks, smartphones, and even television sets, and it’s so open that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it running on my refrigerator door when I wake up one morning. (I hope that I won’t be leaving the door open all night.)

Android code names

Android is a complex piece of software, but that doesn’t mean its software engineers can’t have any fun while they’re working on it. Take, for example, the code names of the major Android releases:

  • Android 1.5—Cupcake (April 2009)

  • Android 1.6—Donut (September 2009)

  • Android 2.0/2.1—Éclair (October 2009)

  • Android 2.2—Froyo (May 2010)

  • Android 2.3—Gingerbread (December 2010)

  • Android 3.0—Honeycomb (January 2011)

They’re all desserts, and their names are in alphabetical order. At press time, it’s confirmed that Ice Cream Sandwich will be the next major release of Android, available in June or July 2011. Google’s engineers must have a sweet tooth or a playful sense of humor—or, as I suspect, both.

Name That Dessert

Android’s alphabetical naming conventions leave many people wondering which ones will come after Ice Cream Sandwich. Here are some of my guesses:

  • J—Jelly

  • K—Kiwi (yes, fruit can be dessert)

  • L—Licorice, Lemon Tart

  • M—Marshmallow, Mousse, Meringue, Maple

  • N—Nut, Nougat

  • O—Orange Chiffon Cake


If the funny code names weren’t enough, Google also has a tradition of announcing new versions of Android by erecting large dessert-shaped sculptures (Figure I.2) on the lawn in front of the Googleplex in Mountain View, California.

Figure I.2. Statues of the various Android code names adorn the lawn at the Googleplex.
COURTESY OF KARI MARIE


What To Expect

Finally, some housekeeping is order:

  • This edition of The Droid Pocket Guide covers the Droid brand of mobile phones made by Motorola and HTC Corp., sold in the United States by Verizon Wireless. If you’re using a Droid in another country or on another carrier, some screens and icons may look slightly different, but you should still be able to find your way around pretty easily with the help of this book.

    Tip

    If you’re using a Droid 1 (the original Droid) or Droid Eris, please check out The Droid Pocket Guide, First Edition, which covers those devices.


  • This guide covers five Droid handsets on the market as of February 2011: the Droid Bionic, Pro, 2, and X (Motorola), and the Droid Incredible (HTC). (See Chapter 1 for details.) I refer to all these handsets generically as Droid unless I want to differentiate a feature of a particular model.

  • Screen shots in this guide are mostly from the Droid X running Android version 2.2 (aka Froyo), but most of the content will remain relevant in Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and later.

  • The Droid X runs a customized Android user interface that Motorola calls Blur or MotoBlur. If you’re not using an HTC Droid (such as the Droid Incredible), some icons and screens will appear slightly different from those in this guide, but don’t panic; the concepts are the same.

  • If your Droid is running a version of Android earlier than 2.2, you may not have some features in this guide. Check your version (touch Settings > About Phone > version), and upgrade your Droid’s software to the latest version to take advantage of the newest features and bug fixes. You can upgrade on the Droid itself by navigating to Settings > About Phone > System Update.

  • Because of Android’s open-source roots, any wireless carrier (or user, for that matter) can modify the look and feel of Android to suit its needs. For this reason, some screens, icons, and behaviors may be slightly different from what you find in this guide.

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