GBAtemp's Ultimate Guide to AndroidA Guide to the Basics of Android by CarbonX13 What Is Android? Android is a Linux-based mobile operating system from the mega-company we all know, Google. It has seen an incredible rise in popularity in the past couple of years, overtaking Apple's iOS for top spot in market dominance in the smartphone market. Due to its origin from Linux kernel, Android OS is known for the amount of user customization that can be done to the OS itself. While the main development of Android is handled by Google and Open Handset Alliance, the operating system is both free and open-source for developers and manufacturers to make changes to the OS for extra features and capabilities. Manufacturers will often make changes to the stock Android OS before shipping it out onto their device, usually skinning the interface or adding extra options to match with the respective hardware. Today, Android appears on the vast majority of smartphones and tablets being pushed out to the consumer market, with a large amount of support by manufacturers, developers, and consumers alike. Versions of Android With the ongoing development of Android, devices eventually become dated because they are running older versions of the operating system. Users are presented with an ability to upgrade the OS version of Android for their devices, but that is limited to their respective manufacturers decision whether they want to push an update out or not. Google started a trend to nickname each release after a popular dessert, currently progressing in alphabetical order from "Cupcake". The latest version of Android OS is Version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which is currently available through the Samsung-manufactured Google Galaxy Nexus. Smartphone and tablet manufacturers around the world have expressed commitment to upgrading many of their flagships to Ice Cream Sandwhich, with updates likely hitting starting in January 2012. Most devices on the market are still at Version 2.3 (Gingerbread) for smartphones, and Version 3.X (Honeycomb) for tablets. "Current" Versions of Android Version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) - Released in November 2011 aboard the currently Google-branded flagship, the Galaxy Nexus, Ice Cream Sandwich is described as the most ambitious version of Android OS to date. Google committed to adding loads of new features to Ice Cream Sandwich, including a sleek and highly-customizable launcher, upgraded system applications, and fresh, new versions of Google apps like Gmail and Calendar. The mega-company also planned ahead for the future, giving Android 4.0 native support for 720p resolution displays, and highly-noted features like Face Unlock or Beam. Ice Cream Sandwich will be merging the two separate software lines for smartphones and tablets, a reasoning for the choice of such a version name. Many manufacturers will be updating their flagship devices to Ice Cream Sandwich in the coming months, so check with yours to see if you get the treat as well. Version 2.3 (Gingerbread) - Released in December 2010, Gingerbread is currently the most popular version of Android OS, having over 50% of market share. With Gingerbread, Google mainly updated internal coding for increased speed and efficiency of the operating system. Gingerbread also brought better power management for improved battery life, as well as support for new hardware features on certain devices. Most of the mobile phones released within the past few months should be running Gingerbread, or have an update coming from their manufacturers to get to Gingerbread. Version 3.X (Honeycomb) - Released in February 2011, Honeycomb is the current tablet-optimized version of Android. It comes with many tweaks to the standard mobile phone experience, including a modified UI. "Defunct" Versions of Android Version 2.2 (Froyo) - Released in May 2010, Froyo was included on most Android devices during the surge in popularity of the operating system. Even months after the release of Gingerbread, the majority of Android devices were running Froyo, a feat not surpassed until December 2011. Android 2.2 offered an array of new features, including Adobe Flash support and Wi-fi tethering. Version 2.0/2.1 (Eclair) - Released in October 2009, then revamped in January 2010, Eclair launched with a UI overhaul, HTML5 support, and other great improvements that paved the way to Android's eventual dominance in the market. Version 1.6 (Donut) Version 1.5 (Cupcake) Version 1.1 - Only available on the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) Version 1.0 - First official version of Android, included with the HTC Dream. Upcoming Version(s) of Android This section will feature any versions of Android that have been announced, and yet to be released. Android Applications, Market, and Beyond The main attraction of mobile devices is obviously their ability to install and run apps. Like the iTunes App Store for iOS, or App World for Blackberry, Google has their own method of distribution for apps released on Android in the Android Market. Most devices with Android will come included with the Market app, allowing users to download from the large selection of apps hosted in Google's Android Market. The company has said that there are more than 150,000 apps available in the Android Market, broken down into many categories to suit individual users' needs and wants. With the immense success of Android in 2010, many developers from applications originally on Apple's iOS have been porting their apps over to Android to appeal to a broader range of people. Today, social network giants like Facebook and Twitter, or popular mobile games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or Doodle Jump, all have applications released cross-platform between iOS, Android, and even beyond. While Apple has always maintained iOS in an 'ecosystem' if you must say, as in regulated all the content that gets put out for their iPod, iPhone, and iPad line-up, Google has taken a different approach with Android. All the applications in iOS must be downloaded from the iTunes App Store, or in other words, apps must first be approved by Apple before getting released. iOS users are not able to install apps from other sources. (Though this isn't the case with jailbreaking an iOS device, as that eliminates that protective 'ecosystem' Apple has imposed on the system). Google's approach to Android, being based off of Linux kernel, has enabled the mobile platform to get applications from a variety of sources. Not all applications are hosted on the App Market, and many can be obtained from alternative sources around the web. This gives Android users an increased level of flexibility and freedom with their gadgets, something that Apple doesn't offer. While Google still checks the apps it hosts on the App Market if they receive any complaints, resulting in some apps getting removed, the Linux-based motive of Android has led to many alternative markets for applications that may not be hosted by Google. A popular alternative to the default Android Market is the Amazon Appstore from Amazon.com. It launched in March 2011, and, sadly, is only available to Android users in the United States. The Amazon Appstore is best known for the daily feature "Free App of the Day", which, like the title, offers an app for free on that day. There is also an option that lets users test an app in a virtual Android environment for a limited time prior to purchase. This feature is accessed and run on a computer using an Android emulator. There are also other 'Black Market' sources for applications, some of which offer pirated versions of paid apps hosted in the stock Android Market. I will not be discussing these alternative apps in this guide. Smartphones Obviously the driving force behind the success of Android is through the introduction of smartphones by mobile phone companies around the world. They were a revolutionary change to say the least, taking mobile devices to the next level with the convenience of accessing, well, everything at your fingertips. Smartphones are considered the wave of the future, devices that may eventually replace our actual need for laptops or netbooks. With mobile companies releasing more and more powerful phones, now even sporting dual-core processors, it appears that a smartphone may be all we need to communicate with our world and gather all the information we wish to receive. Android, starting from an enormous rise in popularity from 2010, has become the most popular mobile operating system for smartphones. Today, more smartphones are being released under the Android OS than any other mobile operating system. While Apple continues to cram out iterations of their popular iPhone running iOS, or with Microsoft trying to attract more and more attention to Windows Phone 7, nobody seems to be able to stop the Android dominance, which has now been termed as the Android Army. The latest gadgets all run Android, the most powerful device all run Android, and certainly the popular devices will likely be running Android as well. Popular Smartphone Manufacturers Before the time of smartphones when people actually used their cell phones to talk and send SMS, there were dominant brand names in the market such as Nokia and Motorola. After the shift towards smartphones occured, there were new faces introduced to the industry, and some of the familiar veterans of telecommunications all of a sudden fell behind the pack. The largest success story of the smartphone wave has to be from Taiwanese company HTC, which was a brand nobody had even heard of before the age of smartphones. HTC viewed smartphones as the thing of the future, and took that as an opportunity to be innovative and create devices that may catch on to the mainstream and lay the foundation for a massive corporate expansion. Not only did their work pay off, but they are now internationally recognized as a leading manufacturer of high quality smartphones and other mobile devices, with profits increasing month after month, year after year. HTC's motto, "quietly brilliant", entirely matches the company's philosophies and trends. They are known for being one of the first to make touch-screen phones, and, for being the creators of the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1), the first ever phone to run Android OS. HTC is famous for its quality devices running Android, also boasting a beautiful, customized UI known as HTC Sense, which has spawned many spin-offs from 3rd-party developers and even other mobile manufacturers. Notable Devices: - HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1): The first-ever smartphone to run Android. Discontinued in 2010. - Google Nexus One: The original flagship device under the Google brand. Succeeded by the Google Nexus S manufactured by Samsung. - HTC Sensation series: The first HTC series to boast a dual-core processor. Also includes HTC Sense 3.0, for some great eye candy on your Android phone. The Sensation has spawned two variants since its initial release, the Sensation XE and Sensation XL, both packing in faster processors and incredible speakers thanks to HTC's partnership with Beats by Dr. Dre. - HTC Evo 3D: The first 3D Android phone on the market. - T-Mobile myTouch series: A popular line exclusive to T-Mobile USA. Has seen certain devices released under different branding in other territories. One of the two well-known electronic brands from South Korea. LG has been known throughout the past to producing many household electronics, from kitchen appliances, to washing machines, to computers, and mobile phones. The Korean company is one of today's largest producers of mobile phones. And while not all of them are smartphones, they are still a rather well-respected brand name in the industry. LG has typically been known to create popular devices that are not necessarily high-end, usually targeting the mainstream and budget crowd. This sets aside much of the competition as other brands try to top each other with the most powerful phones to date. However, this also led to LG gathering a name for creating phones that may not be of the best quality out there, boasting either dated hardware or cheaper designs. Notable Devices - LG Optimus One and variants: LG's main family line for smartphones, many of which are within the more affordable margin by the general public. - LG Optimus Black: A more budget-line device with a stunning display. - LG Optimus 2X: The world's first dual-core smartphone to hit the market, sitting at a cheaper standpoint than its current rivals. - LG Optimus 3D: LG's first foray into the 3D market, boasting fantastic 3D images and user experience. A recent firmware update enabled 2D-to-3D conversion, allowing even 2D games to be played using the exclusive 3D screen. A well-established brand known as the pioneers of mobile phones. Throughout the years, Motorola was considered one of the top companies of the telecommunications industry, with products like its incredibly popular RAZR family line, only to become victim to the rise of the smartphones and companies like HTC. The company has made efforts in recent years to get back into the competition by introducing a new line-up of smartphones under their brand. Motorola Mobility was recently purchased by Google themselves, and may begin to manufacturer devices on Google's behalf in the future. Notable Devices - Motorola Droid: The first smartphone introduced by Motorola, running on Android 2.0 Eclair. Gained immediate popularity due to Motorola brand. - Motorola Atrix: Motorola's first-ever dual-core smartphone, and also one the company's main flagships. - Motorola Droid 3, Droid Bionic, Droid X2: Only available for CDMA networks, each of these devices feature a powerful 1GHz dual-core processor. - Motorola Photon: The newest dual-core phone to Motorola's line-up, available in GSM and CDMA flavours. A world leader in manufacturing electronics, Samsung is the other, and more significant, South Korean company that has had an impact in the smartphone market. Like LG, Samsung produces massive amounts of household electronics, though mainly centered around television sets, and more recently mobile phones and printers. Their LED-backlit LCD televisions are amongst the most popular products on the market to date. The success of the Korean company as a whole has carried over to its smartphone division, which relied on the achievements of a single device to walk the road to fame. Notable Devices - Samsung Galaxy S series: The series of Android phones that brought the OS to glory. Remains popular to this date. - Samsung Galaxy S II series : The fastest phone family on the market, with top-notch specs all around. - Google Nexus S: The second and current Google-branded Android device, perfect for those seeking a stock Android experience. - Galaxy Nexus: The first smartphone to house Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, also boasting a ton of features for the "next-generation" of smartphones. A joint between Japanese electronic giant Sony and Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson, Sony Ericsson has been known for their devices that sport features based from other Sony-branded devices like the Walkman music players and Cybershot digital cameras. While the company's phones were rather popular in the past decade, the emergence of smartphones has seen Sony Ericsson's revenue drop as the company continually falls behind the competition. Sony Ericsson's troubled Xperia line has always been known for very high quality devices sporting out of date interiors. While Samsung continues to surge with their Galaxy S series' powerful specs, despite the cheaper build on the exterior, Sony Ericsson's Xperia line has been doing the exact opposite. Thankfully, Sony Ericsson recently introduced three new devices that really set them back in the competition in the Xperia Arc, Neo, and Play. Whether it is too little, too late, awaits to be seen, especially since none of these phones boast dual-core processors. Notable Devices - Xperia Arc (S) - Sony Ericsson's current flagship device, boasting a beautiful, slim design, and an incredible camera. A recent reiteration of the device upgraded its 1GHz single-core processor to 1.5GHz. - Xperia Play - The other current flagship device of Sony Ericsson, targeting gamers who want a dedicated gamepad for their portable games. Personal Recommendations (Smartphones) Picking out a new phone can be quite the tough choice, especially since most carriers now lock you in to a 2-year (or even 3-year like here in Canada) contract before you are able to swap phones or plans. Everyone's needs are different, which is why carriers will offer a wide array of phones to suit their different customers. As new devices arrive, older devices will begin to phase out and effectively so, drop in price. This can lead to benefits to the more budget crowd, as many of these 'outdated' phones are very capable of handling everyday tasks without any issue, despite being pushed down by that fancy new phone on the block. Dual-Core Smartphones: The smartphone industry moves at a very quick pace, and with that devices quickly come and go as the latest and greatest. The top of what the industry has to offer changes with every milestone achieved by a number-one manufacturer. - (Samsung) Google Galaxy Nexus): As the third reincarnation of a Google-branded Android smartphone, Galaxy Nexus has a lot packed in to make this the highest recommended device on the market. Featuring Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), which bundles a ton of new features, those who want the latest and greatest cannot look beyond this device. The Galaxy Nexus also has a snappy 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 4.65-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display, and just about every other hardware feature you can imagine on a smartphone today. - Samsung Galaxy S II (family): While it may seem a bit hypocritical to recommend Samsung devices twice in a row, the Galaxy S II series is considered to be the kingpin family of current-generation smartphones; its features within are nearly unmatched when laid out against the competition. Smartphones of this family boast incredible features all around, from its incredibly fast dual-core processor that puts even other dual-cores to shame, to its incredible Super-AMOLED display for gorgeous eye-candy. The basic GSII (i9100) released in April 2011 comes with a very fast 1.2Ghz dual-core processor, 4.3 inch display, and an 8MP camera capable of 1080p HD video recording. Later released versions have upgraded the display to 4.5 inches, upped the speed to a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, or added 4G LTE support. The Third Dimension A gimmick that's received much hate around the globe as love, 3D is undeniably here to stay. Following the footsteps of recent technological advancements, it is now possible to view 3D images on a screen without the need for glasses. This was put onto the market with the Nintendo 3DS portable. Two Android manufacturers have since jumped on board with their own 3D-without-glasses devices, and both are recommendable for those looking for a unique experience. - HTC Evo 3D: The second dual-core phone from HTC, and the first phone on the market with 3D capabilities. The Evo 3D does what its title says well, packing in a powerful processor to render apps in 3D glory. The UI remains a 2D HTC Sense, however, unlike the Optimus 3D. It also packs a nice 5MP 3D camera for images, and is capable of 720p 3D video recording as well. - LG Optimus 3D: LG's own foray into the 3D market comes with the Optimus 3D. Critics have noted the better 3D images on the Optimus 3D, like because the UI is also in 3D on the device. The slightly superior video camera (capable of 1080p 2D recording, 720p 3D recording) functions are another major selling point. The main trade-off is the weaker dual-core processor at only 1Ghz compared to the 1.2Ghz on its Evo 3D rival. A recent firmware update enabled a function to convert 2D images into 3D, letting users play many apps and games of their choice with a 3D experience. If you're looking for a more satisfying 3D experience, the Optimus 3D is the way to go. Point-and-Shoot Replacements Many people now opt to get rid of the need to carry around more than one device with them at a time. This has led to the downfall in sales of many devices, such as dedicated video cameras, and portable video game platforms. Dedicated photographers and camwhores will want their device to have great image quality in order to satisfy their needs to drop that dedicated point-and-shoot from their pockets. - Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc (S): Sony Ericsson's current flagship device contains without a doubt one of the best cameras on a smartphone device out there. The built-in Exmor R sensors on the Arc are the same as the ones used for Sony's dedicated point-and-shoots, and churn out very impressive image quality. The 8MP camera on the Arc takes fantastic photos in daytime, but the time where it really shines is at night, where the Exmor R sensor kicks in the show off incredible focus and detail capabilities without much lighting. The Xperia Arc is capable of 720p HD video recording. A recent firmware update enabled new features such as 16x Digital Zoom for photos and video, as well as an exclusive 2D or 3D Panorama shooting capability. - HTC myTouch 4G Slide: Quite noteably HTC's best camera to date, the myTouch 4G Slide, currently exclusive to T-Mobile USA, boasts an incredible feature of an HDR camera with zero-shutter lag, allowing you to pop off many shots in just a few seconds. The image quality is also quite stunning for a smartphone, and is easily able to replace your point-and-shoot camera. The added dedicated keyboard, and fast dual-core processor are also major selling points. If you're a T-Mobile USA customer looking for a more mainstream device, this can easily be your next choice. - Dual-core Smartphones: Most, if not all, dual-core smartphones running Android today feature similar specifications in terms of camera. An 8MP snapper capable of 1080p HD video recording is widely considerd the standard on the market today. While specifications don't always translate to quality, as some manufacturers tend to fare much worse in the camera department than others, you can't get much wrong from picking up one of these types of devices. Android UI In the battle between Android OS and Apple's iOS, one thing that always gets tossed in the mix is the appearance of the operating systems. While both operating systems boast similar traits and techniques, they can also be wildly different beasts. Apple and the iOS opted for a more simple approach, as with the trend for most other Apple products. This resulted in an operating system based solely around a bunch of icons sitting on the homescreens. The simplistic design is very approachable to new users, as navigating through menus can be very easy and organized. Apple has done a fantastic job at making 'a bunch of icons' appear to be very beautiful, as seen with iOS 4 on the iPhone 4 or latest generation of iPod Touch. All other mobile operating systems have failed to replicate the beauty of the iOS's 'bunch of icons' approach. Android, on the other hand, operates in a different fashion. Based on its Linux ancestor, the approach to appearance is solely on the ability to customize almost everything in regards to the user interface. The stock interface for Android, admittedly, pales in comparison to the stock iOS interface. However, various customization options have enabled Android users to make their devices truly special, and vastly different, from the iOS ecosystem that Apple prefers. The most notable option is widgets, which many users argue is the sole reason Android UI is better than iOS UI. Widgets can be convenient at displaying information right on your homescreen, without having to actually enter an app in order to access it. Clock-weather widgets on Android have been immensely popular after its introduction from HTC Sense UI, which combined the clock and weather widgets into an all-in-one widget that displays it beautifully on the homescreen. Android users also have options to tweak a bunch of other features in their UI, such as the status bar, lockscreen, menu backgrounds, and more. Manufacturer Modified User Interfaces Many smartphone manufacturers opt out of including the stock Android UI with their devices, and instead include a modified version made by the manufacturers themselves. Some prefer a more conservative approach, modifying the look of the UI while maintaining its feel. Recent Sony Ericsson devices are examples of this. Others prefer an all-out makeover, throwing almost all of the stock interface out the window in favour of the manufacturer's own interpretation of Android. HTC phones have been especially famous for this, with the beautiful HTC Sense UI. HTC Sense Arguably the most famous manufacturer interface to be included on devices, HTC's Sense UI has generated tons of buzz around the scene for the sheer amount of eye candy included. The innovative clock-weather widget has spawned multiple remakes by other manufacturers and third-party developers. All the Android menus have been re-skinned in HTC Sense, and many of the options are made easier to approach thanks to HTC's careful planning. Launching on the HTC Sensation came HTC Sense 3.0, which came packed with new tweaks such as an animated clock-weather widget, customizable lockscreen, and much, much more. TouchWiz Samsung's TouchWiz interface has been included on their Galaxy S series since launch. The manufacturer's approach to Android resulted in a much more 'iOS-like' feel, with icons being more prominent in the interface, and settings menus tweaked to a more simplisitic layout. Many Android users opt out of the TouchWiz interface due to this, but others feel this is a better approach at attracting new users. Custom Launchers Admittedly, many users do not like the UI options that phone manufacturers offer. With iOS, there's not much you can do to change that. With Android, however, this is where the 'customizable' approach really flourishes. Developers whom despised the Android UI came up with 3rd party launchers to run on their Android devices, allowing a further level of tweaking for the Android users. Custom launchers are programmed to launch on top of the default launcher for devices, and overriding them at the homescreens and menus. This allows users to tweak the appearance of Android on a level beyond. Some launchers grant users with more options for organization and layout, while others take the approach of simply being 'slick'. This section will bring up some of the more popular custom launchers available on the Android Market. La uncherPro LauncherPro is the most popular custom launcher available on the Android Market, with millions of users having downloaded it. The approach to LauncherPro is simply to create a UI that is both simple and slick. The custom launcher doesn't boast as many features as others out there, but it does get its job done well at creating a super smooth UI for Android users. Some features with LauncherPro include a scrollable dock, and modifiable menu animation speeds. LauncherPro users are also able to install custom themes and icon packs. The Plus version of LauncherPro allows users to re-size icons and widgets to their own liking, and gives access to some exclusive widgets included with the launcher. Price: Free; $3.49 for LauncherPro Plus ADWLauncher EX Another popular custom launcher is ADWLauncher EX. This custom launcher is based solely around the idea of customization of the Android UI. There are tons of options for users to customize, as ADW packs anything from menu themes to UI font changes, and almost anything practical in between. Especially notable is the sheer quantity of options available with the launcher. Almost any aspect of Android is customizable through ADWLauncher. If you're looking to tweak Android to your absolute liking, look no further than ADWLauncher EX. The small price you pay will surely be worth it. Price: $3.29 Tablets The year of 2011 in the tech industry has been known for the rise of tablets. The tablet craze was kicked off with none other than Apple with the release of their original iPad back in April 2010. Despite many critics' citing it was "basically 4 iPod Touch models in one body" and much of the industry putting off the idea, consumers flocked to Apple in what they considered was the wave from the future. CES 2011 revealed to the world that 2011 was indeed the year of tablets, as manufacturers from all over the globe revealed their own take on tablets in an attempt to wrestle the market stranglehold Apple had gained once again. In total, over 80 different tablet models were revealed to compete with Apple's iPad. Not only were smartphone manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung on board with their own devices, but giants from the laptop world like ASUS, Sony, and Toshiba all revealed their iterations to join the tablet market. Android released its tablet-optimized Honeycomb version alongisde Android's first tablet, the Motorola Xoom, in February 2011. While Honeycomb drew criticisms for being very underwhelming and having multiple glitches in the OS code, successive updates have made Honeycomb much more stable and enjoyable to use. With the imminent release of Ice Cream Sandwich on the horizon, expect Honeycomb to become something more of a bridge to a better future, as Google promises an optimized-for-all experience that will mend its two Android lines into one. Tablets VS. Laptops and Netbooks Tablets are subject to much debate over their efficiency in comparison to traditional laptops and netbooks. While the two items boast very different operating systems and hardware capabilities, both are capable at getting the job done for their respective audiences. Advantages of Tablets: - Portability: Tablets have sleek design and much lighter weight than laptops or netbooks, allowing them to be carried around with much ease in comparison. The slim design allows for easy fitting into backpacks for students, or even suitcases for businessmen. - Touchscreen: The benefits of touchscreens over hardware keys allow for a more intuitive experience, and universal appeal. - Easy to Learn: Those whom aren't particularly tech savvy will have much less issues when dealing with tablets, due to a simplified OS design in contrast to the more complex menus of Windows or Mac OS X. - Speed with Portability: Most tablets on the market nowadays are carrying reasonably powerful dual-core processors to help speed up the experience. This comes to a benefit as this puts tablets ahead of most netbooks on the market which sacrifice power in favour of portability. The benefit of mobile OS for tablets also allows for a much quicker start-up and boot time, allowing users to get connected on the go quickly and painlessly. - On-the-go Connectivity: While laptop users have to purchase separate Internet sticks to get a stable Internet connection on the go, tablets also have to benefit in having versions that connect to mobile networks for data. This allows users once again to carry around less hardware when out and about. Disadvantages of Tablets - Typing Speed: Perhaps the most notable disadvantage is the much slower typing speed on tablets, due to the lack of a physical keyboard. The sacrifices to typing speed can greatly reduce work efficiency for those accustomed to producing documents, spreadsheets, or anything on a keyboard. - Software Support: Because tablets are newcomers to the market, the amount of software available is limited for their users. Professionals needing certain programs for their daily occupations may not find alternatives when jumping on board the tablet train. While the Android Market does feature many alternative options for word documents, spreadsheets, and Internet browsing, those in need for advanced programs for photo and media editing and such won't likely find anything equivalent in the tablet department. - Price: Tablets are often priced at a higher tier in comparison to laptops of the same power. Due to the hardware, and the fact they're a running trend on the market and not a staple, tablets can often give a false illusion of a premium experience with their more bloated pricing. Do know that when you are purchasing a tablet, you are sacrificing some power in many cases for that extra touchscreen and portability. Though I'd personally go for a tablet over a netbook. Popular Tablet Manufacturers As noted already, the tablet market is a different beast from that of the smartphone. With Apple kick-starting this crazy trend, both mobile phone and laptop manufacturers have jumped on board to create a new face for the Android Army on the tablet front. Popular manufacturers from the smartphone industry are also now competing with long mainstays in the PC department. Taiwanese company Acer has been a long mainstay in the computer and laptop industry for much of the 21st century. In 2009, it surpassed Dell to become the world's second largest computer manufacturer, placing only behind Hewlett-Packard. While Acer gained a negative reputation for using cheap, faulty hardware, it has none-the-less released some quality devices in various departments throughout its history. Fun fact: I've met the founder of Acer, Stan Shih. Notable Devices - Acer Iconia Tab: Acer's primary tablet line. Relatively standard hardware, featuring a 10.1-inch 1280x800 screen, 1GHz dual-core processor, nVIDIA Tegra 2 GPU, and 5MP rear camera as well as an additional front camera. - Acer Iconia: Though largely considered a bust, this device set itself apart boasting dual 14-inch screens, taking a form factor similar to the traditional laptop. The bottom screen regularly emulates a keyboard while the top is used as the primary screen. While the concept was nice, the heft $1200 price tag was definitely not enough to convince buyers to purchase it over a traditional laptop. Yet another tech giant from Taiwan, ASUS has gained a reputation in the tech industry as a highly respected manufacturer of motherboards and computers alike. Though their devices have traditionally not been priced for the budget crowd, ASUS proudly presents its devices with a premium design and highly recommendable specs. Their entrance to the tablet market has been widely praised with its innovations not only to take advantage of tablet hardware, but cover up its certain weaknesses as well. Notable Devices - ASUS Eee Pad Transformer: ASUS made sure their first tablet on the market would surely be rememebered for innovation. The Eee Pad Transformer came in March 2011 with respectable specs of a 10.1-inch LED-backlit LCD screen, 1GHz dual-core processor, nVIDIA Tegra 2 GPU, and decent front and back cameras. The key to its success, however, is the Transformer's optional yet recommended physical keyboard add-on that not only eliminates one of tablet computers' main flaws, but also manages to double its battery life. As such, the Transformer can both be considered an extremely well-made tablet, and a powerful netbook with up to 16 hours of battery life. - ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime: The widely-anticipated Transformer Prime is a step to the new wave for Android tablets. On board is a jaw-dropping 1.3GHz quad-core nVIDIA Tegra 3, making it the most powerful tablet in the world. There is also a 5th core bulit into the device as well, presumably to allow for more processing power, but also to allow for less energy consumption by disabling the Tegra 3 when not needed. The device will ship with Honeycomb, but ASUS is promising a very quick update to Ice Cream Sandwich within weeks of launch. Combine that with a gorgeous 10.1-inch display, 8MP camera with 1080p HD video, and a surprisingly long 18 hour battery life (when using the attachable keyboard sold separately), and you've got the best tablet on the market. - ASUS Eee Pad Slider: The Slider takes a slightly different path from its older brother and packs a physical keyboard right with the device. ASUS included a clever sliding mechanism (hence the name Slider) that allows the main 10.1-inch screen to slide forth into a 45 degree angle to reveal the physical keyboard, and back to return to its original, tablet position. Those who'd much rather carry around a tablet with a keyboard for quick typing will love the Slider, but will have to put up with additional thickness and weight to the device. People with larger hands or fingers beware, as the Slider's keyboard may feel extremely cramped due to a large amount of space taken by the sliding mechanism. (Search for a video about the Slider to get a better idea) HTC showed no hesitation in joining the tablet war with their revealing of their own iterations. The Taiwanese manufacturer, while known more for its popular smartphones, has made a couple tablets as an entrance to this new market. Expect more from HTC in the future. Notable Devices - HTC Flyer: HTC's first tablet chose a different path from its competitors, opting for a compact 7-inch display and design. The device isn't particularly powerful compared to its competitors, as its running a 1.5GHz single-core processor. HTC infamously sold an add-on stylus/pen for the Flyer at a notoriously high price of almost $80. - HTC Jetstream: A much more standard tablet design, the HTC Jetstream does what the Flyer didn't: power. The Jetstream features a 1.5GHz Dual-Core Processor, 8MP camera capable of 1080p HD video, and a gorgeous 1280x800 10.1-inch display. LG has only released one tablet to the market, but knowing its constant competition with Samsung, expect many more releases from this Korean manufacturer in the near future. Notable Devices - LG Optimus Pad: Their first and only tablet to the market, the Optimus Pad has an interesting camera capable of both 3D and 2D photos or video. It boasts a slightly more compact display at 8.9-inches, but other than that, the rest is pretty standard: 1GHz dual-core processor, Tegra 2 GPU, etc. If you're a fan of LG, there isn't much stopping you from picking it up. If you want something a little different though, stay away from the Optimus Pad. Motorola is known for pushing out the first Android Honeycomb device back in February 2011 with its Xoom tablet. While the manufacturer hasn't released any successors to that at this point, the Xoom has seen some hardware upgrades throughout the past few months in alternate iterations. Notable Devices - Motorola Xoom: First Android Honeycomb tablet, setting the stage for the future when it was first released back in February 2011. Its specs aren't anything special nowadays, boasting the same 1280x800 10-inch display, 1GHz dual-core processor, nVIDIA Tegra 2, and 5MP back camera, but it remains a popular choice amongst consumers with its nice looks and decent hardware. Samsung entered the tablet market with its Galaxy Tab series in late 2010, when their first device was under Android 2.2 Froyo. Their latest products have been much more popular, with varying sizes fitting under the 10.1-inch, 8.9-inch, and 7-inch compartments. Notable Devices - Samsung Galaxy Tab series: While the hardware specs aren't noteworthy, the Galaxy Tab series is widely considered one of the better product line for tablets out there. Samsung's tweaks to Honeycomb by adding a modified TouchWiz interface allows for a smooth tablet experience on an otherwise standard hardware line-up. The more recent Tab 7.0 Plus boasts a 1.2GHz dual-core. processor over the otherwise standardized 1.0GHz. Sony only recently released their first tablets onto the market, but they introduced them with more interesting design choices that separates them from their competition. Notable Devices - Sony Tablet S: Nothing really different on the inside to set itself apart from the competition, but the exterior design is what sets it apart. Sony made the Tablet S like that of a folded book, allowing users to comfortably hold the device with a firm grip. The design also provides a slight slant when placed on a flat surface, allowing easier typing and viewing. - Sony Tablet P: Scheduled to arrive in November, the Tablet P boasts a very interesting clamshell design with dual 5-inch displays. The Tablet P looks to be one of the most portable tablets on the market upon its arrival, as the clamshell design allows it to take a form factor not much bigger than standard smartphones (albeit much thicker). Toshiba hasn't released any of their mobile phones outside of Japan (which is hopefully going to change with their upcoming Toshiba IS12T, which has an insane 13.2MP camera while running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.), but the same doesn't apply for computers and tablets. They are the 5th largest manufacturer of laptops in the world, and their entrance into the tablet market has been noteworthy, albeit the very similar hardware specs once again. Notable Devices - Toshiba Thrive: Boasting once again the standardized hardware specifications, Toshiba's own Thrive is noteworthy as one of Toshiba's only mobile devices of late to be released outside its native market. A new iteration with a 7-inch screen is on the way to the market in the near future as well. Changelog Warning: Spoilers inside! Version 0.5.3 Date: December 3rd, 2011 - Moved Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to "Current Versions of Android". - Android 2.2 (Froyo) is now considered defunct. - Added the Galaxy Nexus to "Personal Recommendations" section. - Removed HTC Desire and HTC Incredible series from "Noteable Devices". Times have changed, and these series aren't likely to see another addition moving forth. - Tweaked the HTC Sensation section under "Noteable Devices" to noting successor models featuring Beats by Dr. Dre. - Added the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime to the ASUS "Noteable Devices". Version 0.5.2 Date: October 18th, 2011 - Added information on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) - Added Samsung's Galaxy Nexus to noteable devices. Version 0.5.1 Date: October 8th, 2011 - Tweaked the look of the guide, since formatting was removed after GBAtemp v3 Upgrade. Version 0.5 Date: October 2nd, 2011 - Updated info throughout. - Added Tablets section. - Added Tablets VS. Notebooks section. - Added Popular Tablet Manufacturers section. Version 0.4.1 Date: August 31st, 2011 - Removed plans for rooting section. This is now to be done in a separate thread, as rooting is more advanced than the more "beginners" approach of this particular guide. - Updated "Smartphone" recommendations formatting. - Updated "Notable Devices" of some manufacturers. - Added "Changelog" and "To-Do List" Version 0.4 Date: July 25th, 2011 - Added "Android UI", and "Custom Launchers" sections. - Updated "Android Versions" section to tweak Honeycomb to 3.X with launch of Honeycomb 3.2. - Other minor tweaks. Version 0.3 Date: June 2011 - Added "Personal Recommendations" section. - Updated HTC sub-section to include newly-released HTC Sensation. Version 0.2.1 Date: May 10th, 2011 - Updated "Android Versions" section to include Ice Cream Sandwich, and Honeycomb 3.1 Version 0.2 Date: May 3rd, 2011 - Added "Manufacturers" sub-section. - Minor tweaks. Version 0.1 Date: May 2nd, 2011 - Guide created. - "Introduction to Android", "Android Versions", "Market", and "Smartphones" sections added. To-Do List - Complete Android UI section. - Complete Custom Launchers section. - Rooting Postponed. Will be done in a new, separate thread. - External Links for Additional Resources I will be repeatedly updating this guide with new content when I find the time. Thanks for reading what is currently here, and please offer any input you can give in regards to this guide. I am open to suggestions for new content, or corrections in spelling, grammar, information, etc.