The Google Android operating system may have started as a smartphone OS, but that did not stop manufacturers from porting it to tablets and eReaders. Google has since taken note, and with Honeycomb (version 3.0, built specifically for tablets) and each subsequent update, Android is now found on more devices than any other OS, and features an ever-expanding app market that rivals Apple’s in size and scope.
Android is an open operating system, meaning any developer or manufacturer can install it on a product, which explains its pervasiveness that extends even to eReaders. This also means that many low-end tablets and inexpensive knock-offs run Android and leverage Android’s reputation in marketing typically sub-par products.
While Android is an open operating system, devices must still meet certain Google-defined standards for access to the Android Marketplace. The Samsung Galaxy Tab was the first major tablet to meet that standard, and earlier devices were barred from the app store. With Honeycomb securing Google’s commitment to tablets, the Android Market is now open for slates and developers with an eye for tablet-friendly programs.
Still, buyers are encouraged to research any Android tablet before buying. In addition to generic knock offs, many tablets ship with older versions of Google’s operating system, and manufacturers often place custom user interfaces over the OS. While many believe the skins can improve upon the Android experience, they often impede over-the-air Android updates.
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