Android icon by Rudy Phelippeau
|Developer(s)||Various (mostly Google and the Open Handset Alliance)|
|Written in||Java (UI), C (core), C++ and others|
|OS family||Unix-like (Modified Linux kernel)|
|Source model||Mix of open source and proprietary software components|
|Initial release||September 23, 2008|
|Latest release||Android 10 / September 3, 2019|
|Latest preview||Android 11 Developer Preview 4 (RPP4.200409.015) / May 6, 2020|
|Marketing target||Smartphones, tablet computers, smart TVs (Android TV), Android Auto and smartwatches (Wear OS)|
|Available in||100+ languages|
|Platforms||64-bit (32-bit being dropped) ARM architecture, x86 and x86-64|
|Kernel type||Linux kernel|
|Userland||Bionic libc, Korn shell shell, Toybox as core utilities (beginning with Android 6.0)|
|Default user interface||Graphical (multi-touch)|
Android is an operating system primarily for mobile devices with touchscreens. It has a typically very modified and customized Linux kernel at its core with a mix of free and proprietary software on top. Android is developed by a primarily Google-lead and controlled industry consortium called the "Open Handset Alliance". Android comes pre-installed on a huge amount of phones, tablets, television top-set boxes and gaming consoles.
Android is developmed by a the "Open Handset Alliance" industry consortium. It has 84 members who are contractually forbidden from making devices running forks of the Android operating system. The Android operating system produced by the OHA is called the "Android Open Source Project" (AOSP). It is mostly licensed under the Apache License. The majority Android versions shipped to end-users has the ASOP code base and a large amount of non-free proprietary drivers and applications on top.
Most Android devices sold in the west come with a proprietary application store called the "Google Play Store" pre-installed. What is and is not allowed in that store is tightly controlled by the Google corporation who takes a large cut of the sales-price of the commercial applications available in that store.
Free software enthusiasts can install the alternative free software focused F-Droid app-store. F-Droid has a large amount of very useful programs licensed under free software licenses available. Some of the applications available in the F-Droid store have anti-features and censorship. All the software in the F-Droid app-store is built on the F-Droid build servers, they will only allow applications into their store if they are able to acquire the source code and build it themselves.
Android On Linux
There are few good options for running Android applications directly on a GNU/Linux desktop or laptop computer.
Running the full Android-x86 distribution, available from the link-spam riddled website android-x86.org, in QEMU is one option that will let you run Android software on your desktop. It's not as ideal as running them natively but there are no good easy to use solutions for doing that (let us know if you find one).