Android (operating system)
Android is a mobile operating system based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and other open-source software, designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Android is developed by a consortium of developers known as the Open Handset Alliance and commercially sponsored by Google. It was unveiled in November 2007, with the first commercial Android device, the HTC Dream, being launched in September 2008.
Over 70 percent of Android smartphones run Google’s ecosystem; some with vendor-customized user interface and software suite, such as TouchWiz and later One UI by Samsung, and HTC Sense. Competing Android ecosystems and forks include Fire OS (developed by Amazon), ColorOS by OPPO, OriginOS by vivo and MagicUI by Honor, or custom ROMs such as LineageOS. However, the “Android” name and logo are trademarks of Google which imposes standards to restrict the use of Android branding by “uncertified” devices outside their ecosystem.
The source code has been used to develop variants of Android on a range of other electronics, such as game consoles, digital cameras, portable media players, PCs, each with a specialized user interface. Some well known derivatives include Android TV for televisions and Wear OS for wearables, both developed by Google. Software packages on Android, which use the APK format, are generally distributed through proprietary application stores like Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore (including for Windows 11), Samsung Galaxy Store, Huawei AppGallery, Cafe Bazaar, and GetJar, or open source platforms like Aptoide or F-Droid.
Android has been the best-selling OS worldwide on smartphones since 2011 and on tablets since 2013. As of May 2021, it has over three billion monthly active users, the largest installed base of any operating system, and as of January 2021, the Google Play Store features over 3 million apps. Android 13, released on August 15, 2022, is the latest version, and the recently released Android 12.1/12L includes improvements specific for foldable phones, tablets, desktop-sized screens and Chromebooks.
- 5Security and privacy
- 8Legal issues
- 9Other uses
- 11See also
- 13External links
Android Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. Rubin described the Android project as having “tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences”. The early intentions of the company were to develop an advanced operating system for digital cameras, and this was the basis of its pitch to investors in April 2004. The company then decided that the market for cameras was not large enough for its goals, and five months later it had diverted its efforts and was pitching Android as a handset operating system that would rival Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.
Rubin had difficulty attracting investors early on, and Android was facing eviction from its office space. Steve Perlman, a close friend of Rubin, brought him $10,000 in cash in an envelope, and shortly thereafter wired an undisclosed amount as seed funding. Perlman refused a stake in the company, and has stated “I did it because I believed in the thing, and I wanted to help Andy.”
In 2005, Rubin tried to negotiate deals with Samsung and HTC. Shortly afterwards, Google acquired the company in July of that year for at least $50 million; this was Google’s “best deal ever” according to Google’s then-vice president of corporate development, David Lawee, in 2010. Android’s key employees, including Rubin, Miner, Sears, and White, joined Google as part of the acquisition. Not much was known about the secretive Android Inc. at the time, with the company having provided few details other than that it was making software for mobile phones. At Google, the team led by Rubin developed a mobile device platform powered by the Linux kernel. Google marketed the platform to handset makers and carriers on the promise of providing a flexible, upgradeable system. Google had “lined up a series of hardware components and software partners and signaled to carriers that it was open to various degrees of cooperation”.[attribution needed]
Speculation about Google’s intention to enter the mobile communications market continued to build through December 2006. An early prototype had a close resemblance to a BlackBerry phone, with no touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard, but the arrival of 2007’s Apple iPhone meant that Android “had to go back to the drawing board”. Google later changed its Android specification documents to state that “Touchscreens will be supported”, although “the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption, therefore a touchscreen cannot completely replace physical buttons”. By 2008, both Nokia and BlackBerry announced touch-based smartphones to rival the iPhone 3G, and Android’s focus eventually switched to just touchscreens. The first commercially available smartphone running Android was the HTC Dream, also known as T-Mobile G1, announced on September 23, 2008.
On November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of technology companies including Google, device manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung, wireless carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile, and chipset makers such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, unveiled itself, with a goal to develop “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices”. Within a year, the Open Handset Alliance faced two other open source competitors, the Symbian Foundation and the LiMo Foundation, the latter also developing a Linux-based mobile operating system like Google. In September 2007, InformationWeek covered an Evalueserve study reporting that Google had filed several patent applications in the area of mobile telephony.
Since 2008, Android has seen numerous updates which have incrementally improved the operating system, adding new features and fixing bugs in previous releases. Each major release is named in alphabetical order after a dessert or sugary treat, with the first few Android versions being called “Cupcake“, “Donut“, “Eclair“, and “Froyo“, in that order. During its announcement of Android KitKat in 2013, Google explained that “Since these devices make our lives so sweet, each Android version is named after a dessert”, although a Google spokesperson told CNN in an interview that “It’s kind of like an internal team thing, and we prefer to be a little bit—how should I say—a bit inscrutable in the matter, I’ll say”.
In 2010, Google launched its Nexus series of devices, a lineup in which Google partnered with different device manufacturers to produce new devices and introduce new Android versions. The series was described as having “played a pivotal role in Android’s history by introducing new software iterations and hardware standards across the board”, and became known for its “bloat-free” software with “timely … updates”. At its developer conference in May 2013, Google announced a special version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, where, instead of using Samsung’s own Android customization, the phone ran “stock Android” and was promised to receive new system updates fast. The device would become the start of the Google Play edition program, and was followed by other devices, including the HTC One Google Play edition, and Moto G Google Play edition. In 2015, Ars Technica wrote that “Earlier this week, the last of the Google Play edition Android phones in Google’s online storefront were listed as “no longer available for sale” and that “Now they’re all gone, and it looks a whole lot like the program has wrapped up”.
From 2008 to 2013, Hugo Barra served as product spokesperson, representing Android at press conferences and Google I/O, Google’s annual developer-focused conference. He left Google in August 2013 to join Chinese phone maker Xiaomi. Less than six months earlier, Google’s then-CEO Larry Page announced in a blog post that Andy Rubin had moved from the Android division to take on new projects at Google, and that Sundar Pichai would become the new Android lead. Pichai himself would eventually switch positions, becoming the new CEO of Google in August 2015 following the company’s restructure into the Alphabet conglomerate,making Hiroshi Lockheimer the new head of Android.
On Android 4.4 Kit Kat, shared writing access to MicroSD memory cards has been locked for user-installed applications, to which only the dedicated directories with respective package names, located inside
Android/data/, remained writeable. Writing access has been reinstated with Android 5 Lollipop through the backwards-incompatible Google Storage Access Framework interface.
In June 2014, Google announced Android One, a set of “hardware reference models” that would “allow [device makers] to easily create high-quality phones at low costs”, designed for consumers in developing countries. In September, Google announced the first set of Android One phones for release in India. However, Recode reported in June 2015 that the project was “a disappointment”, citing “reluctant consumers and manufacturing partners” and “misfires from the search company that has never quite cracked hardware”.Plans to relaunch Android One surfaced in August 2015,with Africa announced as the next location for the program a week later.A report from The Information in January 2017 stated that Google is expanding its low-cost Android One program into the United States, although The Verge notes that the company will presumably not produce the actual devices itself. Google introduced the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones in October 2016, marketed as being the first phones made by Google, and exclusively featured certain software features, such as the Google Assistant, before wider rollout.The Pixel phones replaced the Nexus series,with a new generation of Pixel phones launched in October 2017.
In May 2019, the operating system became entangled in the trade war between China and the United States involving Huawei, which, like many other tech firms, had become dependent on access to the Android platform. In the summer of 2019, Huawei announced it would create an alternative operating system to Android known as Harmony OS, and has filed for intellectual property rights across major global markets. Under such sanctions Huawei has long-term plans to replace Android in 2022 with the new operating system, as Harmony OS was originally designed for internet of things devices, rather than for smartphones and tablets.
On August 22, 2019, it was announced that Android “Q” would officially be branded as Android 10, ending the historic practice of naming major versions after desserts. Google stated that these names were not “inclusive” to international users (due either to the aforementioned foods not being internationally known, or being difficult to pronounce in some languages). On the same day, Android Police reported that Google had commissioned a statue of a giant number “10” to be installed in the lobby of the developers’ new office. Android 10 was released on September 3, 2019, to Google Pixel phones first.
Android’s default user interface is mainly based on direct manipulation, using touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, along with a virtual keyboard. Game controllers and full-size physical keyboards are supported via Bluetooth or USB. The response to user input is designed to be immediate and provides a fluid touch interface, often using the vibration capabilities of the device to provide haptic feedback to the user. Internal hardware, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and proximity sensors are used by some applications to respond to additional user actions, for example adjusting the screen from portrait to landscape depending on how the device is oriented, or allowing the user to steer a vehicle in a racing game by rotating the device, simulating control of a steering wheel.
Android devices boot to the home screen, the primary navigation and information “hub” on Android devices, analogous to the desktop found on personal computers. Android home screens are typically made up of app icons and widgets; app icons launch the associated app, whereas widgets display live, auto-updating content, such as a weather forecast, the user’s email inbox, or a news ticker directly on the home screen. A home screen may be made up of several pages, between which the user can swipe back and forth. Third-party apps available on Google Play and other app stores can extensively re-theme the home screen, and even mimic the look of other operating systems, such as Windows Phone. Most manufacturers customize the look and features of their Android devices to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Along the top of the screen is a status bar, showing information about the device and its connectivity. This status bar can be pulled (swiped) down from to reveal a notification screen where apps display important information or updates, as well as quick access to system controls and toggles such as display brightness, connectivity settings (WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular data), audio mode, and flashlight. Vendors may implement extended settings such as the ability to adjust the flashlight brightness.
Notifications are “short, timely, and relevant information about your app when it’s not in use”, and when tapped, users are directed to a screen inside the app relating to the notification. Beginning with Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”, “expandable notifications” allow the user to tap an icon on the notification in order for it to expand and display more information and possible app actions right from the notification.
An “All Apps” screen lists all installed applications, with the ability for users to drag an app from the list onto the home screen. The app list may be accessed using a gesture or a button, depending on the Android version. A “Recents” screen, also known as “Overview”, lets users switch between recently used apps.
The recent list may appear side-by-side or overlapping, depending on the Android version and manufacturer.
Many early Android OS smartphones were equipped with a dedicated search button for quick access to a web search engine and individual apps’ internal search feature. More recent devices typically allow the former through a long press or swipe away from the home button.
The dedicated option key, also known as menu key, and its on-screen simulation, is no longer supported since Android version 10. Google recommends mobile application developers to locate menus within the user interface. On more recent phones, its place is occupied by a task key used to access the list of recently used apps when actuated. Depending on device, its long press may simulate a menu button press or engage split screen view, the latter of which is the default behaviour since stock Android version 7.
Native support for split screen view has been added in stock Android version 7.0 Nougat.
The earliest vendor-customized Android-based smartphones known to have featured a split-screen view mode are the 2012 Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2, the former of which received this feature with the premium suite upgrade delivered in TouchWiz with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
Charging while powered off
When connecting or disconnecting charging power and when shortly actuating the power button or home button, all while the device is powered off, a visual battery meter whose appearance varies among vendors appears on the screen, allowing the user to quickly assess the charge status of a powered-off without having to boot it up first. Some display the battery percentage.
Many, to almost all, Android devices come with preinstalled Google apps including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Chrome, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and many more.
Applications (“apps“), which extend the functionality of devices (and must be 64-bit), are written using the Android software development kit (SDK) and, often, Kotlin programming language, which replaced Java as Google’s preferred language for Android app development in May 2019, and was originally announced in May 2017. Java is still supported (originally the only option for user-space programs, and is often mixed with Kotlin), as is C++. Java or other JVM languages, such as Kotlin, may be combined with C/C++, together with a choice of non-default runtimes that allow better C++ support. The Go programming language is also supported, although with a limited set of application programming interfaces (API).
The SDK includes a comprehensive set of development tools, including a debugger, software libraries, a handset emulator based on QEMU, documentation, sample code, and tutorials. Initially, Google’s supported integrated development environment (IDE) was Eclipse using the Android Development Tools (ADT) plugin; in December 2014, Google released Android Studio, based on IntelliJ IDEA, as its primary IDE for Android application development. Other development tools are available, including a native development kit (NDK) for applications or extensions in C or C++, Google App Inventor, a visual environment for novice programmers, and various cross platform mobile web applications frameworks. In January 2014, Google unveiled a framework based on Apache Cordova for porting Chrome HTML 5 web applications to Android, wrapped in a native application shell. Additionally, Firebase was acquired by Google in 2014 that provides helpful tools for app and web developers.
Android has a growing selection of third-party applications, which can be acquired by users by downloading and installing the application’s APK (Android application package) file, or by downloading them using an application store program that allows users to install, update, and remove applications from their devices. Google Play Store is the primary application store installed on Android devices that comply with Google’s compatibility requirements and license the Google Mobile Services software. Google Play Store allows users to browse, download and update applications published by Google and third-party developers; as of January 2021, there are more than three million applications available for Android in Play Store. As of July 2013, 50 billion application installations had been performed. Some carriers offer direct carrier billing for Google Play application purchases, where the cost of the application is added to the user’s monthly bill. As of May 2017, there are over one billion active users a month for Gmail, Android, Chrome, Google Play and Maps.
Due to the open nature of Android, a number of third-party application marketplaces also exist for Android, either to provide a substitute for devices that are not allowed to ship with Google Play Store, provide applications that cannot be offered on Google Play Store due to policy violations, or for other reasons. Examples of these third-party stores have included the Amazon Appstore, GetJar, and SlideMe. F-Droid, another alternative marketplace, seeks to only provide applications that are distributed under free and open source licenses.
In October 2020, Google removed several Android applications from Play Store, as they were identified breaching its data collection rules. The firm was informed by International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) that apps for children like Number Coloring, Princess Salon and Cats & Cosplay, with collective downloads of 20 million, were violating Google’s policies.
At the Windows 11 announcement event in June 2021, Microsoft showcased the new Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) that will enable support for the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and will allow users to run Android apps on their Windows desktop.
The storage of Android devices can be expanded using secondary devices such as SD cards. Android recognizes two types of secondary storage: portable storage (which is used by default), and adoptable storage. Portable storage is treated as an external storage device. Adoptable storage, introduced on Android 6.0, allows the internal storage of the device to be spanned with the SD card, treating it as an extension of the internal storage. This has the disadvantage of preventing the memory card from being used with another device unless it is reformatted.
Since Android devices are usually battery-powered, Android is designed to manage processes to keep power consumption at a minimum. When an application is not in use the system suspends its operation so that, while available for immediate use rather than closed, it does not use battery power or CPU resources. Android manages the applications stored in memory automatically: when memory is low, the system will begin invisibly and automatically closing inactive processes, starting with those that have been inactive for the longest amount of time. Lifehacker reported in 2011 that third-party task-killer applications were doing more harm than good.
Some settings for use by developers for debugging and power users are located in a “Developer options” sub menu, such as the ability to highlight updating parts of the display, show an overlay with the current status of the touch screen, show touching spots for possible use in screencasting, notify the user of unresponsive background processes with the option to end them (“Show all ANRs”, i.e. “App’s Not Responding”), prevent a Bluetooth audio client from controlling the system volume (“Disable absolute volume”), and adjust the duration of transition animations or deactivate them completely to speed up navigation.
The main hardware platform for Android is ARM (the ARMv7 and ARMv8-A architectures), with x86 and x86-64 architectures also officially supported in later versions of Android. The unofficial Android-x86 project provided support for x86 architectures ahead of the official support. Since 2012, Android devices with Intel processors began to appear, including phones and tablets. While gaining support for 64-bit platforms, Android was first made to run on 64-bit x86 and then on ARM64. An unofficial experimental port of the operating system to the RISC-V architecture was released in 2021.
Requirements for the minimum amount of RAM for devices running Android 7.1 range from in practice 2 GB for best hardware, down to 1 GB for the most common screen. Android supports all versions of OpenGL ES and Vulkan (and version 1.1 available for some devices).
In addition to running on smartphones and tablets, several vendors run Android natively on regular PC hardware with a keyboard and mouse. In addition to their availability on commercially available hardware, similar PC hardware-friendly versions of Android are freely available from the Android-x86 project, including customized Android 4.4. Using the Android emulator that is part of the Android SDK, or third-party emulators, Android can also run non-natively on x86 architectures. Chinese companies are building a PC and mobile operating system, based on Android, to “compete directly with Microsoft Windows and Google Android”. The Chinese Academy of Engineering noted that “more than a dozen” companies were customizing Android following a Chinese ban on the use of Windows 8 on government PCs.
Android is developed by Google until the latest changes and updates are ready to be released, at which point the source code is made available to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), an open source initiative led by Google. The AOSP code can be found with minimal modifications on select devices, mainly the former Nexus and current Android One series of devices.
The source code is, in turn, customized by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to run on their hardware. Android’s source code does not contain the device drivers, often proprietary, that are needed for certain hardware components. As a result, most Android devices, including Google’s own, ship with a combination of free and open source and proprietary software, with the software required for accessing Google services falling into the latter catego
Google provides annual Android releases, both for factory installation in new devices, and for over-the-air updates to existing devices. The latest major release is Android 13.
The extensive variation of hardware in Android devices has caused significant delays for software upgrades and security patches. Each upgrade has had to be specifically tailored, a time- and resource-consuming process. Except for devices within the Google Nexus and Pixel brands, updates have often arrived months after the release of the new version, or not at all. Manufacturers often prioritize their newest devices and leave old ones behind. Additional delays can be introduced by wireless carriers who, after receiving updates from manufacturers, further customize Android to their needs and conduct extensive testing on their networks before sending out the upgrade. There are also situations in which upgrades are impossible due to a manufacturer not updating necessary drivers.
In 2012, Google began de-coupling certain aspects of the operating system (particularly its central applications) so they could be updated through the Google Play store independently of the OS. One of those components, Google Play Services, is a closed-source system-level process providing APIs for Google services, installed automatically on nearly all devices running Android 2.2 “Froyo” and higher. With these changes, Google can add new system functions and update apps without having to distribute an upgrade to the operating system itself. As a result, Android 4.2 and 4.3 “Jelly Bean” contained relatively fewer user-facing changes, focusing more on minor changes and platform improvements.
HTC‘s then-executive Jason Mackenzie called monthly security updates “unrealistic” in 2015, and Google was trying to persuade carriers to exclude security patches from the full testing procedures. In May 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Google was making efforts to keep Android more up-to-date, including accelerated rates of security updates, rolling out technological workarounds, reducing requirements for phone testing, and ranking phone makers in an attempt to “shame” them into better behavior. As stated by Bloomberg: “As smartphones get more capable, complex and hackable, having the latest software work closely with the hardware is increasingly important”. Hiroshi Lockheimer, the Android lead, admitted that “It’s not an ideal situation”, further commenting that the lack of updates is “the weakest link on security on Android”. Wireless carriers were described in the report as the “most challenging discussions”, due to their slow approval time while testing on their networks, despite some carriers, including Verizon Wireless and Sprint Corporation, already shortening their approval times. In a further effort for persuasion, Google shared a list of top phone makers measured by updated devices with its Android partners, and is considering making the list public.[when?] Mike Chan, co-founder of phone maker Nextbit and former Android developer, said that “The best way to solve this problem is a massive re-architecture of the operating system”, “or Google could invest in training manufacturers and carriers ‘to be good Android citizens'”.
Android’s kernel is based on the Linux kernel‘s long-term support (LTS) branches. As of 2021, Android uses versions 4.14, 4.19 or 5.4 of the Linux kernel. The actual kernel depends on the individual device.
Android’s variant of the Linux kernel has further architectural changes that are implemented by Google outside the typical Linux kernel development cycle, such as the inclusion of components like device trees, ashmem, ION, and different out of memory (OOM) handling. Certain features that Google contributed back to the Linux kernel, notably a power management feature called “wakelocks”, were initially rejected by mainline kernel developers partly because they felt that Google did not show any intent to maintain its own code. Google announced in April 2010 that they would hire two employees to work with the Linux kernel community, but Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch, said in December 2010 that he was concerned that Google was no longer trying to get their code changes included in mainstream Linux. Google engineer Patrick Brady once stated in the company’s developer conference that “Android is not Linux”, with Computerworld adding that “Let me make it simple for you, without Linux, there is no Android”. Ars Technica wrote that “Although Android is built on top of the Linux kernel, the platform has very little in common with the conventional desktop Linux stack”.
The flash storage on Android devices is split into several partitions, such as
/system/for the operating system itself, and
/data/for user data and application installations.
In contrast to typical desktop Linux distributions, Android device owners are not given root access to the operating system and sensitive partitions such as
/system/are read-only. However, root access can be obtained by exploiting security flaws in Android, which is used frequently by the open-source community to enhance the capabilities and customizability of their devices, but also by malicious parties to install viruses and malware. Root access can also be obtained by unlocking the bootloader via the
OEM Unlockingoption on certain devices including most Google Pixel and OnePlus models. The unlocking process resets the system to factory state, erasing all user data.
On top of the Linux kernel, there are the middleware, libraries and APIs written in C, and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries. Development of the Linux kernel continues independently of Android’s other source code projects.
Android’s source code is released by Google under an open source license, and its open nature has encouraged a large community of developers and enthusiasts to use the open-source code as a foundation for community-driven projects, which deliver updates to older devices, add new features for advanced users or bring Android to devices originally shipped with other operating systems. These community-developed releases often bring new features and updates to devices faster than through the official manufacturer/carrier channels, with a comparable level of quality; provide continued support for older devices that no longer receive official updates; or bring Android to devices that were officially released running other operating systems, such as the HP TouchPad. Community releases often come pre-rooted and contain modifications not provided by the original vendor, such as the ability to overclock or over/undervolt the device’s processor. CyanogenMod was the most widely used community firmware, now discontinued and succeeded by LineageOS.
Internally, Android identifies each supported device by its device codename, a short string, which may or may not be similar to the model name used in marketing the device. For example, the device codename of the Pixel smartphone is sailfish.
Security and privacy
In 2020, Google launched the Android Partner Vulnerability Initiative to improve the security of Android. They also formed an Android security team.
Common security threats
Research from security company Trend Micro lists premium service abuse as the most common type of Android malware, where text messages are sent from infected phones to premium-rate telephone numbers without the consent or even knowledge of the user. Other malware displays unwanted and intrusive advertisements on the device, or sends personal information to unauthorised third parties. Security threats on Android are reportedly growing exponentially; however, Google engineers have argued that the malware and virus threat on Android is being exaggerated by security companies for commercial reasons, and have accused the security industry of playing on fears to sell virus protection software to users. Google maintains that dangerous malware is actually extremely rare, and a survey conducted by F-Secure showed that only 0.5% of Android malware reported had come from the Google Play store.
In August 2015, Google announced that devices in the Google Nexus series would begin to receive monthly security patches. Google also wrote that “Nexus devices will continue to receive major updates for at least two years and security patches for the longer of three years from initial availability or 18 months from last sale of the device via the Google Store.” The following October, researchers at the University of Cambridge concluded that 87.7% of Android phones in use had known but unpatched security vulnerabilities due to lack of updates and support. Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica wrote also in August 2015 that “Android was originally designed, above all else, to be widely adopted. Google was starting from scratch with zero percent market share, so it was happy to give up control and give everyone a seat at the table in exchange for adoption.
Android smartphones have the ability to report the location of Wi-Fi access points, encountered as phone users move around, to build databases containing the physical locations of hundreds of millions of such access points. These databases form electronic maps to locate smartphones, allowing them to run apps like Foursquare, Google Latitude, Facebook Places, and to deliver location-based ads. Third party monitoring software such as TaintDroid, an academic research-funded project, can, in some cases, detect when personal information is being sent from applications to remote servers.
Further notable exploits
In 2018, Norwegian security firm Promon has unearthed a serious Android security hole which can be exploited to steal login credentials, access messages, and track location, which could be found in all versions of Android, including Android 10. The vulnerability came by exploiting a bug in the multitasking system enabling a malicious app to overlay legitimate apps with fake login screens that users are not aware of when handing in security credentials. Users can also be tricked into granting additional permissions to the malicious apps, which later enable them to perform various nefarious activities, including intercepting texts or calls and stealing banking credentials. Avast Threat Labs also discovered that many pre-installed apps on several hundred new Android devices contain dangerous malware and adware. Some of the preinstalled malware can commit ad fraud or even take over its host device.
On August 5, 2020, Twitter published a blog urging its users to update their applications to the latest version with regards to a security concern that allowed others to access direct messages. A hacker could easily use the “Android system permissions” to fetch the account credentials in order to do so. The security issue is only with Android 8 (Android Oreo) and Android 9 (Android Pie). Twitter confirmed that updating the app will restrict such practices.
Technical security features
Android applications run in a sandbox, an isolated area of the system that does not have access to the rest of the system’s resources, unless access permissions are explicitly granted by the user when the application is installed, however this may not be possible for pre-installed apps. It is not possible, for example, to turn off the microphone access of the pre-installed camera app without disabling the camera completely. This is valid also in Android versions 7 and 8.
Since February 2012, Google has used its Google Bouncer malware scanner to watch over and scan apps available in the Google Play store. A “Verify Apps” feature was introduced in November 2012, as part of the Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” operating system version, to scan all apps, both from Google Play and from third-party sources, for malicious behaviour. Originally only doing so during installation, Verify Apps received an update in 2014 to “constantly” scan apps, and in 2017 the feature was made visible to users through a menu in Settings.
from Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Lookout, McAfee (formerly Intel Security), Norton, Sophos, and Trend Micro, revealed that “the tested antivirus apps do not provide protection against customized malware or targeted attacks”, and that “the tested antivirus apps were also not able to detect malware which is completely unknown to date but does not make any efforts to hide its malignity”.
In August 2013, Google announced Android Device Manager (renamed Find My Device in May 2017), a service that allows users to remotely track, locate, and wipe their Android device, with an Android app for the service released in December. In December 2016, Google introduced a Trusted Contacts app, letting users request location-tracking of loved ones during emergencies. In 2020, Trusted Contacts was shut down and the location-sharing feature rolled into Google Maps.
Google Play Services and vendor changes
Dependence on proprietary Google Play Services and customizations added on top of the operating system by vendors who license Android from Google is causing privacy concerns.
The source code for Android is open-source: it is developed in private by Google, with the source code released publicly when a new version of Android is released. Google publishes most of the code (including network and telephony stacks) under the non-copyleft Apache License version 2.0. which allows modification and redistribution. The license does not grant rights to the “Android” trademark, so device manufacturers and wireless carriers have to license it from Google under individual contracts. Associated Linux kernel changes are released under the copyleft GNU General Public License version 2, developed by the Open Handset Alliance, with the source code publicly available at all times. The only Android release which was not immediately made available as source code was the tablet-only 3.0 Honeycomb release. The reason, according to Andy Rubin in an official Android blog post, was because Honeycomb was rushed for production of the Motorola Xoom, and they did not want third parties creating a “really bad user experience” by attempting to put onto smartphones a version of Android intended for tablets.
Only the base Android operating system (including some applications) is open-source software, whereas most Android devices ship with a substantial amount of proprietary software, such as Google Mobile Services, which includes applications such as Google Play Store, Google Search, and Google Play Services – a software layer that provides APIs for the integration with Google-provided services, among others. These applications must be licensed from Google by device makers, and can only be shipped on devices which meet its compatibility guidelines and other requirements. Custom, certified distributions of Android produced by manufacturers (such as Samsung Experience) may also replace certain stock Android apps with their own proprietary variants and add additional software not included in the stock Android operating system. With the advent of the Google Pixel line of devices, Google itself has also made specific Android features timed or permanent exclusives to the Pixel series. There may also be “binary blob” drivers required for certain hardware components in the device. The best known fully open source Android services are the LineageOS distribution and MicroG which acts as an open source replacement of Google Play Services.
Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation have been critical of Android and have recommended the usage of alternatives such as Replicant, because drivers and firmware vital for the proper functioning of Android devices are usually proprietary, and because the Google Play Store application can forcibly install or uninstall applications and, as a result, invite non-free software. In both cases, the use of closed-source software causes the system to become vulnerable to backdoors.
It has been argued that because developers are often required to purchase the Google-branded Android license, this has turned the theoretically open system into a freemium service.: 20
Leverage over manufacturers
Google licenses their Google Mobile Services software, along with the Android trademarks, only to hardware manufacturers for devices that meet Google’s compatibility standards specified in the Android Compatibility Program document. Thus, forks of Android that make major changes to the operating system itself do not include any of Google’s non-free components, stay incompatible with applications that require them, and must ship with an alternative software marketplace in lieu of Google Play Store. A prominent example of such an Android fork is Amazon‘s Fire OS, which is used on the Kindle Fire line of tablets, and oriented toward Amazon services. The shipment of Android devices without GMS is also common in mainland China, as Google does not do business there.
In 2014, Google also began to require that all Android devices which license the Google Mobile Services software display a prominent “Powered by Android” logo on their boot screens. Google has also enforced preferential bundling and placement of Google Mobile Services on devices, including mandated bundling of the entire main suite of Google applications, mandatory placement of shortcuts to Google Search and the Play
Store app on or near the main home screen page in its default configuration, and granting a larger share of search revenue to OEMs who agree to not include third-party app stores on their devices. In March 2018, it was reported that Google had begun to block “uncertified” Android devices from using Google Mobile Services software, and display a warning indicating that “the device manufacturer has preloaded Google apps and services without certification from Google”. Users of custom ROMs can register their device ID to their Google account to remove this block.
Members of the Open Handset Alliance, which include the majority of Android OEMs, are also contractually forbidden from producing Android devices based on forks of the OS; in 2012, Acer Inc. was forced by Google to halt production on a device powered by Alibaba Group‘s Aliyun OS with threats of removal from the OHA, as Google deemed the platform to be an incompatible version of Android. Alibaba Group defended the allegations, arguing that the OS was a distinct platform from Android (primarily using HTML5 apps), but incorporated portions of Android’s platform to allow backwards compatibility with third-party Android software. Indeed, the devices did ship with an application store which offered Android apps; however, the majority of them were pirated.
Android received a lukewarm reaction when it was unveiled in 2007. Although analysts were impressed with the respected technology companies that had partnered with Google to form the Open Handset Alliance, it was unclear whether mobile phone manufacturers would be willing to replace their existing operating systems with Android. The idea of an open-source, Linux-based development platform sparked interest, but there were additional worries about Android facing strong competition from established players in the smartphone market, such as Nokia and Microsoft, and rival Linux mobile operating systems that were in development. These established players were skeptical: Nokia was quoted as saying “we don’t see this as a threat”, and a member of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team stated “I don’t understand the impact that they are going to have.”
Despite Android’s popularity, including an activation rate three times that of iOS, there have been reports that Google has not been able to leverage their other products and web services successfully to turn Android into the money maker that analysts had expected. The Verge suggested that Google is losing control of Android due to the extensive customization and proliferation of non-Google apps and services – Amazon’s Kindle Fire line uses Fire OS, a heavily modified fork of Android which does not include or support any of Google’s proprietary components, and requires that users obtain software from its competing Amazon Appstore instead of Play Store. In 2014, in an effort to improve prominence of the Android brand, Google began to require that devices featuring its proprietary components display an Android logo on the boot screen.
Android has suffered from “fragmentation”, a situation where the variety of Android devices, in terms of both hardware variations and differences in the software running on them, makes the task of developing applications that work consistently across the ecosystem harder than rival platforms such as iOS where hardware and software varies less.
For example, according to data from OpenSignal in July 2013, there were 11,868 models of Android devices, numerous screen sizes and eight Android OS versions simultaneously in use, while the large majority of iOS users have upgraded to the latest iteration of that OS. Critics such as Apple Insider have asserted that fragmentation via hardware and software pushed Android’s growth through large volumes of low end, budget-priced devices running older versions of Android. They maintain this forces Android developers to write for the “lowest common denominator” to reach as many users as possible, who have too little incentive to make use of the latest hardware or software features only available on a smaller percentage of devices. However, OpenSignal, who develops both Android and iOS apps, concluded that although fragmentation can make development trickier, Android’s wider global reach also increases the potential reward.
Android is the most used operating system on phones in virtually all countries, with some countries, such as India, having over 96% market share. On tablets, usage is more even, as iOS is a bit more popular globally.
Research company Canalys estimated in the second quarter of 2009, that Android had a 2.8% share of worldwide smartphone shipments. By May 2010, Android had a 10% worldwide smartphone market share, overtaking Windows Mobile, whilst in the US Android held a 28% share, overtaking iPhone OS. By the fourth quarter of 2010, its worldwide share had grown to 33% of the market becoming the top-selling smartphone platform, overtaking Symbian. In the US it became the top-selling platform in April 2011, overtaking BlackBerry OS with a 31.2% smartphone share, according to comScore.
By the third quarter of 2011, Gartner estimated that more than half (52.5%) of the smartphone sales belonged to Android. By the third quarter of 2012 Android had a 75% share of the global smartphone market according to the research firm IDC.
In July 2011, Google said that 550,000 Android devices were being activated every day, up from 400,000 per day in May, and more than 100 million devices had been activated with 4.4% growth per week. In September 2012, 500 million devices had been activated with 1.3 million activations per day. In May 2013, at Google I/O, Sundar Pichai announced that 900 million Android devices had been activated.
Android market share varies by location. In July 2012, “mobile subscribers aged 13+” in the United States using Android were up to 52%, and rose to 90% in China. During the third quarter of 2012, Android’s worldwide smartphone shipment market share was 75%, with 750 million devices activated in total. In April 2013, Android had 1.5 million activations per day. As of May 2013, 48 billion application (“app”) installation have been performed from the Google Play store, and by September 2013, one billion Android devices had been activated.
As of August 2020, the Google Play store had over 3 million Android applications published, and as of May 2016, apps had been downloaded more than 65 billion times. The operating system’s success has made it a target for patent litigation as part of the so-called “smartphone wars” between technology companies.
Android devices account for more than half of smartphone sales in most markets, including the US, while “only in Japan was Apple on top” (September–November 2013 numbers). At the end of 2013, over 1.5 billion Android smartphones had been sold in the four years since 2010, making Android the most sold phone and tablet OS.
Three billion Android smartphones were estimated to be sold by the end of 2014 (including previous years). According to Gartner research company, Android-based devices outsold all contenders, every year since 2012. In 2013, it outsold Windows 2.8:1 or by 573 million. As of 2015, Android has the largest installed base of all operating systems; Since 2013, devices running it also sell more than Windows, iOS and Mac OS X devices combined.
According to StatCounter, which tracks only the use for browsing the web, Android is the most popular mobile operating system since August 2013. Android is the most popular operating system for web browsing in India and several other countries (e.g. virtually all of Asia, with Japan and North Korea exceptions).
According to StatCounter, Android is most used on mobile in all African countries, and it stated “mobile usage has already overtaken desktop in several countries including India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia”, with virtually all countries in Africa having done so already (except for seven countries, including Egypt), such as Ethiopia and Kenya in which mobile (including tablets) usage is at 90.46% (Android only, accounts for 75.81% of all use there).
While Android phones in the Western world almost always include Google’s proprietary code (such as Google Play) in the otherwise open-source operating system, Google’s proprietary code and trademark is increasingly not used in emerging markets;
“The growth of AOSP Android devices goes way beyond just China [..] ABI Research claims that 65 million devices shipped globally with open-source Android in the second quarter of , up from 54 million in the first quarter”; depending on country, percent of phones estimated to be based only on AOSP source code, forgoing the Android trademark: Thailand (44%), Philippines (38%), Indonesia (31%), India (21%), Malaysia (24%), Mexico (18%), Brazil (9%).
According to a January 2015 Gartner report, “Android surpassed a billion shipments of devices in 2014, and will continue to grow at a double-digit pace in 2015, with a 26 percent increase year over year.” This made it the first time that any general-purpose operating system has reached more than one billion end users within a year: by reaching close to 1.16 billion end users in 2014,
Android shipped over four times more than iOS and OS X combined, and over three times more than Microsoft Windows. Gartner expected the whole mobile phone market to “reach two billion units in 2016”, including Android. Describing the statistics, Farhad Manjoo wrote in The New York Times that “About one of every two computers sold today is running Android. [It] has become Earth’s dominant computing platform.”
According to a Statistica‘s estimate, Android smartphones had an installed base of 1.8 billion units in 2015, which was 76% of the estimated total number of smartphones worldwide.[a] Android has the largest installed base of any mobile operating system and, since 2013, the highest-selling operating system overall with sales in 2012, 2013 and 2014 close to the installed base of all PCs.
In the second quarter of 2014, Android’s share of the global smartphone shipment market was 84.7%, a new record. This had grown to 87.5% worldwide market share by the third quarter of 2016, leaving main competitor iOS with 12.1% market share.
According to an April 2017 StatCounter report, Android overtook Microsoft Windows to become the most popular operating system for total Internet usage. It has maintained the plurality since then.
In September 2015, Google announced that Android had 1.4 billion monthly active users. This changed to 2 billion monthly active users in May 2017.
Adoption on tablets
Despite app support in its infancy, a considerable number of Android tablets, like the Barnes & Noble Nook (alongside those using other operating systems, such as the HP TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook) were rushed out to market in an attempt to capitalize on the success of the iPad. InfoWorld has suggested that some Android manufacturers initially treated their first tablets as a “Frankenphone business”, a short-term low-investment opportunity by placing a smartphone-optimized Android OS (before Android 3.0 Honeycomb for tablets was available) on a device while neglecting user interface. This approach, such as with the Dell Streak, failed to gain market traction with consumers as well as damaging the early reputation of Android tablets. Furthermore, several Android tablets such as the Motorola Xoom were priced the same or higher than the iPad, which hurt sales. An exception was the Amazon Kindle Fire, which relied upon lower pricing as well as access to Amazon’s ecosystem of applications and content.
This began to change in 2012, with the release of the affordable Nexus 7 and a push by Google for developers to write better tablet applications. According to International Data Corporation, shipments of Android-powered tablets surpassed iPads in Q3 2012.
As of the end of 2013, over 191.6 million Android tablets had sold in three years since 2011. This made Android tablets the most-sold type of tablet in 2013, surpassing iPads in the second quarter of 2013.
In March 2016, Galen Gruman of InfoWorld stated that Android devices could be a “real part of your business [..] there’s no longer a reason to keep Android at arm’s length. It can now be as integral to your mobile portfolio as Apple‘s iOS devices are”. A year earlier, Gruman had stated that Microsoft‘s own mobile Office apps were “better on iOS and Android” than on Microsoft’s own Windows 10 devices.
In general, paid Android applications can easily be pirated. In a May 2012 interview with Eurogamer, the developers of Football Manager stated that the ratio of pirated players vs legitimate players was 9:1 for their game Football Manager Handheld. However, not every developer agreed that piracy rates were an issue; for example, in July 2012 the developers of the game Wind-up Knight said that piracy levels of their game were only 12%, and most of the piracy came from China, where people cannot purchase apps from Google Play.
The success of Android has made it a target for patent and copyright litigation between technology companies, both Android and Android phone manufacturers having been involved in numerous patent lawsuits and other legal challenges.
Patent lawsuit with Oracle
On August 12, 2010, Oracle sued Google over claimed infringement of copyrights and patents related to the Java programming language. Oracle originally sought damages up to $6.1 billion, but this valuation was rejected by a United States federal judge who asked Oracle to revise the estimate. In response, Google submitted multiple lines of defense, counterclaiming that Android did not infringe on Oracle’s patents or copyright, that Oracle’s patents were invalid, and several other defenses.
They said that Android’s Java runtime environment is based on Apache Harmony, a clean room implementation of the Java class libraries, and an independently developed virtual machine called Dalvik. In May 2012, the jury in this case found that Google did not infringe on Oracle’s patents, and the trial judge ruled that the structure of the Java APIs used by Google was not copyrightable. The parties agreed to zero dollars in statutory damages for a small amount of copied code. On May 9, 2014, the Federal Circuit partially reversed the district court ruling, ruling in Oracle’s favor on the copyrightability issue, and remanding the issue of fair use to the district court.
Best learning platform;
The tutor search feature allows you to choose what you pay. Prices start from $5 per hour. If you are not satisfied with a lesson, Preply will refund you or replace your tutor for free.
Preply connects students with expert English tutors for 1-on-1 lessons over online video chat. You can choose your own tutor based on factors including their country of origin, specialty, availability, reviews, and the price they charge. Preply is the perfect app for English speaking, as students start speaking in English from the first lesson.
By downloading the Preply app, you choose your ideal tutor and take personalized lessons through your mobile or desktop. The mobile app also notifies you about upcoming lessons and lets you chat with tutors. You can even practice on the go with the free English Courses on various topics from beginner to advanced levels, and Flashcards to practice the vocabulary from your lessons.
When to use it
Preply combines the most effective aspects of classroom English lessons with all the convenience of a language app. When you make mistakes, you get instant feedback. Students learn at their own pace, tutors are free to wait to move on until their student has fully understood a concept.
Crucially, students get live speaking practice with a real speaker. You can overcome the fear barrier of speaking English aloud and can start putting what you have learned into practice — this is when real leaps are made. Preply is an excellent choice as your primary app for learning English.
2. Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone used to be an expensive one-off purchase. As of 2020, it has moved to a subscription model. Three months costs $35.97, twelve months costs $119.88, and twenty-four months costs $167.76. A lifetime package costs $199. Subscriptions come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Rosetta Stone can be used on your desktop or as a mobile app. Its courses are divided into units, which are meant to be used for 30 minutes per day for six weeks. In most of the lessons, you’re shown a word or sentence in English and have to match it to the correct picture. Almost all of the content is in English rather than your native language, so it’s a real immersive experience!
Rosetta Stone uses speech recognition software to give you tips on your accent. There are also optional games, and a chat room feature where you can meet other English learners to share tips and frustrations with.
As an added bonus, each subscriber can take up to four 25 minute sessions per month with a language tutor over video chat. Lessons take place in a class of up to four people, so be prepared! If you don’t use your time wisely and speak up, you may not get the conversation practice you need. Interested? Check out our full review of Rosetta Stone.
When to use it
Rosetta Stone is designed to be your primary method for learning English. It requires a high level of commitment and is one of the most expensive options on this list! However, it has been one of the leading language software packages for twenty-five years, so its methods draw on a lot of experience. Top tip: If you really want to speak fluently, combine it with methods that allow for more speaking practice.
Free! You can subscribe for extra content. Memrise Pro costs $8.99 per month, $18.99 for three months, or $59.99 per year.
Memrise is a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help new words and phrases “stick” in your long-term memory. Lots of its flashcards are generated by users, so there are plenty to choose from.
For paying users, there’s also a speech recognition feature that allows you to practice pronunciation, and a collection of videos with native speakers saying words or phrases called “learn with locals.”
When to use it
This is a vocabulary-boosting app you can use while you’re waiting for your friend to arrive. You won’t get fluent by using Memrise alone, but that’s not what it’s designed for. It’s an effective way to improve your vocabulary, and it’s free!
Babbel operates on a subscription model. A month costs $12.95, three months costs $26.85, six months costs $44.70 and a year costs $83.40.
There are courses for English learners of every level, and all are available on desktop and mobile. Lessons are 20 minutes long, and feature a mix of speaking practice (with automatic voice recognition), grammar practice, and memorization of new sentences. There’s also an effective flashcard section to remember sentences and words from other lessons.
When to use it
Babbel is a very useful tool for English learners, especially those who need additional practice learning grammar rules. It strikes a good balance between fun, game-like English learning apps and rigorous learning courses. However, it is best supplemented with live speaking practice, so that students can draw their new skills together.
Not sure how to get those hours of speaking practice in? Improve your English speaking skills at home with these tips and apps.
Duolingo’s basic features are free, but Duolingo Plus costs $6.99 per month.
Duolingo is the most popular language-learning app out there — the chances are, you’ve used it many, many times before now, maybe even to learn more than one language. It gives users 5-minute long games to learn English words and a little bit of grammar. Mostly, the games involve translating a word into or from English, or speaking an English phrase into your microphone.
When to use it
Duolingo’s famous owl is highly persuasive! If you forget to take a lesson, the app will pester you, send emails, and tell you your learning “streak” is in danger. This means it’s great for building a consistent daily learning habit.
The app’s methodology is primarily based on memorizing phrases. This means that learners will probably need to turn to other methods to understand the structure of English.
The first unit of LingoDeer’s English course can be accessed for free. After that, users must buy a subscription. This costs $11.99 for one month, $29.99 for three months, $55.99 for a year or $119.99 for life.
LingoDeer’s courses are designed to take learners from absolute beginner to intermediate level. Unlike many learning apps, there is an emphasis on learning new words in context, so that grammar can be understood easier. Lessons are short and set out as a series of games, videos and puzzles. Each lesson comes with “learning tips” to study beforehand, and you can customize your lessons with a quiz, or make them harder in “challenge mode.”
When to use it
Lingodeer is a more rigorous learning program than some of its more famous, game-orientated competitors, and it’s worth trying out the free version to see if it works for you. It is better known as a platform to learn Japanese, Korean and Mandarin than English. As with almost all apps, you will need to supplement your learning with conversational practice with a fluent speaker to see real progress.
Mondly is free for a basic membership, but the premium version costs $9.99 per month or $49.99 for a year.
Mondly is an app designed to help improve English speaking skills. It uses speech-recognition technology to give automatic feedback on students’ spoken English. The app plays audio clips of native speakers asking questions, and users are given a list of possible responses to speak into the microphone.
Recently, Mondly has introduced a VR immersion tool for its premium users, to be able to “meet” virtual speakers in your own house! There is also a chatbot, which is a fun feature: you can send messages to a robot English speaker who has all the time in the world to text you back.
When to use it
For intermediate English speakers, the conversations on Mondly might be too simple. If you are a beginner, however, it’s a great tool for getting over the fear of talking aloud in English! In April 2020, C-net judged it “best for helping to remember specific phrases.”
Some users have complained that grammar explanations are not clear, so it will probably be necessary to use other learning materials too.
Busuu has a free version, but many more features are available to paying members. If billed monthly, Busuu Premium costs $9.99 and Premium Plus $13.99. For three months, Busuu Premium costs $24.99 and Premium Plus costs $28.98. For six months, Busuu Premium costs $34.92 and Premium plus costs $39.96.
The free version of Busuu is a flashcard app with recorded dialogue. There’s a speech recognition tool for you to practice saying the English phrases back. Lessons are designed to last ten minutes at a time.
Premium members get a lot more benefits. There are advanced grammar lessons and content is tailored to your own reasons for learning English. You can make your own study plan, and choose when the app should remind you to study. There’s also a forum for finding language exchange partners. You can chat with people learning your native language who speak English, and swap tips.
When to use it
Like Mondly, Busuu is great for getting comfortable with speaking basic English sentences out loud. Since premium users can choose what they learn (to an extent) it’s a great English learning app for learning a few pieces of relevant vocabulary on the go. However, as with all apps, it will not be sufficient to use Busuu alone if you want to get fluent.
Fluentu starts all users off with a 14-day free trial. After that, a basic plan costs $15 per month, or a premium plan $30 for one month. If you buy a yearly subscription, this costs $120 and $240 respectively.
Fluentu has been called “YouTube for language learners.” It is a bank of videos in English with English subtitles (along with many other different languages), with the option to turn on extra subtitles in your own language. If you don’t understand an English word, you can hover over it and a definition will appear. You can rewind or rewatch videos as many times as you need. There are a wide range of videos to choose from, and you can search them by category, topic or even the word you want to learn.
After watching the video, there is a quiz to check how much you understood, which comes with its own video snippets. New words you learn are automatically input into a flashcard feature, so that you can remember them again later.
Unfortunately, Fluentu’s English course is only currently available to native speakers of Spanish, Korean or Japanese.
When to use it
Fluentu can be very helpful for intermediate to upper-intermediate English learners who need to develop their vocabulary. Some people find that it really works for their learning style, so it’s definitely worth a try.
It is on the expensive side, however. The standard YouTube player can already slow the speed of a video and provide subtitles. We also have plenty of tips for learning English with tv series and films. If you have a limited budget, it’s probably better to invest in skills that are more difficult to learn for free, such as speaking practice.
10. Hello English
The free version has very useful lessons, but the adverts can be disruptive. There are three tiers of membership. The basic plan costs ₹1,550 (about $21) for three months, the certified plan costs ₹2,200 ($30) for three months and comes with the potential to work towards an accredited certificate, and the experiential plan costs ₹ 12,000 9about ($160) for three months and comes with the certificate and live video chat lessons and a dedicated personal coach.
Hello English aims to cover all of the main language learning skills including listening, writing, reading, grammar, and even speaking. Like Duolingo, the app is good at persuading you to work on your English a little each day. You are assigned daily “homework” — video and audio lessons to complete which are relevant to your level. If you complete your homework, you can unlock new lessons. There are also a number of addictive learning games, and a feature to practice English using subjects of the day’s news.
Unlike most other English learning apps, there are several opportunities to connect with English speakers. There is a 24-hour helpline which allows you to ask any questions you have about learning English. You can also pay a one-time fee of anywhere between $1 and $140 to video chat with an English tutor. There are also user forums to connect with other learners and practice messaging in English.
With Hello English, you can learn English from twenty-five different native languages. It is most popular with students in Asian countries, particularly India, where the company is based.
When to use it
Hello English is a good app for practicing all of your language skills, and is well worth downloading if it is available in your native language. You might need clearer explanations of grammar rules, so it could be worth finding another resource for that. Hello English’s video chat lessons can quickly become expensive, so you might need to consider other options for that too.
The free version is very good and works for most people. Beyond that, it gets a little complicated. You can buy individual stories for a price of about $1, you can subscribe for $1.99 per month to unlock all stories, or you can buy a lifetime subscription to view all stories for $24.99.
It is worth mentioning that Beelinguapp is only available in twelve languages at the moment: Spanish, German, Portuguese, Korean, French, Hindi, Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Japanese, and English.
Beelinguapp is a collection of free stories that you can read in English, with translations in your native language shown at the same time. As we discussed in our article on how to memorize new words, reading is one of the best ways to gain English vocabulary! All texts come with an audio feature, so you can hear the English words said allowed. You can also use it as an audiobook app, without reading along to the story.
When to use it
Beelinguapp is a fast-growing new learning app which is great for English learners of all stages to work on their listening and reading skills. It won’t help you with writing or speaking practice, but it’s a useful, free tool to have in your collection.
Hundreds of courses are offered and prices vary. Expect to pay between $20 and $200 for a well-reviewed course, depending on how many resources are included.
Udemy is a vast catalog of online courses designed for users to pick up new skills. It’s not just for learning languages: you can learn everything from HTML coding, to photography, to how to talk to ghosts. There are many different English courses, and each comes with its own unique focus and strengths. They are mostly made up of pre-recorded video lessons and accompanying exercises, which can be downloaded and used on a phone or a computer. Courses are reviewed, so you can see which ones were most helpful to other users.
When to use it
If you know what aspect of the English language you want to work on, then Udemy can help you focus on them. There are specific courses for perfecting your grammar, others for learning business vocabulary, and others still for practicing your spelling and punctuation. However, without a teacher to guide you through the courses, you may not realize where you are going wrong. It’s a great resource when used alongside more speaking practice.
A basic version is free and most users find that enough. Grammarly Premium costs $29.95 for one month, $59.95 for three months or $139.95 for a year.
If you are an intermediate to advanced ESL learner, then you might be at a point where you are using your phone to write in English a lot. Perhaps you are messaging your friends, tweeting, or writing work emails in English. Grammarly is a tool which automatically corrects your spelling and grammar mistakes, no matter what application you are using. The tool uses AI so it doesn’t always get it right, but it can help prevent embarrassing errors.
Want to brush up on your grammar skills? Check out What is the past simple tense in English?
When to use it
This is a tool for students who have been studying English long enough to be using it in casual conversation. Even some native English speakers use Grammarly just to double-check their spellings. It won’t help with listening, speaking or reading skills, but it might highlight the grammar mistakes you make often.
Tandem is free to download, and most users find this version meets their needs fine. There are, however, a number of upgrades available. If you are struggling to read messages, you can get unlimited message translations for $2.99. Tandem Pro costs $6.99 for one month, $21.99 for six months or $34.99 for a year. You can also book video lessons with private tutors through tandem at various prices.
Tandem is one of many language exchange apps — it’s probably the most popular one in the Western world. The concept is simple: it connects ESL learners with fluent English speakers who are trying to learn that ESL learner’s native language. The idea is that you and your English-speaking partner swap language skills. You spend half the time messaging in your native language and half the time messaging in English, so that both parties can get some practice for free. You can text, send voice messages, or even video chat (if you trust your new friend!)
Tandem Pro allows users to connect with members in a specific city or their hometown, so they can meet in person, and removes adverts from the platform. However, the main benefit of Tandem Pro is in supporting this useful, free learning tool.
Tandem has also recently introduced a feature to connect with a language tutor through the app for sessions between twenty minutes and one hour long.
When to use it
Tandem gives you practice at interacting with fluent English speakers. You can test your language skills with real people without leaving your house, or spending money! It is highly recommended for intermediate-level students to cement all that they have learned. Language exchanges through Tandem can be hard to organize at first, but they are definitely worth it.
Finding your language exchange inefficient, but keen to practice engaging with a fluent English speaker? Book an hour with a Preply English tutor to focus on exactly the skills you need.
Interested in learning more about language exchange apps? Check out our article on the 10 Best language exchange apps & websites of 2022.
15. The British Council Learn English Grammar
Free — it is paid for by the many adverts in the app.
This popular app is solely dedicated to teaching English grammar. Users can work from Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced level topics, with each stage containing 12 grammar topics. There are over 1000 example questions to help you practice, so it is well worth your time investment.
Although it is from the British Council, there is also a US version.
Where it fits in your plan to learn English
This app makes no claim to teach you anything else except English grammar. You’ll need other resources to learn the many other necessary skills, but as a free course on the very confusing structure of English, it is worth using.