Since the introduction of the App Store, the iPhone has been king in the smartphone market. The iPhone OS, based on Mac OS X, is a powerful platform that has thousands of applications available to it.
There is, however, an alternative to the iPhone platform that has had the tech world stirring. Google and the Open Handset Alliance have joined together to create the Android platform. Android is a smartphone OS that can easily rival the power of the iPhone.
Android is based on Linux â€“ a powerful operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds in 1991. While, Apple's iPhone OS is great, there are areas in which Linux simply beats Mac OS â€“ including in power and customization.
Unlike the iPhone OS, Android is not locked down to any hardware manufacturer or cell carrier. The iPhone OS can only be run on iPhone and iPod Touch devices â€“ which are made only by Apple and are locked into the AT&T network. Android devices span several manufacturers and cell carriers. At present, Dell, HTC, Lenovo, Motorola, and Samsung have Android devices on the market. Currently, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. So a user can choose the device and carrier he wishes to use. Granted, as of now, each carrier will have a limited set of Android devices available for use only with the network, but I believe that will be changing soon. Even so, it's better than being stuck with a single device, the iPhone, on a network like AT&T's.
Android is an open-source platform. If you wonder how one of the stock applications is put together, you can actually look at the source code and use those features in your own application. This is a refreshing change from the iPhone platform â€“ where everything is locked down to the brink of insanity.
As of this writing, the Android Market has approximately 10,000 apps available to users â€“ with more available outside of the store. This is about a tenth of the apps available in the iPhone app store, but considering how new the platform is, I'm confident the gap will close quickly.