Jan 25 AT 12:30 PM Nick Sarafolean 22 Comments

What sets Android apart?

Android 4.4 Kitkat

In order to make something great, it has to have something that sets it apart. In the tech world, this definitely holds true. With a Nexus phone, it’s the software. With a Galaxy Note device, it’s the size and specialized features. So what is Android’s stand-out feature?

Flexibility. When it comes to operating systems, there’s really no other operating system on the market than can match the flexibility of Android. It is possible to argue that some of the other Linux-based operating systems technically can match it in flexibility, but you’re probably going to need some serious technical knowledge to achieve the same results. Android makes it easy to customize your phone and change things up the way you like.

Let’s start with a basic flexibility factor: the homescreen. Android has a simple homescreen layout that stays the same across most devices. But if you don’t like that homescreen set-up, there’s nothing to stop you from changing it up entirely. Launchers are widely available that entirely change your homescreen. There are launchers that simply change it to a stock Android layout such as Nova Launcher. Then there are launchers like Chameleon Launcher that convert it into something else entirely.

Rather than changing the homescreen as a whole, you can change individual aspects of the homescreen. Just yesterday, we previewed Lumos, one of the latest icon packs to hit the market. Icon packs are one of the many ways with which you can change your homescreen. The layout can be fully changed, and widgets can be added, resized and customized to your heart’s content. With Android, you can craft your perfect homescreen.

Deeper into the software, the entire OS can be changed. Practically any operating system that’s built on a Linux core can be made to run on an Android device. This is one of the most important features of Android. It’s spawned an enormous amount of alternative operating systems that are both based off Android and that simply run off a Linux core. The entire modding community behind popular custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod and Paranoid Android depend on this feature. It’s one of the golden pieces of the customizability puzzle.

Outside of software, customizable hardware is beginning to become a reality with Android. With the operating system being so flexible, it’s entirely viable to have modular hardware. That’s exactly what the plan behind Motorola’s Project Ara is. Modular hardware that’s entirely open-source can be paired with the open-source software that is Android. Theoretically, you could create the exact phone of your dreams with the flexibility of modular hardware and software. Best of all, it’s completely flexible to be changed whenever you feel the urge.

This flexibility is advertised, but it could be sold much more. Android’s flexibility is its golden feature–the highlight of the entire operating system. Google and manufacturers need to underscore that and make consumers aware of everything that their Android device can do. They need to show consumers that what they see isn’t just what they get.

Time for your input. Are you in agreement that Android’s best feature is its flexibility? Or is it something else?

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • praveen kithani

    agreed flexibilty… the best feature

  • Wayne Jones

    I left apple because I wanted a larger screen to work with. Once I realized the customization potential of my Note 2 I fell in love. Add to this, all the gimmicky features I can choose to use and it’s an awesome product. I have since converted my friends from apple just by showing them all things you can do with an android device. Now I can feel as though my Note 2 is mine and not a copy of everyone else’s.

  • Miguel Chasco

    Android no deja de sorprender en la integración de los demás programas y su conexión entre ellos! Es perfecto para publicar, compartir, cambiar a tu gusto, hacer que la misma terminal sea ‘otra’ con conocimientos simples, ES simple, creo que tiene MUCHO para ofrecer cono ejemplo a operativos ‘industriales’ web ‘ser actual y adaptarse’ como a Windows y iOS de Apple.

  • stu3D64bit14nmUD

    Flexibility is not the greatest strength of Android, it’s lack of bloatware. Projects like Butter and Svelte, where the emphasis is on speed / reliability, or actually reducing the strain on the hardware. Instead of feature creep, if anything I much prefer stock / vanilla Android, to skins that suck RAM and flash. Skins suck the life out of hardware, there where most viruses, malware and spyware get in. See the MIT studies, Windows 8 tries to be all things to all people and what an awful shemozzle it is.
    I love the way the Googameistro weaves a symphony orchestra of hardware, software, internet services. If anything, I’d like to see less fragmentation, I love my Nexus 5 and 7 FHD. Apple is successful, precisely because it is so simple and reliable. They’ll put up with tiny screens, miniature RAM, high costs. Our advantage isn’t flexibility, it’s free OS, free services, free apps, price performance. For your dollars, you get a better deal, as advertising pays, for most of it. The risk of flexibility / fragmentation, is huge as we move to 14 nm, 64 bit, UD 4k. We’ll have big flash like 128 GB and 4/6 GB of GRAM, in the name of all that’s good about Google, lets keep it simple stupid. If anything further simplify, Jelly Bean, Kit Kat are the right way to go about it, but more so, like Chrome OS on tablets and smartphones. By using an apps ecosystem, we can avoid the horrible things, that have happened to the desktop. I’m a dip elect comp tech net admin, but like a lot of others, I’ve largely abandoned the desktop, it’s become unmanageable. I tested Win 8, a year before it was released, put it on an 8 core, with 32 GB of RAM, it was so bad, I now run it in 32 bit mode. Without an office, or Chrome, it’s so crashtastick, I don’t even keep a partition for Server 2012 anymore, ( which is a lot more reliable than Win 8.) Maybe I don’t like the locked down, charge for everything Apple world. But don’t kill the best thing to happen to IT, still it does allow for experimentation and giving us stock, for hard work.That balance between standards, that make life so much easier and being able to change hardware / software, is about steering a healthy middle road.

    • ZRod

      Well you have to keep in mind you tested Win 8 a year before its release, of course it’ll be crashtastic. I haven’t had any crashes on a quad core with 12 GB of RAM 64 bit version. Well, 8.1 now.
      Isn’t the app ecosystem a big complaint with Windows 8? People don’t want apps on desktops, they want a full desktop application running while running 10 other desktop applications. Linux is too complicated for business use outside of IT departments (which they won’t be allowed to use because that is not what anyone else uses). Macs are only used in creative fields because of the wild stigma they have that they are somehow better. I guess when you pay double the cost of an equivalent Windows computer they better have better something, but most of it is Apple tax.

      • stu3D64bit14nmUD

        No, no, Win 8 was more reliable before it was released, maybe if you buy a box from the store it’s good enough. But if you owner build, it’s a nightmare, it got virused. That cost a printer, modem, hard drive, $100 to virus experts. And my second computer is still down, media center didn’t install, they sent me to tech support. Thinking I’d been virused again, I spent another $100, on $70 worth of media center. My $100 3D Blue Ray player, does a better job. I have never encountered a worse operating system, in nearly a quarter of a century of IT. It crashes at the drop of a hat, compactness and elegance, is not what MS does any more. At NT 4, Office 97, they were so intuitive,reliable, powerful. But after that, with the exception of XP,it was all down hill. Spend thousands on hardware, thousands of hours working with it and you’ll be desperate to use something tightly integrated. You simply cannot have integrity, with that much bloatware. I repeat compact is elegant, it’s worth spending billions on. Get out of the way of the hardware and it can do magic, weigh it down and you work for it, not it works for you. Witness the low sales of Win 8, now contrast that, with the high sales of Android, there’s a reason for that, it’s intuitive. Usually if hardware jocks, supply 10 times the power, to software jockeys, Googameistro makes it twice as user friendly. With MS, it becomes twice as user unfriendly, for every order of magnitude, of extra power, we supply. As much as I’d like it to be untrue, after spending half my life working with MS, I think in our hearts, we all know, it’s true. Windows is like a Mad Max movie, Kit Kat more like the Jetsons and on a fraction of the hardware.

        • stu3D64bit14nmUD

          Forgot to say, I built 200 computers, did most of MCSE, spent a year studying Office 97, qualified as a network administrator. Again after spending half my life with MS, if I can’t get it to work, what hope John Q Citizens.

  • Tommy

    Flexibility and control. I bought my wife an iPad air for Christmas. It’s fast, beautiful, and easy to use. But here, a month later, I’m bored with it. Besides, downloading apps (and there’s not nearly as many apps for iPad as there is in the playstore) there is really not that much you can do. I have a bit of an addiction to flashing, so I can spend all day and night loading roms and playing with settings on my gs4.

  • sobeit

    Android might be more customizable but it’s all Google. If you’re not a Google fan Android is not for you. I bought a HTC One free off contract and I can’t delete anything off the phone that is Google branded. This has seriously screwed my HTC One experience. ( No, I can’t be bothered to root my phone too much of a hassle) . I made a Mistake which I will not repeat. I now own an expensive phone which I hardly ever use. So much for flexibility and control…. I might own my hardware but I definately do not own my phone…. Google owns my phone ….

    • smith

      I know lots of people with Google free Androids. It’s not really that hard, but it does take a little bit of effort. I will say that Google “owns” a LOT less phones than what Apple does. Apple “owns” ALL iphones.

    • Tangent

      You’re complaining about something being too much of a hassle when alternative products make it even harder or not possible at all? Not to mention getting root on my HTC One was just absurdly easy. If the process I had to go through is too much hassle for you I don’t know what to say…

      Let’s see… Download Rumrunner to my pc, plug phone into pc, turn usb debugging on on phone, disable pc’s antivirus and firewall, and double-click Rumrunner file. Damn that Google for making things so complicated!

    • ZRod

      Hate to tell you but you’ll never get away from that. No matter the philosophy of the company, they are there to make money. Go to another smartphone, you’ll just be stuck with Windows, Apple, etc branding. You don’t want branding? You have options: Go get one of those Jitterbug phones (even that has a logo though), or build your own OS/hardware.

  • Francisco Javier

    Flexibility, and price I mean, you can’t have an apple chinesse phone, In my experience you don’t have to pay the price of a trend, you can pay the price of a piece seller. But also don’t go to far, the market of apps now it’s what make a phone usability, if you have a phone with an OS that don’t have the main apps that you use and need, and have the posbility to install other apps you may need in the future, for what have a phone that can’t use? Apps in the appstore are very expensive when in Android is free and well in W8 Market they even exist, or the app with similar functions don’t work as you need, etc. Maybe the hardware it’s not the strong thing with Android and Google, but be realistic, how many options do you have with other apps markets? when you search “flashlight” more than 200 results of free apps come in the play store, when you search in other apps markets, the results are like the middle and more than the half have a big cost

  • OMGitsHUGE

    Wayne Jones is spot on. Who wants a device and OS that looks like a million other people’s phones? Flexibility, customization, uniqueness and size is a key factor for the majority of Android phones and phablets. I know for a fact my Note 3 is unique and that is its selling factor for me and the way I have convinced folk to move to Android.

  • twiztid_gamer

    Flexibility is most definitely what sets Android apart & sets the standard of what an operating system should be, which is what you want it to be not what someone decided it should be for you

  • jamal adam

    Just yesterday a couple of friends and I were talking about all the things you could do on Android. One friend had an iPhone and the other had the S4 and I was showing the one with the S4 all the things she could do while the one with the iPhone felt left out. After reading this article I smiled because it’s definitely true, Android has the flexibility to make it what you want for yourself. It’s not hard to change things, even the ability of having a widget or two on your homescreen changes so much of what it can do and if you want to go further you can customize it to have a different ROM or whatever it is you want. The possibilities are endless and it just makes it, in my opinion, such a great platform for anyone to use and make their own.

  • roiji

    Widgets and other theme replacements.

    If I’m bored with the same old look of my homescreen, I just change widgets.

    Also, with Android, I can see my wallpaper in its full glory when I unlock my screen (I keep my apps on the left and right screen and just my clock widget on my default screen.)

    I haven’t seen a Windows Phone with a wallpaper though..

  • John

    Yeah..well I built the x14 modulator and I can guarantee you that it’s far from crashtastic. Amazing.

  • donger

    Android is great.

  • manoj
  • ZRod

    I suggest you quite telling everyone then because her wage will now sharply decrease due to the influx of supply. Economics. Quite being a dick and making your best friend’s aunt unemployed again.

    Yes, I know it is a scam.

  • ZRod


    Not quite. Although this is what this person should be.