What is the Android System? Essentially, it's everything that is included in Android Open Source Project, which is available for anyone to use.
The Android System is pretty much just the core of the operating system that's on your Android phone. Think of it as the skeleton of what's running on your smartphone. And One UI, Oxygen OS and others as the skin of that skeleton. After all, they are called skins anyways.
Now, if you want to know what Android is all about, you can read this. In this article, we'll be going far more in-depth about what the Android System actually is.
What are Google Core Services?
The Google Core Services, which are actually called Google Mobile Services, houses all of the Google apps and underlying services that are included in your Android device. This is not bundled with AOSP, and is only part of the Android System if Google has certified the device.
For instance, Huawei smartphones use Android, but they are not certified by Google and therefore do not have Google services.
Apps that are included in Google Mobile Services include: Gmail, Chrome, Drive, Duo, Play Store, YouTube, YouTube Music, Maps and Photos. These are all pre-installed on any Google-certified Android device. There are other Google apps available, but these are pre-installed on every single device that Google has certified.
Now under-the-hood, there's even more. Mostly, Google Play Services. This is the underlying software that works with Google to bring all of its services to your smartphone. It's basically the glue that holds everything together, with your Google account.
What is Google Play Services?
To put it simply, Google Play Services is a background service that runs on any Android device that has been certified by Google.
This helps Google push out updates to devices too, helping with its much documented fragmentation issue. It won't send you new versions of Android. But any crucial changes being made to APIs and such, can be updated using Google Play Services. And Google is able to update all Android devices at the same time, via this method.
It also helps integrate advanced functionalities with other apps. Google Play services is an API for developers that developers can use to enhance communication between apps. There are a number of other API's included in Google Play Services, that can help aid a user.
Some of the APIs included in Google Play Services include: Google Maps API, Location APIs, Google Drive API, Google Play Game Services, Google+ platform, Google Cast Android API, and Google Mobile Ads. Thanks to all of this being included in a single service, users are also able to adjust what information each of these APIs have access to, from the Google app on their Android device.
What features are included in the Android System?
Every year, with every new version of Android, Google gives users many new features. Some are user-facing features and some are not. But there are a good amount of features that are included in the Android System that are worth learning more about.
Keep in mind that these features are part of Android as a whole. Which means that any Android smartphone that has a skin on it – from OnePlus, LG, Samsung, and others – will have these features. These are the core features that might be used as building blocks for other manufacturers.
Google introduced Gesture Navigation with Android 9 Pie back in 2018, and has refined them every year since. The idea behind Gesture Navigation is to make it easier to use these phones. With smartphones getting larger and larger every single year.
With Gesture Navigation, you get more screen real estate, as you don't have the buttons at the bottom of the screen. The basic set of gestures include swiping up from the bottom to go home. Swiping up and pausing to open up your recent apps. And swiping in from the left or right to go back. To get to the Google Assistant, you can swipe in from the bottom left or right corners.
While Google does force all of its partners to use its own Gesture Navigation, partners aren't limited to just offering Google's option. Samsung, for example, offers their own gestures, along with Google's, on its latest devices. Giving users the ultimate choice of which gesture navigation they prefer.
One of the most popular features in Android in recent years, has been Dark Mode. Google had went through a period where it made the entire operating system bright, with loads of white space. Which is fine and all, but when you're using your phone in the dark – like in bed or at night – that white space can really blind your eyes. And that's where dark mode comes in.
With Dark Mode, you can make the entire operating system dark. Now dark mode in the Android System does not use true black, instead it's a dark gray most of the time. Though partners are able to adjust this for their phone smartphones, and Samsung does use a true black for its dark mode.
All smartphones running Android 10 or later have support for Dark Mode. It's a feature that Google has forced all of its partners to use on its smartphone.
With smartphones getting larger and larger, Multi-Window Mode is getting more and more popular. As this allows you to have two apps on the screen at once. This feature is particularly useful with foldables.
Having two apps open at once can be very useful. For example, if you are looking for directions while you're walking around San Francisco, but also want to catch up on Twitter, you can have both of those open on your screen at the same time.
Samsung was actually first to do multi-window, with the Galaxy Note smartphones. But Google since then added it to the Android System.
In recent years, there's been some changes to multi-window mode, making it even more useful. Which is picture-in-picture. This works in apps like YouTube, Netflix and Google Maps. Allowing you to keep watching a video, while you're in another app. With Google Maps, it means you can still have navigation open while you're checking your email or doing something else.
Many of us spend way to much time on our smartphones these days. Which is why Android now has Digital Wellbeing. This lets you know just how much time you're spending on your phone everyday, and breaks it down by app.
But, Digital Wellbeing is more than just telling you how much time you're spending on Twitter. It's also a set of tools to help you use your phone less. Digital Wellbeing can set a limit on screen time, and also help you wind down faster when getting into bed.
Initially, Digital Wellbeing was only for Pixel devices, but it is now part of the Android System and is included in non-Pixel smartphones as well. And while it might seem like a silly feature to include, it's very vital in today's world.
What security and privacy features are included?
Android has many security features built into the system. Google has been at the forefront of offering enhanced security for its over 2.5 billion users. And are introducing new measures, behind-the-scenes to make the Android System as safe as possible.
This includes protecting users from downloading malware with Google Play Protect, protecting users from exploits with monthly security updates and even using a secure lock screen so that thieves can't get into your phone as easily.
Google Play Protect
Google Play Protect is a service that mostly runs behind-the-scenes. It is part of the Android System since it is built into Android, but it only works on devices that have Google certification.
One of its primary features is to check out the apps and games that you are downloading from the Play Store. To ensure that you are not downloading anything that could be malicious. It scans and verifies over 50 billion apps every single day. Instead of only scanning apps when they are uploaded to the Play Store, Google scans them when you download them as well. To make sure that nothing fishy happens.
It also includes Safe Browsing Protection in Chrome, which will keep you from entering some fishy websites, or those that aren't secure. It will show you a red screen telling you the website is unsafe and telling you to go back. But you can still proceed if you know the site is safe.
The last major feature of Google Play Protect is, Find My Device. With this feature, you can open up your laptop and sign into your Google account to find out where your phone is. It'll be shown on a map, so you can see if you left it at home, or possibly at your significant other's house. It also allows you to lock the device, ring the device, and even show a message on the device. So if someone finds it, they know who to return it too. Now, if you think its lost for good, you can erase all of your data from it too, all done remotely.
Monthly Security Updates
The Android System does also get monthly security updates, the first Monday of each month Google releases them. These are typically small OTA updates, that mostly patch exploits found in the software. By updating smartphones every single month with patches for these exploits, users are safer than ever before. So they don't have to worry about someone gaining access to their phone from a text message.
Google pushes these updates to the Pixel lineup every single month. Other manufacturers have different schedules. But for the most part, most smartphones get a security update once a quarter (about every three months). So instead of getting more frequent small updates, you're getting less frequent larger updates.
Secured Lock Screen
Starting with Android 7.0 Nougat, all smartphones have support for hardware secured lockscreen. This means a fingerprint sensor, for the most part. With the exception of the Pixel 4 series which just uses face unlock.
This is all part of the Biometrics API that Google released with Android Nougat – it was the Fingerprint API, then updated to Biometrics API with the addition of Face Unlock on the Pixel 4 in 2019. This API can be used by apps for authentication, which is safer than a password, as only you have your fingerprint, or face.
It works for lock screens, to secure all of your data, but also for other apps. Like password managers and banking apps.
How do I get updates for the Android System?
Google controls the Android System, and usually puts out one major update each year. Usually the update goes out around August or September. With the early betas starting back in February or March.
Once Google releases the code for the new version of Android, it is sent to AOSP and also sent to its partners. These partners include Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and others. Their partners then begin getting the new version of Android working on their existing smartphones. And integrated in with their skin and other software.
In recent years, Google has been giving its partners the code early for upcoming versions of Android. Which allows the updates to come out sooner for non-Pixel smartphones.
Prior to Android 10, Google named each version of Android after a dessert. Going from Cupcake to Pie. The first two versions did not receive a dessert name, as they were Alpha and then beta. Starting with Android 1.5 Cupcake, Google began using desserts for their names. Which helped Android stand out, and made it easier to remember what version of Android you were on. Google even did a brand deal with Nestle for Android 4.4 KitKat, which rolled out Android-shaped KitKat bars.
The only thing a user can do to get a new Android system update would be to head into the settings. Then tap on About Phone, tap on System Updates and finally "Check for new Update".
What is the Android System?
Well, basically, the Android System is basically the skeleton of the operating system that is on your smartphone. Google creates the skeleton and its partners create the skin, which results in what Android has become today. Many features that are part of the Android System came from partners like Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, OnePlus and others. All of which have made Android better with each passing year.
There's a lot of things happening behind-the-scenes in the Android System. So the next time you see "Android System" in your battery stats and wonder why, well that's why. A lot of things are happening without you noticing it happening. And that's actually a good thing.