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Android A to Z: A glossary of Android jargon and technical terms

Nick Mediati | Dec. 11, 2015
Do you know your ARM from your API from your ADB? We clear up the sometimes confusing terminology in the world of Android.

nexus phones

Despite its small size, your Android phone is an incredibly complicated and powerful piece of gear. It can get you online, take photos, make phone calls—it can even pay for your groceries. There’s a lot going on, which means a lot to learn, even if you’re otherwise savvy about technology.

We’re here to help. Knowing these terms will help you get a better grasp on the tech that powers your phone. Bookmark this page for future reference, and if you have any other terms you think we should include, feel free to leave a comment below.

ADB, otherwise known as Android Debug Bridge, is a developer tool that lets you send commands to an Android device you’ve connected to your computer. It’s a fairly advanced tool, and you run it through the command line on your PC or Mac, but if you ever want to install, say, a developer preview release of Android on your phone, you’ll need to delve into ADB.

android studio
Android Studio is your one-stop shop for building Android apps.

Android Studio is Google’s software development kit (a collection of programing apps and tools, abbreviated SDK) that developers use to build apps for Android devices. Android Studio includes a code editor, various code templates you can use as the basis of your app, device simulators for testing your apps, and numerous other development tools. Want to learn more about building apps for Android? Hop on over to Google’s Android Developers site.

API: Short for Application Programming Interface. APIs are functions that developers can call on to access specific features by calling upon programs, code, and services that others have written. For example, if a developer wants to draw a button on the screen, she can insert a small bit of code that says “draw this kind of button, with this color and size and style, at this location” instead of dozens of lines of code that tells the graphics processor, in detail, exactly how to draw a button. If the application wants your location, it can use the location API to “get the device’s location” and let Google’s code handle the rest, instead of requiring the developer to build an entire location service from scratch just for her own app. There are thousands of APIs in Android, covering everything from drawing interface elements, to the cameras, to location access, to accessing storage, to 3D graphics (see: OpenGL ES) and much more.

ARM usually refers to the processor architecture that is most commonly found in mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. While ARM-based processors can vary widely—you’ll find them in both the smallest mobile devices as well as high-end servers—the variants used inside smartphones and tablets are designed to be smaller and to consume less energy than the processors you’ll typically find in your PC.


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