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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.

In truth, most manufacturer “overlays” are not merely overlaying a new interface on top of Android. Rather, the manufacturer has its own individual version of Android with its own interface, features, and hardware optimizations, or even the features for the carrier you bought the phone from. This is one reason Android operating system updates can take so long to reach you (see: Fragmentation). Still, these custom versions of Android are  often colloquially referred to as “overlays.”

Qi and PMA are two competing standards for wireless charging. The Wireless Power Consortium—which includes LG, HTC, and Verizon—backs Qi, while the PMA standard gets its backing from the AirFuel Alliance, a group that includes AT&T, Broadcom, Intel, Powermat, Duracell, and Starbucks. Some companies, like Samsung and Qualcomm, are involved in both groups.

Quick Charge: Typically, fully recharging a phone can take a few hours. Quick Charge, however, can help speed things up: It’s Qualcomm’s name for its fast-charging technology, and the company claims that it can increase your phone’s battery-charging speed by as much as 75 percent. To take advantage of Quick Charge, you need a device that supports it, as well as a Quick Charge wall adapter. Curious if your phone or tablet supports Quick Charge? Take a look at Qualcomm’s compatibility list (PDF). Other phone makers have built their own fast-charging capabilities into their phones—the Nexus 6P and 5X use USB Type-C’s power delivery standard to charge the phone faster, and Samsung has its own fast-charging technology in the Galaxy S6, to name a couple examples.

Rooting: By default, Android has security precautions in place to prevent you—or an unauthorized party—from messing up your phone too badly. When you “root” your phone, you bypass these security measures, which in turn allows you to customize it in ways that are otherwise not possible. You can even replace the Android OS that shipped with your phone with something else like Cyanogenmod, one of many alternative versions of Android out there. Rooting is, specifically, gaining “root access” to the operating system, allowing you to change or replace parts of the OS that you’re not meant to be able to tamper with.

As for the legality of rooting your phone, it’s allowed in the United States as of this writing through an exemption in the DMCA, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The bad news? That exemption runs only through the end of 2015.

Rooting your phone can allow you to do neat things, but it also poses a serious security risk.

Smart Lock: It’s a good idea to use a passcode or password to protect your phone, but it can be a pain to enter it every time you take your phone out of your pocket. Android’s Smart Lock feature can detect when you have your phone with you—when it does, it’ll remain unlocked. Smart Lock has lots of features and methods to unlock your phone: like when your phone is connected to a particular bluetooth device (like your car) or is in a specific location (your home or office). Smart Lock is also built into Chrome OS, and it even works with passwords.

 

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