Much has changed since my original post. View the update post Revisited – The Difference Between “Droid” and “Android” here.
What’s going on here?
The purpose of this article is to act as a stepping stone to properly educate users on the differences between the classifications of cell phones and their meanings. Mainly because it is a pet peeve of mine to hear one over the other. While it’s not a huge deal, there is a meaningful difference.
While many believe “Droid” to be the proper shortening of “Android,” I would like to present to you, the reader, the important difference between the two when relating to smart phones. In a nutshell, “Droid” is the name of a specific phone offered through Verizon online, while “Android” is the name of the operating system that runs on the “Droid” (and “Droid Eris”, and any other future Verizon phone with the Droid name as licensed by Lucasfilms) and a plethora of other phones. This article attempts to compare the “Android” operating system with the “Motorola Droid”, ignoring the “HTC Droid Eris” for increased clarity.
Why is this?
The root of the confusion between Droid and Android begins with the misunderstanding of the workings of a cell phone. In today’s world of technology and evolution, cellular phones are resembling personal computers more and more. This being said, we can relate the inner workings of a cell phone to the inner workings of a personal computer.
Can you tell me more?
A personal computer has three main attributes by which it can be classified: the brand or company that sells and distributes it, the operating system that runs on the device, and the “nickname” of sorts by which the individual models are known. In the case of a personal computer, the “brand” can be something like HP, Dell, Toshiba, Apple, or Asus. The “operating system” of a personal computer is generally a version of Windows, Macintosh, or a type of Linux. “Nicknames” are very diverse, from the Eee PC 701 to the Macbook Pro. So you would say your “Dell” made “Inspiron 1000“‘s Operating System is “Windows XP“.
A cell phone, similarly, has three main attributes by which it can be classified: the brand or company that sells and distributes it, the operating system that runs on the device, a “nickname” by which the individual models are known, and also the company that sells the “service plan,” (the service provider), often including minutes, data, and text messaging. “Brands” of cell phone include names such as Apple, Motorola, Blackberry, HTC, Samsung, or Nokia. The operating systems of these phones range from Symbian, Bada, Android, RIM, or iPhone OS. The “nicknames” for phones are also very diverse, ranging from the Wave to the Dream to the iPhone 3GS. Often, there are multiple “nicknames” of a single phone, depending on the distributer. Being a telephone, the fourth attribute is the service provider of the phone. The four main service providers in the United States are Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
What does this mean?
Generally, there is an overlapping hierarchy of these classifications ranging from broadest to most narrow. The hierarchy is overlapping because the same operating system can be used on multiple phones on multiple different service providers. Similarly, the same “brand” may create multiple phones, each using different operating systems, also on multiple service providers. However, more often than not, the “nickname” of a phone is specific to one set of attributes.
For instance, the “G1″ is a phone with the following characteristics: Brand-HTC, Operating System-Android, Service Provider-T-Mobile. By saying the nickname of this phone, it is understood that the previously mentioned attributes hold true. As mentioned earlier, some devices also have more generic nicknames. For example, the “G1″ can also be referred to as the “Dream.” This holds true because the “Dream” is the name the physical creator, HTC, gave this device. The “Dream” is marketed both in Canada by the service provider “Rogers,” under the “nickname” “Dream” and in the United States by the service provider “T-Mobile,” under the “nickname” “G1″. The “T-Mobile G1″ has one specific set of attributes, while the “Rogers Dream” has another specific set of attributes.
How does this relate to Droid and Android?
Now that we have addressed the meanings behind the names of some phones and attempted to address some generalities, we can address the difference between “Droid” and “Android”. In the case at hand, “Droid” is the “nickname” for a particular set of attributes. This set is as follows: Brand-Motorola, Operating System-Android, Service Provider-Verizon, Nickname-Droid. The “Motorola Droid” is also sold in Europe and Canada as the “Motorola Milestone,” another nickname with a specific set of attributes.
The Operating System of the phone is called Android. The “Nickname” of the phone is called Droid.
But why does it matter?
There are many devices that run the Android operating system. However, there is only one device that is known as Droid. For this reason, calling every “Android Phone” a Droid both belittles the Android name and unnecessarily bolsters the reputation of the Droid.