One of the more exciting products in the world of handheld computers, cell phones, and "smartphones" is the Android operating system, a mobile operating system initially developed by Android Inc., a firm purchased by Google in 2005. Android is based upon a modified version of the Linux kernel. Popularity of the Android operating system has mushroomed in the past year or so as many new Android-based cell phones, tablet computers, and handheld computers have appeared in the marketplace.
Like their competitor, the iPhone, Android-based systems can easily install new programs to add functionality never envisioned by the original developers. The programs must be written for the Android operating system; iPhone programs, Windows programs, Macintosh programs, and other non-Android programs will not work.
Thousands of Android programs are now available, including calorie counters, ebook readers, games, programs to track your personal calendar, database programs for telephone numbers and addresses, and much, much more. However, unlike the iPhone, very few genealogy programs exist for the Android operating system. Luckily, at least two of the available programs that do exist are excellent products.
All of today's genealogy programs for Android devices will display data originally stored in a desktop or laptop genealogy program but will not allow the user to update the information. All new data must be entered on the desktop or laptop genealogy program, then exported to the handheld Android system.
One noteworthy program is FamilyBee. This is a full-featured, robust family tree browser. It allows you to view information about families and individuals stored in GEDCOM genealogy files. GEDCOM files are stored on an SD card inserted into the computer/smartphone/cell phone (almost all Android computers include an SD card slot). FamilyBee lets you store an unlimited number of trees. It supports fast searches over the individuals in the trees and provides specialized views of families, individuals, "pedigree" trees, and descendants. All facts, events, notes, and sources are at your fingertips. The program fully understands the industry standard GEDCOM 5.5 format and supports all official character encodings: ANSEL, ASCII, UTF-8, and UNICODE.
I have used FamilyBee and was very impressed. It is a very professional-looking product and is FAST! Moving from individual to individual in a 3,000-person database happens in the blink of an eye.
You can read more about FamilyBee in my earlier article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2010/08/familybee-for-androidbased-cell-phones.html as well as at the FamilyBee web site at http://beekeeperlabs.com/android.html.
FamilyBee costs $10 and is available from the Android Market.
Another noteworthy program, Gedstar Pro for Android, is an updated version of an earlier program of the same name for the PalmOS™ "Palm Pilot" line of devices. The new and improved Gedstar Pro runs on all Android smartphones and on most other types of Android devices.
GedStar Pro is a two-part application consisting of (1) a Windows application that is used to convert your data from the genealogy program that you use on your Windows PC, and (2) the Android application that is used to view the data on your handheld device. The conversion program will not work on Macintosh systems.
GedStar Pro will import data directly from The Master Genealogist, Legacy Family Tree, or a GEDCOM file created by any modern genealogy program. It will display photos, including those linked from GEDCOM files. It has no known limitations on the amount of data that can be handled, other than the space available on your SD card.
Gedstar Pro for Android has a list price of $19.95. but the producer is discounting it to $14.95 as an introductory price. You can read more about Gedstar Pro for Android at http://ghcssoftware.com/android/ or download it from the Android Market.
One more program bears mentioning. AGeneDB by Andy Ronald Aspell-Clark was the first genealogy program available for Android. It allows you to view the contents of GEDCOM files, showing the individuals, families and family tree. However, Mr. Aspell-Clark announced on 10 Sept 2010, "Only one person has donated to this project (and I do thank you). As there is so little interest in this project I have decided to work on my other projects. Please feel free to download the source code and improve it as you want."
AGeneDB remains available free of charge but is available only "as is." No support will be available, and probably no more updates will be made. For more information, look at http://code.google.com/p/aracagenedb/
Android smartphones continue to sell well in the marketplace since most users are very enthusiastic about the operating system and are quick to recommend it to friends. More genealogy programs for this growing operating system will undoubtedly appear in the coming months and years.