Today, choice of a smartphone is not only governed by features and cool looks, but also by the OS that runs on it. Here we analyze and compare the major smartphone operating systems, including iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone.
It is said that Newton thought about the principles of gravity when he saw an apple falling from a tree. In the field of IT, Apple has always been almost game-changing. They have designed iOS to run only on devices marketed by Apple itself. This has both good and bad sides to it. The good side is that this brings in a sense of exclusivity and an aspirational factor when you own a iOS device, be it an iPhone or an iPad. Another factor that adds to this is that Apple hasn’t created too many variants of its products. There’s only the iPhone and iPad available in 2-3 configurations each. However, even the price for the base model is high enough for most buyers to consider.
The OS itself is easy to use and gives an extremely good user experience, thanks to the support for retina displays and a perfect touchscreen experience. On supported hardware, OS upgradability is smooth. The lack of Flash support hasn’t really deterred users from becoming fans of iOS (and Apple as a whole).
Where Apple does emerge as a clear winner is in the application ecosystem. This acts as a win-win for all three parties involved –the user, Apple and the developer. Apple follows a rigorous application approval process due to which the overall quality of available applications is bound to grow. Developers are given an easy way to track their application usage in detail, besides getting their share of the revenue. There is currently no support for external storage and this is one of the key reasons why Apple’s smartphone dominance in the US has not reflected to the same scale elsewhere. The built-in applications can work seamlessly with iTunes, which is by itself a very good product. Many C-level (top level) executives do use the iPhone as their business phone though, because it is very reliable.
BlackBerry has a reasonably large range of devices to choose from and they are readily available in Nigeria. An entry level BlackBerry device costs less than thirty thousand naira and this has caused many casual users to explore the BlackBerry platform. While the built-in applications such as secure push mail and BBM have been huge hits and it has support for external storage, it’s application marketplace hasn’t been so successful. BlackBerry holds its own in the enterprise, where it is widely trusted to be secure for communication and collaboration.
Thanks to the openness of the Android platform, the available device range for this OS is so wide that many models in the Nigerian market are cheaper than most feature phones, although still costlier than the basic phones. It has been reported to be not as easy to use as other mobile OSes though. Many term Android as a mobile OS for the geek. The widespread penetration of Android has also resulted in high fragmentation, and this is acting as a bane. OS updates reach different users in pretty different time-frames. That said, one of the key reasons Android has been so successful in Nigeria is that the OS supports sideloading apps out of the box. You can get Android applications from any source and install them. There are marketplaces from vendors such as Amazon. This makes it easy for the user to share applications and this seems to have caught on with Nigerian users, thanks to its affordability and external storage support. Users can themselves develop applications and install them on their device (as well as share them with others) without requiring to use any marketplace at all. The Android marketplace too is pretty large (although not as large as Apple’s) but due to the support for sideloading, malware is seen to be creeping into the Android marketplace and Google is reported to be taking efforts to curb the menace.
The built-in applications are obviously designed to work flawlessly with Google’s services such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. One advantage of the open architecture is that there are extensive sources of both professional and community support available for both users as well as developers. Jelly Bean holds promise as a mobile OS but given the current lack of uniformity in the distribution of Android upgrades, it will take time before it reaches the mass in sizable numbers. In fact, developers too have been having a hard time since they need to target multiple versions of Android.
Windows Phone Mango and Beyond
It was only after Nokia’s Lumia range of handsets were launched that users began to take note of the new mobile OS from Microsoft. New because it is radically different from Windows Mobile (the last version being 6.5.3), both on the surface as well as under the skin. Unlike Windows Mobile , Windows Phone was developed keeping the consumer in mind. Currently there are a few second generation devices available in the market which come with Windows Phone Mango pre-installed. Nokia’s Lumia range also brought a decrease in the entry barrier to a more acceptable price point for a wider user base.
Like most consumer-focused software developed by Microsoft, Windows Phone is absolutely simple to use. In fact, many reviewers even termed this as a negative point stating that the OS might seem too unappealing to advanced users. Upgradability is a big pain though. Not only was there no officially supported means of upgrading a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 device to Windows Phone 7, but also Windows Phone 7 devices will not be upgradable to Windows Phone 8! This has caused widespread frustration amongst owners of Windows Phone devices, both first-generation as well as those who only recently purchased one. This is quite a drastic change from the desktop scenario where your Windows Vista-capable PC can run Windows 8 as well with no hardware changes requireds (unless you want to use the touch-optimized UI full-time). Sideloading first-party applications requires the device to be `developer-unlocked`, else you can install applications and games only through the official marketplace. The marketplace too was launched here in India only after the release of Windows Phone Mango about a year ago, when Microsoft officially launched the OS here. Although most of the popularly used iOS and Android applications have been ported for Windows Phone as well, in terms of sheer numbers, the marketplace is pretty small compared to Android/iOS. It is expanding very fast though, thanks to initiatives by Microsoft for developers such as the `I unlock joy` program, which is specific to India. Currently no devices support external storage. In fact, until the second generation devices, there were even no devices with a front-facing camera. The built-in applications such as Internet Explorer 9 mobile, Office 2010 mobile (including not just Word, Excel and PowerPoint but also SharePoint integration, Outlook and OneNote) , XBox Live and Zune, combined with best-in-class social network integration, has been a killer app as a whole for Windows Phone.
Other notable choices
Nokia’s combination of Symbian, Maemo/Meego and QT are each by themselves worthy platforms but they are slowly losing market share. And while Samsung’s Bada has not exactly lost market share, awareness about it amongst consumers remains very low.
There are things to look forward to in addition to the already released Android 4.1 and iOS 6. Windows Phone 8 is set to hit the market soon as well as BlackBerry 10 most probably after a few months. There is no stopping the surge in sales of smartphones.
Reference : PCQUEST