Once upon a time, with only a couple of platforms and a few models on offer, choosing a smartphone was easy. Now, there are countless models and several platforms to choose from, with the promise of newer, better, shinier versions permanently on the horizon.
You might know what features you’re after, but how do you know which operating system (OS) runs better? We compare each aspect of the top four in this article – Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Nokia’s Symbian 3 - read on to find out which OS wins.
iOS is the easiest mobile operating system; it’s intuitive and has been designed logically, beautifully and simply.
While Android is generally still quite easy to operate, because it’s used by a range of manufacturers users won’t find that they will easily switch from one to another.
Symbian ^3 is user friendly and, unlike Android, you don’t have to worry about mastering different interface layouts on different devices.
Windows Phone 7 looks amazing, but falls down on the need to press and hold certain items to display additional options and to unlock the screen before receiving a call, as well as the peculiar search button behaviour. A lack of multitasking and copy-paste functions. That said, the keyboard is up there with Google’s Gingerbread and iOS.
iOS 4.0’s UI, when used with the iPhone 4, is smooth throughout with no noticeable lag, even when switching between multiple applications.
While it does suffer occasional stutters,Android runs fairly well with capable hardware, although it tends to be slow on lesserhandsets. With the likes of the Honeycomb-powered LG Optimus 3D Pad due for imminent release, the android tabletcould soon overtake iOS’s lead in the tablet market.
A fairly light OS,Symbian can be run by weaker hardware, thus removing the need to unnecessarily ramp up the hardware (using more power in the process). As a result, these phoneshave the longest battery life.
Well optimized and always complemented by quality hardware,Windows Phone 7 performance is unbeatable. Unfortunately though, thisefficiency is only limited to the default applications: third-party applications don’t live up to Microsoft’s high standards.
As the oldest of the four platforms here,iOShas still hardly undergone any major UI makeover – it still looks great, has lovely menu transitions and possesses a real timelessness.
Having changed considerably with each update, Android has lost some of its simplicity and perhaps picked up some unnecessary elements, such as the 3D image gallery and live wallpapers. It still looks good though.
Symbian ^3 lags behind in the modernity stakes. It doesn’t look terrible but doesn’t match the other brands. The applications are scattered across the menu screen and the keyboard could be better.
Windows Phone 7 – the youngest here – sports a beautiful, contemporary, smooth and very original user interface.
iOSusers can now install applications, multitasking, copy-paste and folders,leaving little room for complaint. However, it lacksBluetooth file transfer, file manager, mass storage, homescreen widgets and FM radio capabilities and more besides.
Features are Android’s strongpoint.Google’slatest release has almost every feature going, whether it’s multitasking, widgets, tethering, Wi-Fi hotspot or Adobe Flash support, Android does it all.
Symbian ^3 has almost every feature that you get on Android, along with some that you don’t, such as FM radio and USB On-the-Go connectivity, plusthree handy home-screen widgets andmulti-tasking and copy-paste as standard.
Although Windows Phone 7 will eventually incorporate more features through updates and already has some good ones such as the home-screen ‘Hub’ tiles, Xbox Live support, Zune Pass and Office integration, Microsoft’s offer’s just not good enough to compete against rivals.
iOShas over 300,000 generally high quality applications available, with some of them having truly revolutionized the way we use our smartphones. If you’re mad about apps, then iOS isthe platform to use.
With over 25,000 apps available, Google is catching up with iOS,but with most already available on iOS and the remaining ones being Google’s own anyway, there’s nothing of particular note here.
There’s a vast selection of apps available forSymbian but they have, until the recent arrival of Nokia’s Ovi Store, been difficult to access. Things are looking better now but there’s nothing to shout about.
Windows Phone 7 has the least impressive and most expensive library of applications available and, although the platform is still relatively new, there’s no excuse for the sheer lack of apps for eager new customers.
Offering the best combination of features, performance and applications and able to run even onrelatively inexpensive handsets,Android wins. Android has crept slightly ahead of iOS, which has until now been hailed as king of the smartphones – so if you can’t afford an iPhone 4, get an Android.
|Change in price of a download app over 12 months, 2010 according to Distimo|
|App store||Apple||Blackberry||Ovi (Nokia)||Android|
|Number of apps||300,000||18,000||130,000||25,000|
|Price change||All apps||-12||-24||+1||-29|
|Top 100 apps||-19||-24||-9||-61|
|Source: The Distimo report (January 2011)||via: mobiThinking|
|Worldwide smartphone operating system (OS) market share in 2009-2015, according to Gartner||Smartphone OS market share and compound annual growth rate 2011-2015, according to IDC|
|Total smartphones sold||172 million||297 million||468 million||631 million||450 million||N/A||19.6%|
|Source: Gartner (April 2011)||Source: IDC (March 2011)||via:mobiThinking|