In an effort to make the world complex beyond our wildest dreams, cell phone choices have exploded over the past decade. It was not that long ago that cell phone choice was made between the gray Motorola brick or the black Motorola briefcase phone. Then, you could choose between smaller and smaller or, in true futuristic technology, a flip-phone. These days, the term “smartphone” has invaded our brains like a Justin Bieber song.
Phones put out by Apple or Samsung rival the laptops and desktops of 15-20 years ago. And, you can get lost trying to decide which one is for you. You need to choose your carrier, you need to choose the hardware (phones come in all shapes and sizes), and the often overlooked operating system.
Many people are looking for the coolest looking phone with the carrier they currently use and that’s the end of it. However, choosing the operating system that works for you can help to improve your phone experience in ways you did not think of previously.
RIM used to be the 900 pound gorilla throwing around its Blackberry OS weight in the business and personal environment. This has changed with the impressive leaps that Apple and Google have made in the past 5 years or so. Mobile phone OS is dominated by iOS and Android (Apple and Google) with Windows Phone 7 (Microsoft) attempting to carve out its own niche.
Apple’s iOS is currently at 5, Android on Ice Cream Sandwich, and Windows Phone at Mango 7.5. The current top end phones to choose from are the Apple iPhone 4s, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and Nokia Lumia 800. There are arguments that can be made for days about the available hardware and the carrier choices between these phones, but we are focused on only the operating system for now.
Figure 1. Techstify.com Phone Comparison
The biggest defining factor between the operating systems is a nebulous description of each system’s “openness”. Terminology is thrown around and, sometimes, you can get lost in the bias of whoever is selling you a device. Is the “walled garden” for you? What is the “walled garden”? Where do I find a “walled garden”?
The “walled garden” is used to describe the system that Apple has designed with its iOS. The operating system is setup in a particular way, with particular settings, and any customization is done within Apple’s guidelines. Android, on the other hand, is far more open with countless customizable options and changes available for everything under the sun. Mango 7.5 and Microsoft have tried to stake out a safe middle zone, but drift towards the idea of a “walled garden”. They want you to use the phone in a certain way.
The most defining factor is a user’s ability to install third-party apps on a new phone. Android allows this with the click of a button while Apple and Microsoft do not allow it. To do such a thing on the iPhone or Lumia, you would need to jailbreak the phone (something for another blog). For this reason, Android is more vulnerable to malware. Apple’s App store and Microsoft’s Marketplace approve everything to fit within their requirements.
This is the biggest differentiating factor, the most controversial, and the first stop in deciding what phone is for you. It is a matter of personal preference. The “walled garden” provides you with a consistent, simple experience where you know the apps are tested and approved for your phone and operating system and this is balanced by a more restrictive environment. A more open environment means more choice, but you balance that by risking a less than perfect experience. Every app may not work perfectly on your phone.
When choosing a phone and/or operating system, this is the biggest decision to make. Past that, the available options are too numerous to list.
Highlights of available differences include the virtual assistant, Siri, for the iPhone 4s. Natural voice assistance can be found elsewhere, but it is not integrated in to the phone to the extent Apple has gone. Android provides excellent Google Maps functionality with turn-by-turn directions. The mobile Windows OS has impressive social media and xBox integration, but lags behind the other two in customizing options, available Apps, and various functions like over-the-air syncing and tablet support.
Check out the below table for an extensive comparison of the various features available between the three operating systems.
In the end, it is hard to provide an answer for what comes down to a personal choice. There are positives and negatives to each operating system. Microsoft is just getting its feet wet in the mobile space, so it may be wise to choose a more establish player (Apple and Google). They provide a new flavor, but it is hard to argue with the success that Google and Apple have had in the past few years. They’ve already experienced the mobile phone growing pains that Microsoft is just starting to go through.
And, as mentioned before, a choice between Google and Apple is a choice between simplicity and expected performance or variety and customs. Even after all of that, this is just one part of a decision that also involves a phone that you like and a carrier that you can tolerate.
In the second half of this blog, we’ll look at the phone operating systems and their impact on the corporate and small-business world.
Figure 2. Redmondpie.com OS Comparison