Which Mobile Operating System is Right for You?
When choosing a mobile device, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, or even an MP3 Player, you want to make sure the device is right for you. The operating system is the main feature you’ll notice when selecting a new mobile device. It’s this that affects the applications (apps) you’ll get, the customization options, and the general features available on your device. In this article, I’ll be discussing the three main Operating Systems you’ll see on modern phones and tablets: Android, iOS and Blackberry.
Google, the maker of Android, has done a nice job of improving Android over the years. Android is installed on over 190 million mobile devices (Q3 2011). Google recently released their new Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Compared to its rivals iOS and Blackberry, Android is installed on a large variety of different devices, such as smartphones, MP3 players, and tablets, manufactured by several different companies.
On devices running the new Android 4.0 the browser will be improved to a great extent. Android 4.0′s browser will be Google Chrome and You can enjoy all the features found on the desktop version. Users will also be able to transfer their favorites, and links from the computer right to their mobile device. Currently it’s in a beta state, but it will be added once a full test is complete. Both the current browser and the new upcoming Chrome can produce full Adobe Flash support on websites; although it’s not necessary to use Adobe Flash it’s nice to know you have the capability.
Figure 1. Android 4.0 showing off the menu screen along with the home screen.
When it comes to user customization people can do many things with the built in user controls and apps. Users can change the wallpaper along with lock screen. The wallpaper can also support live wallpaper, which means you can have images that move. Each Android device is also installed with its own special software/theme that is designed by the manufacture of the device. When typing in a document, Android is built with an Auto-Correcting Dictionary which will assist you in changing/correcting words. With Android you may add your own custom words (example: lol) to the dictionary. Another customization is being able to add third party applications to the mix. Users can add custom themes to suit their preference.
When you open the App store you are greeted with a user friendly home screen. Google has divided up its Books, Movies, Music, Apps, and Games into their own sections. The store has an easy to use searching bar and apps that will fit all age groups. With 400,000+ apps available for download (63% of those apps are free) you may be busy for a while.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich will be offered on brand new devices, as well as those within 3 to 3.5 years old. The latest version is filled with many cool features such as:
- Facial unlocking
- Camera/Picture settings
- All of Google’s Services
- Voice search
- Data Monitor
Android’s facial unlocking allows users to unlock their phone with a simple smile. Making use of the front facing camera found on most smartphones, Google’s new facial recognition technology is used to register your face. As a backup you’ll be asked to create a Pattern or PIN password. This is a patented feature, so it’s unlikely to appear on iOS or Blackberry anytime soon.
When you take a picture with your built in phone camera, you can make adjustments such as red-eye reduction, straightening, continuous focus, zero shutter and image sharing. You’ll be able to share your photos via social networking, Bluetooth, email and text message. With this, there is no need to download an expensive third party photo app to do all the work.
Many of us use Google’s services every day, such as Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and more; using Android allows you to carry all of these services with you. These services can help you throughout the day: Google Search allows you to look up anything on the internet, Maps will give you voice turn-by-turn directions, Gmail will manage all of your emails along with sending emails and the YouTube app will allow you to watch videos all day long.
The voice search in Google is the best voice recognition feature available on all three Operating Systems. The voice search will listen and remember what you’ve said, allowing you to talk for long periods with pauses in between. After it types what you’ve just said, it will then underline words to suggest better phrases. Users are also able to speak in a different language and still use this feature.
Lastly in Android 4.0 Google added a built in Data Monitor for devices using a mobile network. This is located in the Settings Menu and monitors all bandwidth, whether it’s on Wi-Fi or your mobile network. You can set the data monitor to warn you if you’re coming close to your data limit, along with the ability to disable your mobile data usage altogether.
The famous iOS, found on the iPad, iPod, and iPhone, is installed on approximately 180 million iDevices (Q4 2011). iOS is only found on Apple devices, but it’s the most well-known of the three major operating systems and the oldest. Below the iPad, iPod, and iPhone will be referred to as the “iDevice(s)” for short.
The app store is one of the most appealing features of iOS, and holds 500,000+ apps with 37% of these being free. The vast majority of applications will cost $0.99. Apple has recently had its 20 billionth download from the App Store, the largest number of app downloads for any OS. The iPhone 4s and iPad 2 both use a dual-core A5 processor, which allows Apps and Games to run much faster. Not only can you download Apps/Games from the App Store, you can also purchase and download from your computer using iTunes. iTunes is Apple’s music player; Apple requires you to use iTunes for music, app, books, and movie syncing to your iDevice. For items like books and movies you’ll need to open the iTunes App, or iTunes on the computer, and purchase them there.
iOS uses Apple’s own web browser, Safari. You will immediately notice that Apple has installed a customised mobile version of Safari; for basic web browsing this works without any problems. The browser allows you to do features such as:
- Link to websites from the menu screen
- Use AirPrint to Print Web content
- Sync Bookmarks using iCloud
- Use the zoom option to read any font
- Open multiple tabs
- Create a Favorites Section
A downside to the browser is that Apple does not allow any Adobe Flash Support; when viewing flash orientated websites they might seem empty or unusable. Another thing to take note is that PDFs on mobile Safari are basic and have a read-only mode only.
Figure 2. The iPhone 4s showing off the menu screen, Siri and its Camera settings.
With the new iOS 5.0.1 firmware, users can now change the wallpaper of the iDevice. Just like the Android you can personalize items like the lock screen and the home screen with a different type of wallpaper. Apple has kept the exact same look and feel for each iDevice.
iOS 5.0.1 has recently been released to all new iDevices. This OS has an advanced, user friendly UI. The new firmware fixes minor adjustments along with 200+ new features. The new iOS 5 contains new major features like:
- Notification center
- PC Free File Sharing
The new notification center will alert you to all of your notifications. When playing a game or running an app, notifications will now appear at the top of the device to avoid interruptions. You’ll also notice that when using an iDevice running 5.0.1, your notifications will show up on the lock screen.
PC Free File Sharing allows you to sync your iDevice with your computer wirelessly, removing the need to find a cable for your device to connect with. iOS 5 also uses Apple’s iCloud to backup and restore your device automatically.
Facetime allows you to talk, see, and speak to another iDevice. Now you can speak to anybody miles away in real time. Apple’s Facetime gives users the ability to use it right out of the box; no need to setup accounts or download the app. You’re also given the option to record the conversation; you can keep the moment and share it with others.
Siri is the new face of iOS 5; she is a smart voice searching tool. Siri will listen to anything you have to say and reply with an answer. She can do anything from setup a business meeting to reminding you that you have a date tonight. What is great about Siri is you can send text messages or call somebody just by using your voice; just say who to send it too and what you want to say. Siri also understands most accents, and rarely gets something wrong.
About once a year Apple releases a new version of iOS with new changes and features. Unfortunately if your Apple device is 2 – 2.5 years old Apple considers the device to be “out of date”. How does this affect you? When you go to update your device, you won’t be about to install the new update. Unlike Android and Blackberry, Apple requires that you use iTunes for all purchases and music, and firmware updates for each iDevice.
Blackberry is known as the workphone of America; chances are if you have a work phone it’s a Blackberry. Blackberry manufactures phones that include comprehensive personal assistant functions for your day-to-day life. Although Blackberries are often seen only as a work phone, Blackberry phones can easy be used as a personal phone for a wide variety of users. Each Blackberry phone is designed with a built in QWERTY keyboard for quick and easy typing. This allows people to use the same computer layout when typing, as well as saving time. Blackberry phones make up 3% of all mobile sales worldwide. To compete with Android and Apple tablets, Blackberry also has its own tablet called the Blackberry Playbook.
Blackberry’s app store is the smallest out of the three companies. The App World holds 60,000+ apps. Most of the developers for Blackberry make the apps targeted for business so Blackberries might not make the best family phone. Do take note that App World is different for the Blackberry tablet; the tablet version contains more games and non-business apps. Prices of apps range from completely free to a maximum of $999.
Figure 3. Blackberry Bold on its home screen.
When it comes to customization, you can change the wallpaper and add a custom banner to the home screen. As it’s not as customizable out of the box, users can download themes from the App World. On the Blackberry Playbook you have the same type of customization; you can add custom themes, change the wallpaper, and lock screen.
Blackberry’s 7.1 OS is the newest OS for all Blackberry Phones and has made using the device even easier. The 7.1 OS is designed with a new user friendly UI and includes features such as:
- Updated Blackberry Messenger
- FM Radio
- Wi-Fi Calling
- Mobile Hotspot
- Universal voice search
Blackberry Messenger, also known as BBM, is a messaging system just like AIM or MSN. You can chat with other Blackberry users for free. In 7.1, you can now chat from within apps, share your GPS and calendar, and set up group collaborations. BBM allows you to connect up with friends and business members with real time Instant Messaging.
As with the other systems, You can now also enjoy FM radio content on your phone. As long as headphones are connected, which are needed to act as the antennas, you can listen to any nearby radio stations. This is a great feature if you want to listen for some new music or need to hear the local news.
In addition you can call using Blackberry’s Wi-Fi Calling using your home network. This acts just like a standard VoIP (Voice over IP) device, which saves you talk-time/minutes on your phone. If you’re paying for a personal plan with your Blackberry, this feature will save you money as you can lower your mobile plan to fewer minutes.
Blackberry has a voice activated universal searching tool with the new 7.1 OS. As a universal speech recognizable search, you can do things such as speech-to-text, search for local files, emails, contacts and music. As you speak the phone will also give you suggestions to find what you need even faster.
After reading this article, it’s now time for you to choose which mobile fits you personally best. Look for an OS that fits your liking, the type of phone and what you’re going to use it for. The phone you pick may be nice, but in the long run it will be the OS that really matters and affects your everyday use.