Mobile operating systems or mobile OSs have come a long way since the first generation of Apple's iOS, back in 2007. With major advancements in hardware, and reduced costs of processors and sensors, the possibilities for mobile software have really opened up, and software developers have been quick to take advantage of these new-found powers. So what does that spell for shoppers in the market for a new phone?
It's not about which OS is the best, but rather which OS is the best for you. We all have different needs and usage habits. I grew up tinkering with PCs and love having control over every aspect of my devices, and Android is flexible enough to accommodate my affinity for tweaking settings frequently. On the other hand, you may not care as much for customization options and would rather have an easy-to-use touchscreen device that lets you chat and take great photos — why not consider a Windows Phone device?
When it comes to personal devices, there's really no need to be loyal to any one brand or OS. Buyers are often swayed by aggressively-worded articles that rubbish one OS and praise another to no end. What you need to remember is that hardware and software are both evolving at a rapid pace, and that reviews should only guide you towards which products you should check out. The best way to know if a phone or OS is best for you, is to try it at the store. Let's take a look at which OSes fits your needs best.
Available on devices by multiple manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC, Motorola
Android owns the lion's share when it comes to smartphones in India because of its availability across several brands and because it meets the needs of a wide range of users. From gaming to multimedia entertainment to photography to everyday calling and messaging, Android does it all, while offering users a tremendous control over their experience. Want a simple phone-and-SMS only experience? Prefer a custom lock screen and custom lock screen and launcher with informative widgets? Need an enhanced camera app? Android's got you covered, with apps and settings for all of the above.
Google's also been stepping up their game considerably with their Android One programme, that standardizes specs and brings timely OS updates. They offer a pleasant experience even at lower price points. The latest version, dubbed Android 5.0 (Lollipop) introduces a new design language that's more refined, consistent and focussed on content. If you want a flexible OS and access to a huge variety of apps and games, give Android a try.
Available only on Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Since releasing the first of today's major modern mobile OSs, Apple has worked hard to refine the usability and simplicity of their platform that makes even novice users feel at home - and wooed enough third-party developers to fill their App Store over 1.3 million apps.Plus, iOS is tightly integrated with other Apple services like iTunes for purchasing media and sharing it across your devices, iCloud for backing up your photos to the cloud, iCloud Drive for all your other files and with Mac OS to handle SMS and calls from your desktop. However, this ease of use comes at the cost of flexibility: Apple gear plays nice only with other Apple software and devices.
What's exciting, though, is that iOS 8 (the current version) is also geared to handle home automation, in-car navigation and entertainment, personal health tracking and cross-device app management securely, with more apps and devices supporting these standards in the offing. If you want to plug into the Apple ecosystem and get the most popular apps on a powerful, well-built mobile device (albeit at a premium), check out iOS .
Available on Microsoft and HTC devices
Simple, easy to use, personal -— that's Windows Phone in a nutshell. Currently at version 8.1, Windows Phone includes a novel interface that first-timers can get used to in a pinch, and allows quick access to messages, contacts and content you care about right on the home screen. It cleverly combines widgets with icons in its informative Live Tiles, and most apps generally follow a unified interface so there are no surprises when you're sending a message, uploading a file or browsing the web.
Where it falters, in comparison to other mobile OSs, is its app ecosystem that features a much narrower range. But honestly, that may not be a problem: if you're not comfortable fiddling with settings or downloading scores of apps, you'll love Windows Phone's bloat-free interface. Besides, you'll still find essential apps like Instagram, 8tracks and WhatsApp when you need them.
Available only on Blackberry devices
Blackberry became popular back in the Noughties with its enterprise-oriented devices that excelled at handling email, allowing secure access to company networks and files, and offering top-notch physical keyboards. Since then, the company fell by the wayside when the touchscreen smartphone train came roaring through.
Blackberry failed to wow the market with its own attempts at touchscreen-only devices.
So what's Blackberry 10 good for? Communication, mostly. On recent devices, you can access all your Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email messages in one place simply by swiping right from within any app. If you're looking for apps, there's a small selection from third-party developers in Blackberry World, and over 2 lakh Android apps (compatible with Blackberry devices) in the Amazon AppStore. But if you want to customize your phone's interface and core apps, you'll find yourself out of luck on a Blackberry. Most Blackberry devices are on currently running BB 10.2.1, but fans can get a taste of BB 10.3 in all its glory on their new flagship device, Passport (priced at Rs 50,000).
The new OS version includes Assistant to handle voice commands for search (like Siri on iOS, Google Now on Android and Cortana on Windows Phone), and Blend to access messages, calendars, files and more across devices and desktops. There's also an enhanced camera app, with features like Time-Shift, which automatically takes a burst of photos and lets you choose the one with the perfect facial expression easily.
However, unless you intend to spend half a lakh on your next phone, you'll have to wait for a bit: BB 10.3 is slated to make an appearance on existing models like the Z3, Q10 and Z30 in the near future and we are yet to hear about when that will happen.