If there is anything available on the smartphone market today, it’s choice. Choice in prices, choice in phones, choice in phone operating system, choice in apps, the list goes on and on. While some people would prefer to have even more freedom than that (people who like to root and have their phones customized to their hearts delight), the majority of users find some comfort in what their OS producer gives to them.
One particularly interesting choice is the mobile OS. Whether it be iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry or webOS, you have a lot of differences in platform to take into account when you purchase a phone. For today’s entry, I’m going to look at the pros and cons of each OS and why it should be a serious factor in considering what you want in a phone. Let’s do this alphabetically, shall we?
Biggest Pros: Android is an interesting mix of a plethora of apps and customization features that make it very attractive to any user. Android has all of the essential apps you need and want in everyday life – Facebook, Twitter, CNN, NYTimes, Skype, Weatherbug, Firefox, Amazon, Tumblr, etc. – as well as a bunch of other ones that you may (or may not) find useful. Android’s app approval process is not very strict – at all – which lets everything and anything come through the Android Marketplace. However, the biggest thing Android has going for it is the insane number of devices that run the OS. Sure, you won’t get the absolute latest features if you get a “free” Android phone, but there’s a phone with Android on it for many (if not all) US cell phone providers. That gives you the most options as far as plans go and types of devices you can choose – the strongest suit Android has.
Biggest Cons: Android has two major issues. The first is – oddly enough – also one of its strengths. The applications for Android number in the hundreds of thousands and keep growing, but the main problem with Android’s apps are the fact that they are very open source and their app approval process (which essentially consists of “if it works, it’s in”) allows anything to get by. We’ve yet to see a major Android virus corrupt numerous numbers of phones, but the lax security makes it entirely possible that we will one day see such a thing occur. The other main issue with Android is the scope of its operating system updates. You can find phones running the first main versions of Android – Android 1.5 – up to phones running various versions of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The problem with this is a lack of uniformity across devices. Newer phones generally have the newest features, but Google hasn’t been able to keep up with that either – some new Android phones are released with Android 2.2 instead of 2.3 (the HTC Thunderbolt, for example). In fact, as of today, 64.6% of Android devices are running Android 2.2 – which is only one version behind 2.3 (the latest for smartphones), but an odd 21.2% of Android devices are still running Android 2.1. This stems from issues between hardware manufacturers (HTC, Motorola) and custom skinning, but there are a vast number of features that won’t make it to Android users simply because their phones are deemed “too old” by the time the manufacturer gets around to releasing the latest software update. Or, in many cases, the software update takes so long that a new version of Android is made available even when the previous version is being released.
Who’s an Android User? Honestly, there are a lot of uses for an Android phone. You could be a CEO or a middle school student and be very productive with an Android phone. Because Android is not entirely intuitive at first glance, the learning curve may push it away from people who like true simplicity in a smartphone, but Android is definitely one of the best smartphone OS’s out on the market today. The security and need to update your phone once in awhile may irk some people, but all in all, it will work for just about anybody, particularly those who like to customize their phones.
Biggest Pros: I’ve honestly never owned a Blackberry, but I’ve had the experience of doing tech support for one a few times. Honestly, Blackberry has a ton of nice enterprise level support – and it’s what the CEOs used to (and still do) use. The high-level of support for Exchange solutions, as well as the easy to pick-up UI of Blackberry OS 5/6, makes this platform relatively powerful for enterprise support. And if you’re a fan of physical keyboards, Blackberries are your thing – they might as well hold the patent for the smartphone wave keyboard, because a good chunk of new Blackberries come with full mini-QWERTY keyboards.
Biggest Cons: While Blackberries are great for business level users (and people who do a lot of productivity stuff), their popularity is beginning to fade. RIM attempted a complete refresh with Blackberry OS 6, but according to sales figures, it wasn’t enough to really get the company going again in the smartphone market. Blackberry OS 6 isn’t exactly the top notch OS to kill all other OS’s either, and the Blackberry App World is a bit too low key for major developers who know that iOS and Android are on the rise. That isn’t to say RIM doesn’t hold a solid market share nowadays – they’re still one of the biggest phone producers around – but nowadays you’re more likely to see a high-end businessman on his iPhone while playing with his iPad. The Blackberry is not really seen as a “cool” or “hip” smartphone anymore – you need an iPhone or Android device for that sort of appeal.
Who’s a Blackberry User? Honestly, there are a select group of people who love their Blackberries, and they’re still a viable option for a simple smartphone or a business person who needs support for multiple email accounts and older calendar specs. However, from my perspective, the Blackberry is slowly fading to just that group of people who love its features, with everyone else ditching for newer platforms or different phones.
Watch for a continuation of this series with a look at iOS, Windows Phone 7 and webOS in Part Two!