Apple iOS 6 vs. Android vs. Windows Phone: which one will rule the communication class?
The mobile-phone market has essentially become a three-horse race between Apple, Google and Microsoft with their iOS 6, Android and Windows Phone operating systems. But with the volatile nature of the industry, which of these platforms has the staying power required for success?
Android is now found on board more than 50 per cent of smartphones that are sold, with Google confirming that daily Android activation figures have topped 900,000 and will continue to grow.
This success and ubiquity is due to the fact that Android is available in multiple iterations across handsets produced by many major manufacturers, including the likes of Samsung, Sony, LG and Motorola.
These firms not only produce high-end models, but also temper the hardware and bend Android to operate on cheaper devices which are easier for a wider audience to afford.
This has led some to criticise Android for being too fragmented, since the user experience is rarely consistent across phones. However, you cannot argue with the fact that it has permeated every level of the market and draws much of its success from this approach.
Ad-supported app-store content, which could feature digital hoardings that ask you to find more about SIM only deals here in order to continue using it for free, means that Android has some of the least expensive downloadable programs on the market.
Apple’s iOS 6 is quite the reverse of Android in this respect. Available only on products produced by Apple, it has made the iPhone range popular because of its user friendliness and its consistency.
Apple has endeavoured to make subsequent iterations of its iOS platform backwards compatible with previous hardware releases. So users will not have to wait month after month for an update to arrive after its release, quite unlike the uncertain world of Android.
Because iOS 6 is tied to a limited range of expensive, high-end smartphones, it remains a less accessible option than Android.
However, this has not stopped millions and millions of people buying an iPhone and turning it into the gold standard for smartphones across the world. Each and every iPhone represents a unified part of the Apple brand, as well as a financial windfall.
Windows Phone exists somewhere between Android and iOS 6, since although it is available on handsets from a variety of manufacturers and not just one company, it is tightly controlled by Microsoft to ensure that users’ experience is consistent.
Picking up one Windows Phone device after using another will not leave you confused, since the interface and available functionalities will be largely identical. The trade-off is a lack of true customisation options, which is similar to the limitations of iOS 6 and helps the more malleable Android environment stand out.
Nokia has become one of the major supporters of Windows Phone and its Lumia range is quickly becoming the standard bearer for handset quality.
However, some firms have dropped out of offering Windows Phone handsets due to the slow progress of the platform, so the choice is not as wide as that of Android.
The introduction of the Tango update has allowed Windows Phone to compete at the most affordable end of the market, making it an appealing budget alternative to Android. Meanwhile, the range-topping Windows Phone handsets lack things such as multi-core processors and so, on paper at least, are behind iOS 6 and Android models.
On a purely superficial level, it is difficult to separate the various competing platforms, because there have been a number of standards established which define a smartphone and therefore must be universally present.
Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity are all integrated into contemporary handsets regardless of which platform they run. More important is how a particular smartphone platform is able to utilise these features while also packing in a few unique touches to help make them distinct from rivals.
The latest iteration of iOS retains the voice-controlled personal-assistant service Siri as its killer app. This is still in an evolutionary state and so is not perfect, but does represent what will be possible in the future.
Android is being used to champion NFC (near field communication) technology, which is an integrated chip that links up to the user’s payment card account, allowing them to carry out transactions by tapping their phones on compatible terminals.
NFC has more uses than simply as a tool for making real-world payments and for the time being it is mainly seen on board Android handsets.
Windows Phone’s Xbox Live integration is one of its strong points as it is the best gaming experience on a mobile platform to date.
The smartphone market is able to support multiple operating systems because people want different things from their phones. Of these three companies, it seems that Google and Apple will remain dominant. But no company’s time at the top is permanent – just ask Nokia.
About the Author
Roxanne writes regularly on various tech topics, specialising in mobile-phone hardware and software across many associated websites and blogs. If you want to find more about SIM only deals here is her recommendation: always compare prices carefully to avoid being tied to an unsuitable offer.