First Apple released iOS 6 at WWDC, then Microsoft announced the most awaited Windows Phone 8, and recently at the Google I/O event, the newest Android iteration Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) was launched adding a new competitor to the two-horse mobile race. The new OS iterations were sheer improvements for Apple and Google to stay in the competition. On the other hand, Microsoft is here to prove its mettle and regain the ground that it has been losing on the mobile platform. It has tried hard and the feature set of the Windows Phone 8 will vouch for it. We decided to compare these three leading OSes, on the basis of what we know to be on paper, so far.
Apple’s iOS platform has been endowed with some nifty features over the year as it leaped forward with newer versions. It has ensured to keep its competitors on their toes. However, it is the user interface that still remains stagnant in the iOS 6, save minor visual changes. There hasn’t been much change and we still see the plain menu stretched across pages, and yes it lets you segregate apps into folders. Android ensures complete customizations, as you can pick your most favoured and frequently used widgets and place them on to homescreens as you wish. Now, it also allows you to resize these widgets. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is quite similar to what we loved about Windows Phone 7.5. It offers a refreshing change with live tiles that can be resized.
Interface...iOS 6, Jelly Bean, Windows Phone 8
We like the Windows Phone 8 UI, not just for its fresh, refreshing and sheer attractive looks, but also for the personalization of the lively tiles. Though many iOS loyalists may not agree, iOS UI looks too old, dull and boring; we would love to see an overhauled iOS UI.
With the new iOS 6, Apple has shrugged off its reliance on Google Maps. The maker of popular ‘i’ devices now has its own Maps app that is powered by TomTom. The company just didn’t lay out a mapping app, but added some useful features too. Android users can access Google Maps, which are integrated with Google search listings, something we all pretty much like. Microsoft has been trying hard to keep up with the competition, and plans to leave no stone unturned with its new Windows 8 OS for phone and tablets. To rebuild its losing mobile ground, the software giant even ditched its own Bing Maps to favour the Nokia Maps.
Jelly Bean, iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8, all support turn by turn navigation, 3D views, and traffic information. However, Jelly Bean and Windows Phone 8 support offline mode for Maps, while iOS 6 doesn’t. Also, all iOS 6 features would be made available for users in India. Here, we think iOS 6, is comparatively new and could need some tweaks, while we don’t at all doubt the capabilities of Google Maps and think that Nokia Maps are good at what they do.
Talking about voice assistants, iOS 5 stirred waves in the tech arena with Siri last year. Siri was an instant hit, although it didn’t really work that well. However, Siri has been taking intensive lessons and is launched with some good-to-know improvements in the iOS 6. Siri-integration within iOS platform also gets tighter. Android has some voice enabled abilities, and is working on a full-fledged assistant too. The Jelly Bean update adds some improvements to its speech recognition and voice search abilities. It now brings along the knowledge graph and also a built-in speech recognizer. Microsoft has entered the battle fully armed to face its competitors, Google and Apple. It also allows voice commands to make calls, send texts, search the web and more.
Siri is famous and improving and Google has added some nifty improvements to its voice commands. Though Microsoft is armed with voice commands, we aren’t sure how well it would be trained to do so.
New maps for iOS...goodbye Google maps
Social network integration
‘Mobile’ and ‘social,’ walk hand in hand, and phone makers know how much social networks matter to the masses. Last year iOS 5 had Twitter integration and Apple added Facebook integration this year, to make the iOS 6 completely socially integrated. Jelly Bean follows suit, and you get integrated social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Picasa, its own Google+, and more. Windows Phone 8, has been learning the tricks of the trade and has also integrated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and its own Windows Live.
Seemingly, Google offers more integration, and yes of course it is also trying to pimp its Google+. Apple and Microsoft have also integrated the two most popular social networks.
Newest flavour of Android...
‘Mobile payment’ is one promising aspect that leading mobile players plan to exploit to the fullest in the future. Apple has given NFC a miss, but stays in the game with its Passbook feature in the iOS 6. Passbook is a mobile wallet that keeps your debit cards, credit cards, tickets, and likewise in one place. It even offers updates to tickets in the passbook, and we may expect a lot happening in this space in the future. Google’s Jelly Bean brings in Google wallet, which is inclusive of mobile payments, rewards, offers, deals and more. The support for NFC ensures that Google’s mobile wallet is warming up for the mobile payment in the future. While Google has NFC and Apple has Passbook, Microsoft has both. Now, we don’t mean it has Passbook, but a similar feature called Wallet that stores all your credit/debit cards, rewards and more.
Apple has added some cool calling features with the iOS 6, like ‘rejecting the call with a response.’ There are response templates, while one can even personalize their response. It also adds Do Not Disturb feature wherein the device doesn’t alert users about their calls/messages. However, the feature is smartly designed, so that if the number of calls from the same number exceeds 5 times, the phone recognizes the urgency and alerts the user. Android also allows users to create several replies, which can be sent as quick auto-replies, while declining a call and you can also filter out calls from specific people. Windows Phone has missed out on this bit. There is no Do not Disturb-kind feature nor the support for composing auto-response replies, while declining calls. However, it adds advanced filtering and call block options.
Apple and Google both offer call rejection functions, while Apple earns brownie points for its Do Not Disturb feature. Windows Phone 8 has some catching up to do here.
Apple has spruced up its FaceTime, which can now be used on cellular networks, along with Wi-Fi. However, like everything else ‘Apple,’ its usage is restricted to ‘i’ devices. Google has Gmail and GTalk for Android (works on cellular network and Wi-Fi), that allows communicating with Gmail users on other device platforms. For Microsoft, it has to be Skype, the company had acquired the video calling service lately. Skype also supports other devices and platforms.
Google and Microsoft come with support for multiple platforms, while Apple’s FaceTime is limited to its platform.
Lively and attractive...
Apple’s App Store is inundated with apps and the number is growing with each passing day. Google has been taking its Market seriously and has redesigned the Google Play store experience with the Jelly Bean version. It has even re-christened the Android Market as Google Play, to take the experience beyond Android apps. It is even selling the Nexus 7 through Google Play. As beginners, Microsoft has also been adding new apps from the time it was conceived.
Apple scores high, not just for the number of apps, but also for the quality, Apple strives to offer malware-free apps by laying dowm some strict rules. Google has a growing number of apps, but has failed at controlling malware. Microsoft is still at the nascent stage, taking apps into account, especially while comparing it to the other two giants.
Though Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 appears to be promising, Apple’s iOS 6 and Google’s Android Jelly Bean still appear to be superior in many aspects. We can clearly see the efforts Microsoft has put in to keep up with the existing competition, and is striving to deliver neck to neck competition to the leading mobile OSes. However, it is nice to see another addition to the mobile race, which is until now dominated by only Apple and Google (we do miss BlackBerry). However, the overall performance delivered by all three OS iterations and how soon they reach the market will make quite a lot of difference. We still believe that Microsoft will have to do some catching up initially, but may completely allure masses sooner or later (this again would depend upon how it prices its smartphones).