Showdown: lOS vs Android vs WP7 (Part 2)

4/4/2012 5:54:11 PM
Showdown: lOS vs Android vs WP7 (Part 2)

Google’s approach

Android has suffered and benefited from its more open-source approach to the smartphone operating system. The basic Android interface is usually changed by hardware manufacturers who add their own slick interfaces, such as HTC’s Sense. It’s easy to add extras too, hut sometimes it can result in a cluttered and a messy homescreen.

Android’s latest 4.0 update, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, has just launched. It brings all the Android 3.1 tablet features to phones, including a more spacious layout. This update also means Android devices will also he able to act as a USB hubs so you can hook up peripherals like mice, keyboards and game controllers to tablets and smartphones. Google’s own Chrome browser has also been ported to Android.

Google is also intending to make life easier for developers by releasing a new set of APIs that will help them to scale their apps across the various sizes of Android devices, from smartphones to tablets.

Rooting around

One of Android’s key selling points - especially to a more tech-oriented market - is the ability to switch between the many hand-built variations of the OS. Although rooting your phone voids its warranty, it means you can pick an entirely new operating system if you’re not enjoying the old one. These also bring new features like better performance and memory management. Although you can jailbreak iOS and Windows Phone 7 devices, they don’t allow the level of control you get from a rooted Android handset.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 has always had a unique and attractive interface, and it’s now set to stretch across its Windows and Xbox products. It consists of ‘live tiles which you can scroll, rearrange and flip through to your heart’s content, and it’s certainly the cleanest and most organised OS. The latest update, Mango (also known as 7.5) has the same signature look as its predecessor, only better. The live tiles are livelier, and you can pin not just apps, hut specific features within apps to the Start screen, like the Wi-Fi control.

Internet Explorer 9 on Windows Phone 7.5 is a real browser that uses the same code as 1E9 on Windows 7, although it still lacks the ability to run plug-ins like Flash. You can choose whether the browser identifies itself as operating from a mobile to retrieve smaller, phone-optimised pages or a desktop browser for the full version of sites, hut you rarely have to worry about a page not working unless it’s specifically written for Safari or Chrome.

Microsoft has its roots on the desktop, and has found it difficult to break into the mobile phone and tablet markets.

Mobile office

Office 365 integration is very neat too - just typing in your email address and password sets up email, calendar, contacts and a link to SharePoint in the Office huh. But you can also explore SkyDrive and documents on your phone, all in the same consistent interface. There is also an intriguing new option called Bing Vision. With it, you can photograph text, have it interpreted by an OCR application in the cloud, pick the words you want by tapping on screen and either search on the text or translate it into another language.

When Nokia announced its partnership with Microsoft for Windows Phone 7 devices, Nokia’s boss Stephen Elop said, “This is now a three- horse race.” And he was right. Microsoft still has to gallop before it can canter alongside the likes of Android and Apple, but it’s certainly getting there. Its phones are every bit as feature-packed as the competition, hut it needs to take a slice out of Apple’s pie and get its handsets into the hands of real people who can show it off.

A price reduction (the cheapest Windows handset is $368, while Android phones start at just $128) would be a big help, but Microsoft’s tech- heavy criteria - which includes a five-megapixel camera and fast processor — means that might not be possible. World-renowned handset manufacturer Nokia could jump on and give Windows Phone the kick it needs, though.

Apple is obviously keen to keep pushing its products, and although iOS 5 includes some impressive features, they still feel a tad too granular and incremental to be as revolutionary as the very first iPhone. The recently-released iPhone 4S packs some hefty new hardware, but in terms of looks it’s exactly the same as its predecessor. We were slightly disappointed that Apple didn’t announce the iPhone 5 this autumn, but we’re looking forward to its inevitable debut next year.

The verdict

Android has proved that an open smartphone operating system can actually work, and its pugnacious attitude is at once its biggest selling point and its biggest let-down. Unlike Windows Phone handsets and iOS devices, Android hardware can vary wildly and there’s little unification across all devices. It’s also more vulnerable to security risks, but - much like the desktop market - there are big companies putting money into stopping viruses. Although all three mobile operating systems are in direct competition, Jon Peddle Research recently pointed out that there will be no winner in this three-horse race - at least for the short term. “No single device will kill any of the others,” it said in a recent report, and this makes it a fascinating time for smartphones, as each player incrementally moves a little further down the track.

In the future, we’re more likely to see human interface apps and hardware take precedence on smartphones. Apple’s Sin and Android’s head-tracking are only just the beginning of smartphones that will be capable of recognising and interacting with their users with gestures and voice commands instead of touch.

In the meantime, just enjoy your smartphone for what it is, and remember that if you’re in with one of the big three, you’re on the cutting edge of technology anyway.




Windows Phone 7.5

Number of apps




User-replaceable memory card




4G support




Lowest PAYG price


$128(Samsung 15500 Galaxy Europa)

$368(LG E900 Optimus)





Maximum camera megapixels

8MP(iPhone 4S)

8.1MP(Sony Ericsson Xperia ARC)

8MP (HTC 7 Mozart)

1080p high definition video

Yes(iPhone 4S)

Yes(Galaxy S II)

No (720 Maximum)

Available for tablets




Adobe Flash support




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