Now that all
three of the major mobile operating systems have been updated, Ian McGurren
finds out what they have to offer.
you’re a BlackBerry or even a Bada stalwart, there’s little argument that the
three most talked about mobile operating systems in 2012 are iOS, Android and
Windows Phone. What’s more, all three have entered a new phase in the last six
months, iOS reaching version 5, Windows Phone updated to 7.5 and Android
hitting the ninth letter in the alphabet with Ice Cream Sandwich. But are these
updates worth worrying about, are they actually any good and, most importantly,
can you get them?
Apple iOS 5
revisions are generally one per year, with the then-iPhone OS version 1.0
coming out in June 2007 with the original iPhone. There are minor revisions and
bug fixes in between, but it’s usually the big changes that get a new number
and a fancy press launch. Most iOS devices can expect to see two or three major
revisions before Apple pulls the support switch, the iPhone 3G notably being
left off of the iOS 5 party guestlist. However, if you have a third generation
or newer iOS device, then you’re invited.
is still initially via iTunes, but significantly iOS 5 then cuts the iTunes
cord, so not only do new devices with iOS 5 no require activating in iTunes,
they won’t need it for updating either, as this can now be done over wi-fi.
Unlike Android and Mango however, the updates are entirely controlled by Apple,
so when it says you can update, you don’t need to wait for your carrier to
release a specific version.
Google Android 4.0
The first ICS handset
– Google’s Galaxy Nexus
4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), is the latest update from Google, and arguably
its most major yet. Usually released every six months, a major revision is
denoted by a new dessert name, such as Cupcake or Honeycomb, though there are
many minor revisions in between. Major revisions usually have redesigned use
interfaces on top of many fixes, additions and speed improvements. The last
phone-based OS prior to ICS was 2.3 (Gingerbread), because version 3
(Honeycomb) was restricted to tablets. However, ICS rejoins both versions in
one scrummy sweet. Hardware-wise Google states the main caveat to installation
is 1GB ROM for the OS, though some hackers have got this down a little. A 1GHz
CPU is also recommended, as is a decent GPU for the UI layer.
all devices will get ICS, as there’s far more variation in hardware and
manufacturers. Frequently it’s up to the manufacturer if they want to port ICS
to older legacy hardware, and all too often they won’t, forcing you to upgrade
to their new, shinier handsets. Even if they are going to, though, it’s still
not plain sailing, since firmware is usually carrier based too, so, for
instance, HTC’s update for your Desire HD may be on your friend’s O2 handset,
but you need to wait until Virgin release its own version. Yes, Android is a
pain to update.
Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5
Windows Phone 7.5 Handsets
The baby of
the pack, Microsoft uses both numbers and names to identify its updates to
Windows Phone. In general, the ones of note have names. For example, NoDo (it
means No Donuts, for some reason) and the important ones have numbers and names
– 7.5 Mango, for example. The major revisions are around every six months.
Updates are through the Zune software and you’ll be alerted when your specific
model has its one available. Sadly, it’s still down to the operators to sort
the final roll-outs, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait.
operating system to make any real leap in terms of UI is Android’
The only OS
to make any real leap in terms of UI is Android, and even then it’s still only
marginally different to Honeycomb, though the leap from Gingerbread is more
pronounced. It now has a sharper neon style with the addition of slick
animation and some deft graphical touches. However, the killer here is a really
impressive new font called Roboto, which gives the UI a very clear and
ICS’s excellent new
Mango, however, have kept the UI changes to a minimum, so much so in fact
you’ll actually be hard pressed to spot the difference. This is likely because
iOS and Mango are walled garden systems, partly built on their consistent look
throughout and familiar to customers.
iOS’s biggest changes, though, has been the much-requested notification bar.
Accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen, it gives a list of
notifications that the user can swipe at and jump into the corresponding app.
Notifications are also on the lock screen, again swipeable to the app. Though
it’s very Android, it’s also very welcome too.
arguable still the strongest UI, as it’s design is the original touch-screen
phone design and the design language is solid throughout. Mango’s UI is
excellent and unique, but as present maybe too unique, though Microsoft’s
adoption of the Metro design across its range of hardware and software in 2012