People often ask me what smartphone they should buy. The popularity of smart phones cannot be underestimated due to the processing power they now possess. My usual answer is: “It Depends”. Every smart phone has its own strengths and weaknesses. Your decision should be based on what is most important to your needs.
To Keyboard or Not to Keyboard
Do you send long emails or texts frequently? If so, this may be your biggest need. If so, then consider getting a smart phone with a physical keyboard. Although the typing experience on full touch screens has improved, they still do not match the accuracy and speed of a device with a physical keyboard. Other than choice of keyboard, I want to focus my analysis on the software behind smart phones.
For those who love their keyboards, my choice is the BlackBerry Q10
The most popular smart phone operating systems are:
- iOS 6 (Apple iPhone)
- BlackBerry OS 10
- Windows Phone 8
- Google Android 4.2
According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker from May 2013, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the number one and number two ranked smart phone operating systems (OS) worldwide. Together, the two operating systems accounted for a combined 92.3% of all smartphone shipments during the first quarter of 2013. In third place was Microsoft’s Windows Phone followed by the BlackBerry Phone.
iOS: When it comes to the user experience, Apple’s iPhone offers a refined look and feel. Apple’s early start to build and grow the iTunes store was partly due to the success of music for the iPod that was compatible with the iPhone. Not surprisingly, the Apple store has the greatest selection of apps and music compared to other competitors. The major disadvantage is that a customer is locked into Apple’s ecosystem and must install apps from their store.
BlackBerry’s greatest strength continues to be in information security. They have a strong reputation with government and private sector organizations that demand high levels of security. As mentioned, if you prefer a physical keyboard and want higher security, the BlackBerry operating system is probably the best fit. The user experience on the BlackBerry OS 10 is acceptable. The company has not gone out of their way to introduce as many bells and whistles compared to the competition. This may change if their customers start asking for more. The biggest weakness of the OS 10 is the lack of apps and music in the BlackBerry App store.
The Windows Phone is a smooth well thought out operating system that is very easy to use. It is easier to use than the iPhone. As I explain below, many people believe Microsoft has “out Apple’d Apple” with the design and functionality of Windows 8.
The biggest advantage of a Windows Phone 8 compared with competing phones is Live Tiles. Live Tiles receives automatic updates of everything that is happening with any app and puts the information you want on your Start screen. This makes your screen dynamic – meaning it comes alive and is vibrant compared to competitors, whose screens are static.
In a previous blog post here, I wrote about my experience with a Windows Phone. Nokia has since released a newer version of the phone called the Lumia 928. The main downside of the phone is the limited selection of apps and music in the Windows store. On a few occasions, I heard a song on the radio and could not find it in the Windows store. I was able to find it in iTunes. As Microsoft’s mobile platform becomes more popular, I expect their store to offer a wider selection of music and apps.
Android continues to be the most the most popular and robust operating system in terms of features. There seems to be a limitless number of cool and nifty configurations that one can do with an Android device that you cannot do with competing phones.
Android is also open source software, which means you can install any software app you want. Android customers are not locked into one ecosystem like Apple. Depending on the person, this could be an advantage or a weakness. For example, one weakness of openness is that it makes the Android the most susceptible operating system to malware infections. The user experience is not as smooth as the competitors and feels a bit clunky. Android is the most difficult to learn, partly because it is so configurable. I recommend Android for users who are tech savvy and do not mind investing additional time to learn many configuration options.
Ultimately, the smart phone you choose needs to satisfy your needs and improve your quality of life at work and at home. It needs to be able to do this today and for the next two the three years before you upgrade. The four choices of mobile operating systems cover the four major global brands.
While some people make it a priority to send many emails from their phones, others might use a few key applications daily. Some may need enhanced security for work, while others want to use their phone interchangeably between family and work commitments. What is most important is that a smart phone improves your quality of life and provides a satisfying experience.