Smartphone operating systems review

Smartphones are now mini-computers, so you need to consider what operating system (OS) your next mobile will use.
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CHOICE tests five smartphones representing the major operating systems available and looked at how they performed a range of day-to-day tasks.

When looking for a new smartphone, most of us consider factors such as brand, screen size, wireless connectivity and whether it has a keyboard or touchscreen. The operating system (OS) in your mobile phone has become increasingly important in transforming your phone into a music player, camera, personal assistant and GPS navigator.

The smartphone share of sales has grown significantly due to the popularity of Apple’s iPhone iOS 4 and Google’s Android OS available on a range of handsets. Your smartphone’s OS delivers the framework to go beyond simply making a call, allowing it to run productivity and media playing applications as well as operate on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

CHOICE tests the various operating systems available on popular mobile handsets to determine their strengths and weaknesses when used for standard tasks such as making and taking phone calls and keeping contacts as well as how each OS deals with application downloads, multimedia files and social networking.

For more information about smartphones see Mobile phones and Phones and mobile devices.

Models tested

  • Android 2.3 (HTC Incredible S, Samsung Nexus S)
  • Apple iOS 4 (Apple iPhone 4) 
  • Windows Phone 7 (LG Optimus 7)
  • Symbian 3 (Nokia E7)
  • Blackberry OS 6.0 (Bold 9780)

How we test

  • Our testers look at each OS to assess overall design, easy of use and handling. Our testers begin with the out of box experience and initial setup. Next they look at creating a new contact as well as moving contacts over from a previous phone using various cable and wireless based synchronization.
  • Each OS should be able to deal with the latest video and audio content so we also look at the multimedia aspects such as formats supported and loading content to the phone via a removable card or wireless network.
  • Browser quality and the general user interface and menu system are examined for ease of use and intuitiveness. The mobile OS is constantly changing to keep up with the latest technologies so our testers look at how each OS carries out a software update as well as backing up the content on your phone. Our testers also check to see whether you can revert back to a previous OS version if something goes wrong.
  • Finally, they look at the OS’s applications (apps) to see what is available, the quality of the purchasing and download process as well as the quality of the apps themselves.

Jargon buster

GPS Most Smartphones include a global positioning system (GPS) chip allowing you to locate your position without help from the phone network. The Apple iPhone and most Android based smartphones support several GPS apps that can be purchased to provide turn by turn navigation while Nokia smartphones deliver Navteq maps free for download from the Ovi online application store.

Multitouch is the ability to select multiple areas of a phone’s touchscreen to perform complex tasks such as zooming in and out and multiple menu selections. Phones that support this feature include several HTC mobiles as well as the latest Apple iPhone. Capacitive touchscreen allows users to select items on a phone screen by using the finger, compared to a resistive touchscreen which works best when used with a stylus or other hard object such as a fingernail to make a selection.




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