Smartphone OS showdown: Android vs. iPhone OS, Windows Mobile vs. BlackBerry OS and more

iPhone OS, Google Android, BlackBerry OS, Symbian or Windows Mobile: Which smartphone operating system is right for you?

Are you sure you really want an iPhone?

Are you sure you really want an iPhone?

Buying a smartphone is daunting enough even before you consider what operating system it will run. From touch screens to QWERTY keyboards, candy-bars to sliders, e-mail to multimedia, choosing a smartphone has never been more confusing because of the vast range of handsets on the market.

Smartphones offer numerous benefits, such as the ability to synchronise your personal data with a PC or Mac, unified access to your contacts, calendars and appointment information, and the ability upgrade and improve your phone's software. Most smartphones currently on the market run one of the following operating systems, and the OS of the phone you choose will make a big impact your experience.

iPhone OS

Available on: Apple iPhone 3GS, Apple iPhone 3G, Apple iPod touch

Current version: 3.1.2

The iPhone OS is Apple's operating system for its iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Best known for its ease of use thanks to the excellent capacitive touch screen used in Apple's handsets, the iPhone OS also has the largest mobile application store, the App Store. Already there are more than 85,000 apps available, and the App Store continues to grow. According to Apple more than 2 billion apps have been downloaded. The iPhone OS is widely considered to have the best mobile Web browser, Safari, and the best MP3 playback thanks to its iPod feature. Despite its popularity, the iPhone OS has been criticised for its closed nature, the lack of multitasking and Apple's stringent review process for third-party apps. In addition, heavy e-mailers may not take to the iPhone's on-screen keyboard.

Strengths: Ease of use, shallow learning curve, great mobile Web browser, excellent App Store

Weaknesses: Stringent app approval process, can't send files via Bluetooth, closed OS, lack of multitasking

Get it if: You want a shallow learning curve, like the idea of a wide range of third-party applications and want a good music player

Avoid it if: You like to customise and tweak your device, you want a physical keyboard for text entry or you frequently use e-mail for business

Google Android

Available on: HTC Dream, HTC Magic, HTC Hero, Samsung Galaxy Icon

Current version: 1.6 (Donut)

Initially developed by Google, the open-source Android operating system is now controlled by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which brings together mobile phone manufacturers, software developers and telcos. Like the iPhone OS, Android is purely designed for touch-screen phones. However because it's open source it can run on a variety of devices, including candy-bar and slider smartphones. The Android OS is best known for being easy to customise and having tight integration with Google services such as Gmail. HTC was the first mobile phone manufacturer to release an Android handset in Australia with the Dream (followed by the Magic and the upcoming Hero) but the OS is still in its relative infancy. Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson have already announced they will be launching smartphones with the Android OS in the near future, and Samsung has already launched the Galaxy Icon smartphone in Australia.

Strengths: User-friendly, open source, ability to tweak and customise, multitasking

Weaknesses: Still in its infancy, much smaller development community compared to the iPhone, not as polished as alternatives.

Get it if: You like the idea of personalising and tweaking your device and you want a choice of form factors

Avoid it if: You aren't typically an early adopter or you frequently use e-mail for business

BlackBerry OS

Available on: RIM BlackBerry smartphones

Current version: 4.7

The BlackBerry OS is RIM's proprietary operating system for its range of smartphones. Renowned for superb e-mail integration, the BlackBerry was originally a device targeted specifically at corporate users. These days, the BlackBerry is as much a consumer device as it is a business tool, but its strong emphasis on e-mail remains. The BlackBerry is famous for its trackball and QWERTY keyboard design, and many users swear by its physical keyboard for fast text entry. A touch screen BlackBerry — the Storm — was launched last year to compete with the iPhone, but received poor reviews. BlackBerry App World, an application store similar to iPhone's App Store, has already been launched in international markets and should hit Australia before the end of the year.

Strengths: Fantastic e-mail, trackball or trackpad is easy to navigate, multitasking, complete wireless synchronisation

Weaknesses: App store still hasn't launched in Australia, touch-screen model was less than impressive, Web browsing needs improvement

Get it if: You are a heavy e-mailer, you want to synchronise your work and personal calendars, contacts and appointments and you prefer physical keyboards over touch screens

Avoid it if: You want access to a wide range of third-party apps and you want a great mobile Web experience

Tags MotorolalgsymbianAndroidiPhoneRIM BlackBerryiphone 3gWindows Mobile 6.5Windows MobilesamsungApplehtcmobile phonesGoogle AndroidNokiasmartphones

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide




G1 and Pre

Wasn't the G1 the first android phone with it's qwerty keypad. Also the soon to launch motorola cliq and samsung moment both have keypads I consider android more diverse than just touch screen though it is a touch capable phone.

It would also be nice if the palm pre was mentioned even though its new web OS is only on one phone palm has previous experience in the smart phone market with its treo line.



Smartphone OS showdown

Your reviews look very unbiased and reasonable. Good job!

While the internet chatterati engages in endless debates & comparisons: Android vs Iphone Vs Palm Pre vs Maemo and so on, the absolute emperor of the software world is posied for an encore. I mean, look at the number of new alliances Microsoft is entering into internationally. Its influence is spreading like wild fire in the real growth markets of the world like India. More and more manufacturers and carries are offering handsets with Windows Mobile. In most cases Symbian is being replaced.

As mobiles acquire computer like capabilities, what will matter most is mass adoption of an OS. The resulting compatibility issues will lead to network externalities, which will eventually lead to a de-facto global standard. Once an OS acquires a majority in the global market the remaining users will inevitably have to follow suit. Remember, in the early 1980s, the most popular OS was the Macintosh from Apple, but within a decade it was consigned to less than 10 percent of the market by the ubiquitous Windows OS. That is the power of externalities. Microsoft knows all about building externalities and monopolies.

If Android is to have any chance of becoming the OS of the future, someone has to push the OS in these markets with a marketing power that can match Microsoft. Only Nokia, the market leader, has that kind of market reach globally.

Nokia's reputation in the high growth markets like India is built on its 'fail safe' & 'fall safe' hardware, its excellent battery life, and a good enough software. What needs improvement is its software. For that Nokia seems to be going solo on its linux based Maemo OS. Since both Maemo and Android are based on the linux kirnel, it would be great if Nokia decides to join the larger open alliance of Android. Else, as they say, history looks set to repeat itself.

Ross Catanzariti


Hi Tony,
Thanks for the

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the feedback.

The G1 was the first Android phone to be launched in the US, however it was launched months later in Australia and rebranded as the HTC Dream in our market.

The Motorola Cliq as yet hasn't been confirmed for an Australian launch, neither has the Palm Pre. That's the reason why I left them off. Hopefully both are released here, but its getting a bit late for Palm...



if iPhone is the Mac of smartphone world, all others are PC

I'll take the full functionality, no restriction, do anything and everything capability of an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone anyday over anything else out there. Nothing touches it. NOTHING.



if iPhone is the Mac of smartphone world, all others are PC

I'll take the full functionality, no restriction, do anything and everything capability of an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone anyday over anything else out there. Nothing touches it. NOTHING.



Windows Mobile 6.5 in HTC ATT Tilt 2 vs IPhone

Thanks for your reviews, however in the Windows Mobile part it looks you didn't play much before give your oppinion. I have an Iphone for home and family and a WM Tilt 2 for business, so I can give you a quick basic experience on it. The WM doesn't need a stylus at all to use all typical phone, email, message usage. The stylus is wonderfull however, when browsing web sites not designed for mobile in the firs place. Unfortunatelly, you don't have this option in other phones as iPhone, and it can be a nightmare trying to browse some web sites with the iPhone (not mention lack of flash that is available in WM). The screen in the HTC I have has 800X480 giving a sharp definition of all text, allowing to read a pdf page with all wide visible, not need for pan (try that in the iPhone). I am not sure why people try to credit the capacitive feature in the iPhone's screen, it is a nightmare! You need to use always the base of your fingers to select anything what is much less accurate than using the tip or nails (specially on these web sites no mobile friendly) The HTC WM screen rocks in this sense, you can browse pages full wide without having to zoom as crazy for any link selection.

It is true that the HTC WM phone is not as responsive and smooth as an iPhone, and even crashes from time to time, but at the end makes the job, with more flexibility, better, and opening the door to many more posibilities.

I think that Microsoft, is triyng to respond to the market burst with a quite compex OS in hardware that is very recent. While WM phones have been there for quite some time, hardware that can compite with iPhone has been developed very recently. Microsoft needs to get into this train quick to avoid all the stigma created around, and I think their last chance is now with Windows 7 Mobile. Hopefully, this may be like the day they jumped from Windows 3.1 to 95!

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