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What smartphone operating systems come along with

A shopper tests a smartphone at a shop in Taipei, Taiwan. For the common user, the operating system, and hence the user interface, is what should inform preference of one smartphone over another. Photo/FILE
A shopper tests a smartphone at a shop in Taipei, Taiwan. For the common user, the operating system, and hence the user interface, is what should inform preference of one smartphone over another. Photo/FILE  AFP

With the smartphone market awash with many brands from various phone manufacturers, the user’s headache is usually anchored on what to look for in the gadget.

The choice should basically revolve around cost, look and feel, user interface, battery, and the kind of applications one can access.

In the recent past we have seen Nokia’s smartphone market share slide as Samsung and other manufacturers who have adopted Google’s Android system bask in glory.

To put it in perspective, is has not been a battle of brands alone but also operating systems (OS) that phone manufacturers use in their devices.

For the common user, the OS, and hence the user interface, is what should inform choice of one smartphone over another.

Nokia’s smartphones have been using the Symbian operating system, but this is changing as the company has switched to Microsoft’s Windows Phone for their current and future smartphones.

Nokia’s Lumia series smartphones are running on the Windows mobile OS but other flagship Nokia phones such as the current E and N series run on Symbian.

On the other hand, the Android system is used in high-end handsets such as the hugely popular Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note II from Samsung, and Google’s own LG-made Nexus 4.

Most Smartphone users have argued that Nexus 4 is probably the biggest bargain available to smartphone buyers largely due to Google’s price lowering effect.

Major Windows Phone 8 (the latest version of Windows mobile OS) smartphones currently in the market are all high-end, high-quality devices built by Nokia, HTC, and Samsung.

Seasoned Nokia phone users would agree with me that Nokia Belle, the latest version that uses the Symbian OS, looks a lot like a customised version of Android with the multiple horizontal-sliding desktop home screens.

The operating system comes with many widgets and a drop-down notifications bar which enhances the look and feel of the system, just like that of Android.

Nokia’s Belle, however, has much longer battery life and a completely different app store which naturally only supports Symbian apps.

Newer methods

The Android store, on the other hand, has Google apps that are not available on Nokia store and this is one area of differentiation between Symbian and Android.

In terms of user interface, Symbian and Android seem to share some basics like the notifications and arrangement of widgets.

The two operating systems allow one to receive notifications from all running programmes at the top of the screen.

A user can also arrange widgets to display pertinent information for easy access, and there is a menu where all applications reside.

Unlike Symbian, Android seems to have got a bit more sophisticated since it allows users to add widgets to the notifications tray, but usability depends on how tech savvy a user is.

Windows Phone, on the other hand, implements a completely new type of interface design that seems to work well on both small-screened smartphones and larger screens.

The Windows operating system also leaves room for newer methods of user interaction such as 3D gesture recognition and voice controls.

Also unique to Windows OS is that third party apps show up within the content in which they may be related to as opposed to just a “more programmes” menu and “hubs” organise both content and apps from all sorts of different sources in a way that makes a lot of sense but is also quite different from the “launch an app, then find your stuff” common in Android.

Power consumption

Comparatively, Android needs more processing power to run the OS smoothly than Symbian and Windows Mobile, but this depends on the settings the user has put in place.

Both the Symbian, Windows Mobile OS, and Android have power saving widgets which can be turned on and off depending on the tasks the phone is engaged in.

Otherwise smartphone users are compelled to carry chargers with them and sometimes charge the phones twice per day.

Leaving bluetooth and wi-fi buttons on can drain battery power. The two icons should be turned off unless they are in use.

Despite the operating systems the smartphones run on, it is advisable to turn off background updates unless you are connected to a wi-fi network otherwise you will end up spending a fortune on mobile data.

jratemo@ke.nationmedia.com