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Cell phone operating systems galore

Over the years, operating systems powering cellular phones have come and gone. I’ve been using a cell phone since 2003, so I’ve had a chance to see the market evolve and sometimes change more rapidly than I can keep track of.

To list just a few of the systems I know or have heard of: Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Windows Phone, Nokia’s Maemo, Meego (in conjunction with Intel) and various forms of Symbian, Samsung’s bada, Qualcomm’s Brew, Blackberry OS and numerous other simple systems for entry level phones.

At the moment the following are dead or have had their death announced: Maemo, Meego, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry OS (Blackberry 10 is not based on the existing OS.)

I’ve used some of these systems, so I will offer my brief opinion on them: Symbian was fantastic on a non touch screen phone. The interface was far better suited to keys than a touch screen, and no amount of polishing has been able to make it feel easy to use of a touch screen only device. Nokia made the right move to kill it off in my view. The code base was simply too mangled to easily move forward with new hardware and features.

Windows Mobile tried to combine too many features into devices that didn’t have the power to run those features. The interface was ugly, non touch friendly, but thanks to a stylus, you at least had pin point accuracy for certain things.

Blackberry OS felt far too cluttered for me on the few occasions I’ve had a chance to play with it. Like Symbian, I felt that there is too many sub menus, hidden menus and locations for settings that make it a chore to use. Here in South Africa, those that use them swear by them, but globally RIM is currently circling the drain.

I use iOS on my iPad and I think it’s a very mature and powerful platform. It has enough built in to make it useful, leaving everything else up to the App Store to let you customise your device with apps in your own way. That being said, I find the user interface a bit dated, with the static icons reminding me of Symbian. Still, it’s familiar, solid and easy to use.

I’ve not spent too much time playing with Android, though what I have again reminded me of Symbian in some respects. I can’t really comment further here.

I own a Windows Phone, which I love, but sometimes wish had more features. Things like being able to set up your MMS server settings, Bluetooth file transfer and so on. That being said, I love the Metro interface and how it presents info to you with a quick glance. I also find the larger tiles to be far easier to touch and navigate, but that’s my personal view.

Overall, the next year or so will prove to be a very interesting time for the mobile OS arena. iOS and Android will continue to slug it out at the top, while Windows Phone continues to grow quietly in the background. RIM, makers of Blackberry may not be around in a year’s time. Other minor operating systems will continue to fade away, ultimately reducing choice, but also confusion in the marketplace. Other than that, look for more explosive episodes of the Patent Wars, as almost everybody in the mobile industry sues someone else. Interesting times ahead indeed.

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