While there are many mobile operating systems, the current top OSes include Google's Android, Apple's iOS, Microsoft's Windows Phone, Nokia's Symbian, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS.
While Symbian had significant world market share, it is almost nonexistent in the US and is rapidly loosing market share worldwide. Nokia is now shifting to Windows Phone for all future products. Because of this change, we'll only look at the top four.
We take an unbiased (we think) look at the latest versions of each OS and shows the strengths and weaknesses of each OS when used in smartphones.


Android




Produced by Google, Android has taken over the top spot from Apple, and now has the largest market share of mobile phones in the US. Android is an open source effort and is available to device makers for free. Earlier versions required considerable additional effort by the device makers, but Google has now built in support for many hardware standards reducing this effort. Google has also continually added new features and improvements, and delivers free advanced development tools.
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Pros
Cons
  • Largest number of devices to choose from
  • Frequently enhanced
  • Large number of application available
  • Excellent UI
  • Multi-tasking
  • Free developer tools
  • No restrictions on applications
  • Phones are available from every service provider
  • Many devices (although not all) can be unlocked with third-party applications
  • Adobe Flash 10 support (in v2.2+)
  • Many devices include Haptics
  • Assisted GPS on most devices
  • Near-Field Commuication support (v4.0+)
  • WiFi Direct (v4.0, improved in v4.1)
  • Some device manufacturers add alternative UI front-ends which reduces OS consistency
  • Generally, updates are controlled by device manufacturer and may be slow or nonexistent
  • Applications are not validated in most marketplaces, except for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


iOS



Apple's iOS is the gold standard of OSes, and Apples iPhones and iPads continue to grow its sales. While once being the market leader, Android has surpassed it in 2010. Still, iOS is a force to be reckoned with, as it continues to expand and take market share away from others. Many feature offered by competitors are still missing in iOS devices such as the iPhone 5S.
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Pros
Cons
  • Excellent UI
  • The largest number of applications available, exceeding all others combined
  • Apple validates applications
  • Consistent UI across devices
  • Yearly free OS updates for latest models
  • LTE available (iPhone 5S only)
  • Closed architecture
  • Very limited number of devices and styles to choose from - all from Apple
  • No multi-tasking for applications although it is promised for the future.
  • Applications must be approved by Apple before being made available via the Marketplace
  • Somewhat hostile to the development community (tools are costly and applications may be refused for any reason).
  • Phones are only available from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint
  • Can't be unlocked (an unlocked 4S phone can be purchased driectly from Apple after Oct-2011)
  • No Adobe Flash support and no plans to offer it
  • No assisted GPS
  • No Haptics
  • Very limited device screen sizes: Phones: 3.7" and 4", Tablet: 9.7"
  • No NFC
  • Poor mapping software (iOS 6) replaced Google maps


BlackBerry OS



BlackBerry OS is produced by Research In Motion (RIM), and has been very successful in the corporate and government markets. It offers the best integration with corporate mail systems and offers excellent security. An entirely new OS "BB10" is planned for early 2013 to be up-to-date with the compeition.
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Pros
Cons
  • Excellent integration with company mail systems
  • Secure send and receive email using proprietary encryption
  • Applications better targeted at the corporate environment than other OS application offerings
  • Multi-tasking
  • Phones available from most service providers
  • Support for Adobe Flash 10 in a future update
  • Assisted GPS on some devices
  • Closed architecture
  • Limited number of devices to choose from - all from Research In Motion
  • Very few touch-screen models
  • Limited number of applications available
  • Dated UI (prior to BB10)
  • Application development is more complex and difficult that other OSes (prior to BB10)
  • Applications tend to be more costly


Windows Phone 7/8



Microsoft produces the Windows Phone 7/8 OS (WP), with a new OS launched at the end of 2010. It replaced the dated and obsolete Windows Mobile series of OSes. WP7 delivers a fresh approach with improved social media integration and a new tile styled UI called Metro. New version 7.5 was released at the end of 2011 and Version 8 in October 2012.
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Pros
Cons
  • Integrated and merged social media abilities
  • Excellent home screen status
  • Built in support for Windows Office documents
  • Works with Xbox Live multi-player gaming
  • Limited Multi-tasking (w v7.5+)
  • Excellent development tools, with free versions available to students.
  • Phones available from most service providers
  • Updates available directly from Microsoft
  • The minimum hardware reference standard exceeds most other OS maker's requirements
  • Many devices include Haptics
  • Assisted GPS on most devices
  • Browser is a mix of IE7 and IE8 (a bit dated) on v7, but upgraded to IE9 in v7.5.
  • Closed architecture
  • Small number of applications available
  • Unusual Home page visual style disliked by some
  • Applications must be approved by Microsoft before being made available via the Marketplace
  • No Adobe Flash

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