Until the birth of the iPhone, the common phone user did not bother about the operating system. They were familiar with Symbian or Java and made no other demands. Apple put the industry in a frenzy with the iOS, which led to the development of Google's Android and caused Microsoft to revisit its Windows Mobile OS. With time, and competition, operating software has become a major factor in the appeal of a phone. For one, the OS is the brain of the ubiquitous gadget. It is the primary device for multimedia, Internet access, social networking and for culling apps from cyberspace. So periodically Apple, Google, RIM , and even Microsoft, overhaul their systems. Phone makers, too, develop their own platforms, as Samsung did with Bada.
By design or accident, almost all major smartphone makers recently announced new versions of their operating systems or rolled out the much-awaited upgrades. We tested them and here is the report on what these new phone brains bring to the table.
Comes from: Apple Inc
Handsets: The iPhone 4S will be coming to India, but iOS 5 is available for upgrade on the iPhone 4 as well as the iPhone 3GS.
Windows Phone Mango
Comes from: Microsoft
What's new: More than a year ago, Microsoft came up with a revamped operating system, the Windows Mobile 7. It looked refreshing with two columns of coloured tiles acting as shortcuts. But then, it lacked copy-paste, multi-tasking, etc. Microsoft has managed to fix these issues with the recent Mango upgrade. By holding down the phone's back button, you can multi-task. There is a unified email inbox, similar to what is present on the iPhone. With a single tap and selecting an icon you can copy text or paste it across applications. The missing Twitter has been deeply integrated, just the way Facebook has been done. Indeed, all communication with a single contact across different channels appear together as a thread. The phone even switches between chat channels like text messages and Facebook chat. Mango offers a significantly improved browsing experience. Local Scout helps in searching for nearby locations like a coffee shop. Microsoft also claims that the applications available in Windows Marketplace utilise the Metro user interface and will offer a rich experience. These can be pinned to the homescreen and gels well with the Mango UI.
Handsets: HTC Radar and Samsung Omnia W. Nokia has recently announced the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710.
Bada OS 2.0
Comes from: Samsung
What's new: The ever evolving mobile operating system market pushed Samsung to come up with its own operating system. And the Asian giant did it with the Bada, which means 'ocean' or 'seashore' in Korean. Samsung had hoped to use this platform to offer a 'smartphone for everyone'. However, the effort failed to create enthusiasm. Some phones have now been put on the upgraded Bada 2.0. The new OS features an improved user interface with multiple windows and the ability to add shortcuts by holding the icons in the main menu. Other new capabilities include multitasking. (The task manager shows you all the apps running and you can then choose to either close them individually or all at one go). There is voice recognition too, which can be employed while typing messages. Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, HTML5 and improved Flash functions in the web browser are a few other highlights of Samsung's Bada 2.0.
Handsets: Samsung has announced three devices on Bada 2.0. These are the Wave 3, Wave M and Wave Y.
Comes from: Nokia
What's new: Symbian Anna is going to yield place to Belle, which is much easier to use. What used to be standard box icons on the homescreen have been enriched with differently sized widgets for personalising the screens. The limited 3-window homescreen has been extended to six. A notification bar appears when swiping from top to bottom. This includes basic settings along with pending notifications. Life has been added to the locked homescreen as well. With NFC all set to become the next big thing in phones, Nokia has extended support by allowing the user to share images, connect to an accessory and perhaps do a bit of e-buying with a simple tap of the phone.
Handsets: Nokia 700 and 701. (N8, E7, C6-01, E6 and X7 are upgradable).
Android Ice-Cream Sandwich
Comes from: Google
What's new: Designed for both mobiles and tablets, it unites the best of Gingerbread and Honeycomb versions. This wedlock has brought a refined interface that has more visuals and is interactive along with new ways of sharing and communication. Virtual buttons have been added for navigating back, home and apps. The 'Recent Apps' virtual key helps switch among active apps for multitasking. The Notification bar has also undergone some changes. Users can drag an app over another to create a folder. Locking too comes with new options. There is also a significant improvement in the soft keyboard as text input is faster and accurate, with a spell checker that underscores errors. Data usage being the biggest concern on smartphones, Ice-Cream Sandwich will have controls for managing data over Wi-Fi or mobile. Users will be able to sync and manage Google Chrome bookmarks and request for full desktop versions of web sites instead of mobile versions. Communicating and sharing is aided by a new people app. The camera has been enhanced with new settings (continuous focus, zero shutter lag, stabilised image zoom, etc). Google also uses the cloud for new browsing and email capabilities. NFC (near-field communication) will let two NFC-enabled device to share apps, contacts, videos and music at a single tap.
Handsets: Only Galaxy
BLACKBERRY OS 3
Comes from: Research-In-Motion
What's new: It's not only the phone leaders who are coming up with revolutionary upgrades. Research-In-Motion (RIM) has also come up with the BlackBerry OS 7 that looks and feels completely different. It is all set to offer the smoothest and fastest BB experience ever, including colours. Liquid graphics gives the OS a fresh look. The new browser onboard is powerful and provides a 40% faster page load and supports seamless panning, zooming and scrolling. Near-Field Communication is still a dream in India but the OS is future proof. It supports NFC and a few new devices are NFC-enabled. Finally, RIM has focused on multimedia and the phones on the new OS can capture videos at 720P resolution. As for networking, OS 3 has the BBM6 messenger. Social Feeds 2.0 helps update Facebook and Twitter. There is more news from RIM: the company recently unveiled the BlackBerry BBX that will be the next generation mobile platform for smartphones and tablets. Although, OS 7 users won't be able to upgrade to the BBX, RIM doesn't plan to abandon OS 7 users.
Handsets: The BlackBerry OS 7 was launched in India with the BlackBerry 9900. Since then, some more devices have been launched. This includes 9810, 9360 and 9860. However, unfortunately, smartphones on OS 5 and OS 6 are not upgradable to OS 7.
Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos