We have seen exciting developments in mobile platform space in the past few months. In September, Microsoft had launched the much flaunted “Mango” which was closely followed by the launch of Apple iOS 5, and the latest to create buzz is the much hyped launch of Google Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich platform. Each of these platforms not only comes with significant enhancements over their predecessors, but also competes with each other on innovation and usability. Here we take a sneak peek into these platforms, as well as how they fare against each other.
Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)
Microsoft’s Windows 7.5 code named as ‘Mango’ was launched in September with a lot of expectations riding on it, especially after the disastrous failure of Windows Mobile. Mango with its superior design and focus on usability is considered to be a giant step forward by Microsoft in mobile computing space. It is seen as Microsoft’s grand entry into Mobile and Tablet space, which is now dominated by Apple iOS and Google Android.
Mango has received rave attention from its users, thanks to an array of innovations in design as well as functionalities. User Interface has been given high importance in this version, and is based on sophisticated “Metro” design which is the core design element for Windows 8. Favourite and frequently used apps are showcased as Live Tiles. With many apps displayed in the background, it allows the User to multi-task by switching between Apps without having to shut down one app to access another. For instance, one can switch between email, calendar, powerpoint or games simultaneously. The Live Tiles feature also plays the slide show of selected pictures, and displays updates from friends and families who can be classified into different groups.
Other highlights include fully touch enabled web browser, web – connected and web powered applications developed using HTML 5 and Java Script. You can search and access photo apps, music apps, video apps in real-time. Mango also enables user to stay connected with friends via sophisticated social media integrations. Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are built into the phone, and it allows you to create groups to categorise friends, family, colleagues and others. To mention other features, you have location search, mall maps, driving directions which make your phone a personal assistant. You can also have loads of fun with picture tagging, video sharing, Smart music and video list, DJ options, and Podcast.
What is more, Mango also is loaded with Office Mobile. You can access and edit word, excel and powerpoint docs on the phone and organise them as you can do in a PC. Mango is designed for easy navigation and search. What is more, Office 365 which brings the leverage of cloud computing is also available on Mango.
In summary, Microsoft’s Mango is all set to pose a tough challenge to Apple and Android once it is launched in full swing. The OS combines the best features of smart phones and PC in one single device. Mango, in short, is a big step forward by Microsoft and reflects serious commitment to make a mark in the industry.
Though trailing far behind Android and Apple OS currently, the Mango’s market share is expected to grow exponentially once Nokia and other OEMs launch Windows 7.5 empowered handsets. According to some analyst estimates, it may even overtake iPhone by 2015.
Apple iOS 5
Apple’s iOS was launched with much fanfare and is seen to pose a touch competition to Android. iOS 5 powers a wide range of Apple devices, including the all previous generations of iPhone, last two editions of iPod touch, and all releases of iPad. The latest version of the OS brings a lot of enhancement to core components of operating system. Some of the innovations in iOS 5 are revamped notification system which now runs like a banner on the top – you have options to either respond to them or ignore them. Another featured that has caught much attention from the Users is iMessage – the new feature enables free iOS to iOS free messaging service which is similar to Blackberry Type Messaging.
Another feature that needs to be highlighted in this release is iCloud — which provides quick and hassle-free access to documents, pictures, emails, calendars and contacts. On signing up for iCloud, you get 5GB free storage space. Once you set up your account, docs can be accessed from any Apple devices, no syncing is required between devices.
However, the best of all features in this release, according to me, is none other than Siri, a Voice Assistant which acts like your Personal Secretary. Siri executes your commands based on what you say. Siri can understand what you say, and exactly make sense of what you mean and even talk back to you. It schedules meetings, sends out emails and puts you on call on your command. You can ask Siri to call up your wife, remind you to pick up grocery and even help you with finding out good restaurants around the corner. Siri is not just interactive, but intelligent as well. It makes sense of what you say by understanding the context in relation to your location, your profile details such as where you work, where you stay, your age and even the contacts you are in touch with. It knows all about your boss, friends, family by name, so you can just shout out, “Check with Max if we can catch up for lunch at 1,” and Siri will do it for you. It even takes dictations, converts your voice to text which on your instruction will be sent out as email to somebody or saved for future reference, based on your instructions.
Apple claims that there is a full list of 200 new features found in iOS. A few others worth highlighting include Twitter integration, wireless sync, PC Free setup and updating, multitasking features and updates to core applications like the camera, mail and calendar.
Inspite of some really awesome features, Apple iOS 5 was subjected to criticisms owing to a few glitches during the initial weeks of launch. Several complaints followed the launch including slow download and installation, unusually fast drainage of battery, connectivity issues and authentication errors. Apple later confirmed an iOS bug which affects battery life and is working on fixing these issues.
Nevertheless, in latest findings by Chitika Insights, iOS 5 is found to be loaded on 38 percent of iPhones, 30 percent of iPads, and 12 percent of iPod touches. Chitika’s latest analysis says that two weeks after iOS 5 debuted, it accounted only for 20 percent of total iOS traffic. It took just five days for iOS 5 to become the second-most used software powering iPads and iPhones.
Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Android Ice Cream Sandwich is the first unified version for tablets and smart phones. It combines the the best of both Gingerbread and Honeycomb, Google’s earlier versions of Android, while also providing an array of new features. One of the interesting features introduced in this version is “Face to unlock” which uses facial recognition to unlock your phone. Other novelties include Android Beam which uses NFC technology to share web pages, apps and YouTube videos with other Android ICS powered devices. Better voice commands, improved browser, facial recognition, advanced photo editing features and significant enhancements to core apps such as Gmail and Calendar are some of the noteworthy features that are poised to transform user experience.
I happened to bump into this interesting table on www.redmondpie.com which summarises the comparison between the three platforms.
Each of the three major platforms offers unique advantages as well as drawbacks. While Apple iOS is loved for its simplicity, sophistication and a rich portfolio of apps, users do not enjoy much flexibility or control. Microsoft’s Mango seems to be the most visually appealing OS, but when it comes to app eco system and device usability, Mango has a long way to go before it can catch up with others. Google Android offers high level of customisation and usability, but fragmentation and security are still causes for concerns. It will be interesting to watch how the mobile platform war will shape the industry.
So who will win the mobile platform war? Ultimately, consumers will be the real winners. We will see more companies entering the space and existing companies will continue to invest on innovation to win over users and gain more market share. Usability, Speed and Security will to drive the success of players in the mobile platform space.
By : Sirish Kosaraju
Director & Co-Founder