Whether anticipating the latest iPhone release or just wanting to upgrade your phone, the choices of available smartphones are more plentiful than ever. Ultimately, the right choice is going to be the device that suites your personal needs best. But with all the different options out there, narrowing the field can be a daunting. This overview will give you lay of the land, help you at least eliminate some options, and identify some questions you may want to ask.
Much like Mac vs. Windows, the main differences between devices are the operating systems. Most users have at least heard of the 4 main options available in the U.S. Here’s a rundown of their pros and cons:
iOS: The operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch from Apple.
Pros: Easy to use and relatively simple to learn – with far and away the largest app selection. It is typically first to receive new apps and updates.
Cons: To provide a simple user experience and consistent interactions, Apple maintains tight control on all aspects of the phone, meaning that you trade ease-of-use for the ability to highly customize your phone. Most users are very happy with the experience, but iOS can be frustrating for real power users. Also, iPhones tend to be one the most expensive smartphones, especially if you aren’t eligible for an upgrade.
Android: Running most of the non-Apple smartphones and tablets, Android is an open platform from Google. Android devices are made by Amazon, HTC, LG, Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony.
Pros: Because it is an open platform, there is a very strong app community and infrastructure. Additionally, users can customize nearly every aspect of the phone experience (or find an app to do it for them). Android devices also tend to be on the lower end of the smartphone price range.
Cons: Because the operating system is an open platform and can be endlessly customized, Android devices can be more challenging to learn and use. Also, because each device manufacturer chooses what version of the Android operating system they use and can put their own manufacturer (or carrier) customizations in, getting the latest features and consistent support for applications can be challenging.
BlackBerry: Extensively used in the corporate world, BlackBerry devices by Research In Motion (RIM), run the proprietary Blackberry operating system.
Pros: Blackberry pioneered a great physical keyboard and its devices are known for seamless communication features, particularly in business.
Cons: Because they were so highly favored by the enterprise, Blackberry failed to keep up with the progression of other operating systems and have fallen behind. There isn’t much of an app community for BlackBerry and their usefulness as a consumer device has nearly expired. If you are looking for a great Facebook experience or the latest camera innovations, Blackberry isn’t for you.
Windows Phone: The mobile operating system from Microsoft, Windows phones have been around for a while but are not necessarily well known. Smartphones running Windows Phone 7 are made by Dell, HTC, LG, Nokia, and Samsung. Microsoft is on the cusp of releasing Windows 8 and phones with the new operating system are set to be announced at the end of October 2012.
Pros: Using a unique interface of Hubs and Tiles, these phones feel familiar to Windows users and were created with productivity and social interaction in mind.
Cons: Windows Phones are less popular than iOS and Android, thereby have fewer available apps. Also, Windows 7 cannot be upgraded to Windows 8; so if you are considering a Windows phone, it is probably best to wait.