Smartphones have been on the market long enough now to be considered commonplace. For those of us older than 40, we can remember the days when no one had a computer in their home, much less their pocket.
Then came the Mac, then Windows, and the competition was on. Apple had created a technology that took the world by storm, and it wasn’t long before the copycats sprung up in both hardware and software forms.
Apple controlled their hardware and software and demanded a level of quality and customer satisfaction that continues until today. Microsoft created an operating system, Windows; that mimicked the Apple platform, and sold it to be used on the multitude of PCs constructed by hundreds (if not thousands) of companies around the world. This eventually made Microsoft one of the largest companies (and Bill Gates the richest man) in the world.
Then Apple introduced the iPhone, and turned the world on its ear again. And again, the same basic thing happened. Before long, there were hardware and software knock-offs to compete with the iPhone in the marketplace. Only, this time Microsoft was slow on the jump. Instead, Google’s Android has stepped in as the main competition to the iPhone. Now Microsoft has entered into the race as well. The most recent offering is Windows Phone 8.
Of course, there are always other options out there as well. Most notably for the PC is the Linux OS, and for the smartphone is BlackBerry’s BB10. However, we are going to concentrate on how Windows Phone 8 stacks up against Apple’s iOS 7 and Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.
Basic Interface. iOS 7 has made a number of changes to its interface in its latest iteration to keep up with trends set by the Android, and apps that have been developed for the iPhone over the years.
To say there is a “basic” interface is oversimplifying, as almost every phone manufacturer adds its own skin to the platform. However, they are all based on multiple homepages with widgets and neatly organized apps stored in ‘drawers’.
Windows Phone 8 bases its interface on live tiles, which act much like the Droid’s widgets. Windows has taken a decidedly simplistic approach to their interface, which may appeal to some users and frustrate more advanced users.
Customization. Android by far outshines its competition in this area. As mentioned above, many companies add their own look to the Droid OS, because it is almost a completely open OS. This means that if the user is well versed enough in technology, a great number of modifications can be made to personalize the phone to any user’s needs and desires.
Apple’s iOS 7, on the other hand, is mostly closed to the user. The interface is set up to be as intuitive as possible, and keeps the users from causing undue harm to their device by careless noodling about. While this is an annoyance for skilled operators, it can be much more comfortable for the novice.
Windows Phone 8 is much closer to the iOS in this degree. Tiles can be resized, as well as changed in appearance and location. The lock screen can also be modified to show photos, tiles and updates.
Camera. One of the most common features on smart phones is the ability to shoot photos and video. iOS 7 has added multiple lens type features as well as filters, so it is similar to using Instagram without the app.
And again, the Android camera really depends on the phone, but usually offers a wide range of features without the need for an extra app.
Windows Phone 8 still offers a rather simplified camera experience, with just a suggestion of separate lens settings. However, as you may have assumed by now, all of the devices can be upgraded with additional apps.
Media and Apps. Apple started all of this long ago, and their App Store and iTunes are the most famous in the world. Thousands of titles are available, but closely controlled by Apple, to ensure “user satisfaction”.
Google is still catching up on the media front, but their release of the Play Books, Play Music and Play Movies apps has made downloading much easier. Play Store allows you to download many more apps, but the tight quality control isn’t there. This is the up and downside of the open source format. It allows for freer expansion, but the fragmentation it causes is one of the main complaints about Android phones.
Windows is still just too new and not as popular as the competition. Their App Store is sorely lacking. There are just not enough developers interested in the format yet. To complicate things, many common apps like Hulu and You Tube are not available, forcing subscribers to buy third party apps to use the service, and often these don’t work well.
Bottom line, for those who want just a simple phone, want to take pictures, and would like internet access and aren’t interested in playing games or multiple apps, then the Windows phone is a good solution. There is talk that Windows Phone 8.1 will be a grand update, but they still have a long way to go before they catch the competition.