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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mobile OS Comparison - iOS 7 vs. Android 4.2 vs. Windows Phone 8 vs. BlackBerry 10

On the WWDC 2013, Apple officially released iOS 7, and declared it to come with “Biggest Change Since the Original iPhone”. By checking what’s new in iOS 7, we could easily get the right point of iOS 7, like the multitasking preview, Control Center, AireDrop, etc. These changes are more cosmetic and iterative than they are groundbreaking. That's completely understandable; not every update can spark a revolution.
However, apart from a few notable innovations, iOS 7 doesn't seem like it's enough to overturn criticism that its growth has stalled, that it's less innovative than archrival Android, and that it borrows heavily from other competitors (in truth, they all steal ideas from each other). At least not at this point in the game.

Below, you'll find a list of the iOS 7 features that Apple focused on today, and next to that, a brief description of how that trait exists on Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry rivals (or at least one manufacturer's take on said platform). Read on below for more detail about how iOS 7 stacks up.
iOS 7Android 4.2Win Pho 8BlackBerry 10
Control Center
Yes, varies by phone-maker
No, settings
System access settings
Notification center
Detailed notifications
Live tile
BlackBerry Hub, badges
Multitasking preview
Recents list
Multitasking preview
Active Frames grid
Surfaced camera modes
Varies by Android skin
Video, Time Shift modes
Photos grouped by
years, location
Albums, other filters
Albums, date
Albums, recent
Shared photo stream
Samsung Galaxy S4
Share one by one
Share one by one
Peer-to-peer sharing (AirDrop)
Android Beam (NFC)
Tap + Share (NFC)
NFC sharing
Unified browser bar
Personalized radio/discovery
Nokia Music
Third-party app
Voice access to
system settings
Samsung's S Voice
No systems access
No systems access
Automatic app updates
Optional, by app
'Update all' option
In-dash integration
(iOS for cars)
Driving mode/S Drive
Nokia Drive
Third-party apps

Actually, there's a lot in iOS 7 that we've seen before in other mobile platforms, in similar if not identical forms. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as Apple executes well and brings value to the user. The difference is that Apple's most advertised iOS 7 software additions either play catch-up or are relatively minor, like a way to filter apps for kids or surface camera settings in the app's top layer.

Apple does push the industry forward with some capabilities that are all its own -- like iOS 7 for cars and using Siri to toggle system settings. (Samsung's S Voice does the latter, but not Android Voice Actions.) Even with driving modes for individual handsets, such deep car integration will be tough for the others to beat and even match without strong automotive partnerships.

iTunes Radio may not be a new concept, but I like that it's free for everyone, and integrated into a native app that people already use. Google Play Music All Access does about the same, but costs $10 per month, and Nokia Music is free, but only on Nokia's Windows phones.

Once again, Apple's advantage is that iOS 7 will be unified across most Apple smartphones and tablets, unlike Android, which varies greatly by phone-maker and has a notorious track record for timely updates across devices. Even Windows Phone has two flavors; that profits Nokia, the originator of most extra features, but also makes Windows Phone's benefits uneven across the entire portfolio.

Apple may not have bowled us over with headline enhancements, but iOS 7 will continue to formidably challenge Google, Microsoft, and BlackBerry with its eye-catching visual design and its total haul of features, new and old. Like many things worth admiring, iOS 7 is greater than the sum of its parts.

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