By Vamien McKalin | Nov 09, 2012 12:45 PM EST
A few years ago, the smartphone market was considerably different compared to how it is now, but things are changing with Windows Phone 8, Android 4.0, and iOS 6. These new mobile operating systems are bridging the gap between what users can do on a smartphone, and what they can do on PCs.
The Windows Phone 8 interface is the only one that stands out from the bunch with Live Tiles. The tiles represent different applications and can be placed on the home screen, they are also interactive, hence the name Live Tiles.
By comparison, Android 4.0 is a slightly different as users interact with Widgets on the home screen instead of tiles. The user also has up to seven different home screens to play around with, which can be useful if a particular user would want a home screen for entertainment, and the other for business.
Apple's iOS 6, on the other hand, is not as advanced when compared to Windows Phone 8 and Android 4.0. Apple chose to stick to the tried and tested formula that has done the company well since it launched its first iPhone device. The interface is filled with a grid of icons that are arguably simpler to use than that of the competition.
Microsoft started things off with Windows Phone 7 by incorporating Bing Maps into the platform, which is not the case with Windows Phone 8. The new OS has Nokia Maps as the default mapping application; it also brings to the table 3D maps along with full offline navigation.
Android, as users may already know, is all Google and nothing else. Many consider Google Maps to be the best in its class, with Streetview and 3D mapping at the helm.
Google Maps was the default mapping application on iPhone devices since the first device, but that changed with iOS 6. Apple chose to go with its own mapping software, Apple Maps, ousting the Google one. The launch of the Apple Maps was marred with problems and issues with the app, which forced Apple to direct its users to competing mapping apps until the company can fix the issues.
Windows Phone 8 camera features has been enhanced, thought it still has the look of something with simplicity in mind. However, Nokia Lumia handsets will be the ones to really give the user some cool camera features with PureView technology at the device's core.
Google didn't do much with the Android 4.0 camera features, but the additions and enhancements were noticeable by the end user. Expect photo editing, zero shutter lag, panoramic mode along with other minor features.
Continuing with its simplicity, iOS 6 settings are all sorted automatically for the user. With iOS 6, there isn't much to do than fire up the camera app and shoot away. However, Apple also encountered issues with this feature with iPhone 5 users complaining of "purple flares."
NFC and Wallet
Near Field Communication or NFC is seen by many as the future of wireless sharing and banking. Microsoft managed to do a great job with its NFC implementation in Windows Phone 8, blending the best of what Android 4.0 and iOS 6 have to offer. Windows Phone 8 Wallet also allows payment via apps that are installed on the device.
Google's NFC implementation in Android 4.0 is pretty solid. Expect to share contacts and files by tapping two NFC capable devices together, save your credit card information along with other features.
Apple didn't take the NFC route with the announcement of iOS 6 and iPhone 5; however, the company opted to go with Passbook. While not an NFC-based application, it brings to the table many of the same features and abilities.
Windows Phone 8 does a great job on building on Windows Phone 7. It's a massive upgrade, one that was surely needed if Microsoft wanted to stand a chance in competing with Google and Apple for millions of smartphone users' hearts and minds.
Android 4.0 can be seen as an important upgrade for Google, though it cannot be considered as huge. However, Google didn't need to make a huge upgrade here. Android is slowly coming to maturity and, therefore, the company is correct to focus on overall performance and small features at this juncture.
Apple's iOS 6 has changed a lot over the years, the OS is mature and the features are rich. However, the look and feel needs to be changed as every new iPhone is beginning to feel dated with the old user interface. Apple needs to be careful, iOS and the iPhone could become the next Symbian and Nokia if changes are not made sooner rather than later.