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Android, Apple in an OS war

With three complete overhauls and one major update due, the battle to become the top operating system has peaked in 2013

india Updated: Nov 08, 2013 12:46 IST
Sneha Mahale

While design, features and price are top of the list when choosing a new smartphone or tablet, the operating system (OS) also plays a major role in the selection process. And technophiles across the world are known to swear by their favourites — be it Android, BlackBerry, iOS or Windows. Even as the smartphone war continues, with three revamps and one big update in 2013, the real battle may actually be the one for the best OS.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), Google’s mobile operating system has a 91 per cent market share in the country, giving it an overwhelming lead over its competitors. The figures from IDC, which tracks units of phones shipped to a market, are for the second quarter of this year. And though it remains the OS with the largest number of users worldwide, Google and Android continue their quest to take over the world with the launch of their latest version — KitKat 4.4. Announced last week, the new update promises to make the OS sleeker and simpler, while integrating some Google services along the way.

With KitKat 4.4, the search giant has also made it possible to have a single version of the OS across all Android smartphones. “As we get on our journey to reach the next billion people, we want to do it on the latest version of Android,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Android and Chrome at their launch event in San Francisco, USA. Apart from a few design tweaks, the latest OS also increases integration as texting, instant messaging and even voice and video calling are now done through Hangouts, while Google Now sends you information that you might want, based on your location, sites that you frequently visit, or even TV shows you particularly like.

The Canadian firm has been in the news lately for the roll-out of the BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS. The instant messaging service was downloaded 10 million times in the first 24 hours and was one of the most-talked-about app launches in recent years on social media. However, the same cannot be said of BlackBerry’s (BB) last OS.

BB’s operating system got a complete overhaul with the BB 10, which was unveiled earlier this year with the Z10. The OS saw the introduction of the BB Hub, merged home-screens, widgets, app lists and a unified inbox to a new interface offering an easy-to-navigate user experience, and brought in an excellent web browser, the Evolution Browser. The 10.2 update that was rolled out recently added a new feature known as the Priority Hub, in which the system learns from a user’s behaviour and displays critical messages at the top of the inbox. Also introduced was Natural Sound within BBM Video to make conversations between BB 10 smartphones sound more realistic. However, despite all this it still doesn’t figure among the top three OS’s in the market, according to the IDC.

It may account for 13.2 per cent of the global smartphone market share, according to the IDC, but only 2.3 per cent of Indians use iPhones. And though Apple CEO Tim Cook has been quoted saying, “Apple was not interested in selling junk,” increasing competition did force Apple’s hand to overhaul their existing OS.

Launched along with the iPhone 5s and 5c in September, iOS 7 offered Apple fanatics an all-new design and features. The launch trended for days on Twitter and, as with most Apple launches, was debated about for days on social media. Servers were under pressure as millions logged in to download the OS that offered new icons and design, while adding features such as Air Drop, Control Centre and Notification Centre.

However, the roll-out did have some flaws. Users complained via tweets that the new OS made them “tipsy”, caused “motion sickness” and “compromised security”. Subsequent updates have looked to iron these flaws out.

In 2012, Microsoft announced the launch of its latest operating system — Windows 8 — and it was received with mixed reactions. While some critics loved the Tiles, colourful design and attractive interface, others criticised it for being “confusing” and “difficult to learn”. But Nokia’s Lumia series have become popular in India to a certain extent. According to the figures released by the IDC, Windows is the second-most used mobile OS in the country with a market share of 5.4 per cent.

And the first update for the OS has just been released. Windows Phone 8.1 looks to correct some of the criticisms that early adopters and experts have expressed. The upgrade could appear later in November or in the first half of next year, according to analysts and software vendors, but Microsoft has not confirmed this. Also, there is a considerable amount of speculation about whether devices running the current Windows 8 OS will be able to run the upgrade.