It is a reflection of just how fast technology is developing. In the last few years, there has hardly been a quarter without at least one mobile operating system receiving a boost of some sort. But by all standards, 2013 has been a remarkable year so far with just about every mobile operating system blessed by updates. Apple, Google, Microsoft and RIM have all issued refreshes to their OSes. Some are huge, some trivial and others tread the middle path between the old and the new. Here’s a look at the new OS updates in town and what they bring to your handsets and tablets:
Thanks to a quirk of nomenclature, not too many people have noticed Android 4.2. Like its predecessor, it, too, has been named Jellybean, but it adds a whole new bunch of features to the Android experience. The most notable of these are the ability to place widgets on your lock screen so you can get updates on the lock screen itself, the ability to take full 360-degree panorama photographs using the Photo Sphere function, and the support for multiple users, which lets more than one user use the same device. One can also share content from one’s device on an HDTV and just swipe fingers across the onscreen keyboard to type (a la SWYPE). There is a speed and performance boost as well. Unfortunately, not too many manufacturers are rolling out this update to their Android devices, so the tale of Android fragmentation continues.
Like: Swipe keyboard, multiple user support
Dislike: Limited availability
Worth a try: Yes. The default swipe keyboard and multi-user support are a huge bonus
Best experienced on: Nexus 7
If you had told us a year ago that an iOS update would look tame in front of its other mobile OS counterparts, we would have laughed. However, the latest iOS update — 6.1 — is not really a radical one. Indian users are unlikely to notice any major changes in the way they use their iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), apart from the fact that you can now get better music controls from the locked screen itself. The battery life and Wi-Fi connectivity may have improved a bit (we honestly could not see too much of a change in the time we used the update). More of a patcher and bug-fixer this one than a game changer. We will wait for iOS 7.
Like: More support for LTE
Dislike: Still no support for LTE in India
Worth a try: Not really in India, although the bug fixes help
Best on: Apple iPhone 5
Windows 8 RT
There will be those who will raise their eyebrows at the presence of this OS in a mobile OS list but the fact is that Microsoft designed this version of Windows mainly for mobile devices like tablets and relatively lightweight convertibles. It was first seen on Microsoft’s own Surface tablet and is now available on the Lenovo Yoga 11 in India. And contrary to what many think, it is not really a watered down version of Windows 8. You get the same smooth tile-based interface and apps as in Windows 8. What is missing, however, is a full-fledged Desktop mode, which allowed you to run older applications on your device. On the flip side, Windows 8 RT comes with MS Office (although that opens in the limited Desktop mode) and also generally supports better battery life.
Like: The smooth interface, Free MS Office
Dislike: The inability to run older Windows programmes and apps
Worth a try: If you work on the move and want an all-new computing experience
Best experienced on: The Lenovo Yoga
Windows Phone 7.8
The biggest criticism levelled at Windows Phone 8 was the fact that existing Windows Phone 7.5 users could not update their devices to it (Windows Phone 8 required different hardware). What they can, however, do is update their Windows Phone devices to Windows Phone 7.8, which brings some of the features of Windows Phone 8 to older devices, most notably that of resizeable tiles which lets users change the size of tiles on their devices’ homescreen. Speed of operation is also expected to receive a boost and some devices will also see support for Bluetooth file transfer. All in all, one cannot help but feel that this is more of a consolation bone thrown to early Windows Phone adaptors, rather than a full-scale update. Ah, the cruel tech world.
Like: Resizeable tiles
Dislike: Limited multi-tasking
Worth a try: Only if you have a device running Windows Phone 7.5. But if you are looking for a new phone, go ahead and buy one running Windows Phone 8
Best Experienced on: Nokia Lumia 900
It might have allowed iOS and Android to poach away its smartphone market, but with BlackBerry 10, RIM which is now known as Blackberry, is clearly throwing everything it has got to win back lost ground. The interface is unlike anything we have ever seen on a BlackBerry. It uses gestures galore — to navigate, minimise, multi-task, and do a whole lot more and is perhaps the most innovative OS we have seen on a device since our first glance at Windows Phone 7. The camera app has been given a makeover and the onscreen keyboard is comfortable. It now comes with a much better stocked app repository as well, which also offers music and video downloads.
Like: The buttonless, gesture-based interface
Dislike: The need to buy a new (and expensive!) device to experience it
Worth a try: Yes, if you are looking for a new smartphone experience
Best experienced on: BlackBerry Z10
Windows Phone 8
It was released a few months ago but is only now beginning to make its presence felt in India. Microsoft’s overhaul of Windows Phone might not appear too different from its predecessor at first glance but peer under the surface and you will see a number of tweaks. There is support for higher resolution displays, dual core processors, expandable memory and Bluetooth file transfer. The tiled interface also gets a tweak with you being able to resize tiles as per your convenience and there is even a section for your children which they can access when they use your phone without mucking up your data (the Kid’s Corner feature). The browser, Internet Explorer 10, has received a big speed boost. One thing that has fortunately not changed is the smoothness of the interface which remains one of the most comfortable to use and with better hardware, now runs along at the rate of knots.
Like: Kids Corner, higher resolution display support
Dislike: The inability to update our Windows Phone 7.5 devices to it
Worth a try: Definitely. Barring the apps, this gives Android a run for its money
Best experienced on: Nokia Lumia 920