For mobile device users, it is both the best of times, and the worst of them. The best, because most of the popular mobile operating systems are set to get a refresh with new versions promising to come in with a host of new features and functions. The worst, because with updates just around the corner, one cannot be too sure about which device to purchase. If you do decide to go for a device now, will it get updated to the new software or will you be left holding an expensive paperweight? Here’s our take on what the coming days will bring to your mobile phone and/or tablet in OS terms, warts and all.
It might be into its 6th iteration, but for many smartphone users, Apple’s iOS remains the mobile OS to beat in terms of ease of use and app support. And if iOS 6 is anything to go by, that state of affairs is unlikely to change. On the anvil are completely revamped maps and navigation (with full 3D imagery), Facebook integration, a Passbook feature for collating tickets, passes, coupons and the like, and a highly improved e-mail and browsing experience. And then there is Siri, the virtual voice-driven assistant, who will now be able to do much more, including opening apps and posting status messages on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, video calls using FaceTime will now work over cellular networks too.
Expected in: Late October
Device to look out for: The next iPhone
What we like: Improved Siri and Maps, Facebook integration
What we hate: The same basic UI — it has been the same since the first iPhone
It has been raining OS updates for BlackBerry devices with versions 5, 6 and 7 coming out over the past few years. And now RIM is yanking the OS all the way to version 10. In look and feel, it is very similar to the QNX based OS that we saw running on the PlayBook, and from what we have seen, it comes with formidable browsing and multimedia muscle (imagine being able to zoom into a video while watching it!). What’s more, just like the PlayBook, you can use gestures and taps to navigate in BlackBerry 10 (no buttons needed) and there will also be support for some Android apps. There is some concern that this marks a move away from the QWERTY devices that many consider synonymous with BlackBerry, but then RIM does need something radical to change its fortunes.
Expected in: Early 2013
Device to look out for: No names yet
What we like: Incredibly zippy browsing, smooth interface
What we hate: Stress on touchscreen rather than keyboards (hey, this is BB), no upgrading of current handsets to the new OS
Windows Phone 8
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and its subsequent 7.5 update (called Mango) wowed tech observers with the smooth tile based interface and seamless social network connectivity, but did not exactly set the market on fire. Which is why Microsoft is re-jigging the formula and the OS and launching a new avatar later this year. On offer will be tiles of different sizes, improved browsing, better multitasking, support for multi-core processors and higher resolution displays. And then there is the killer feature — the fact that apps designed for the desktop version of Windows 8 can be easily ported to devices running Windows Phone 8. So you could be looking at a scenario where you have the same app running on your phone and your computer.
Expected in: Late October/ early November
Device to look out for: Nokia Lumia (unnamed)
What we like: Different sized tiles, easy porting of apps from Windows 8
What we hate: The current lot of Windows Phone devices (the Nokia Lumia range, HTC Radar, Samsung Omnia W) cannot be updated to Windows Phone 8
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
For Android users, a new version of the OS inevitably signals a period of waiting and watching to find out whether their device gets updated. However, the latest avatar of Android is one that might see them getting short of patience, simply because it promises so much. It looks terrific in terms of graphics (smoother screen transitions) and comes with a host of new features including performing actions from the notification area, customisable widgets, and improved support for gestures and voice. A fillip has been given to camera functionality and the Beam feature will let you share information by just tapping two NFC-enabled Android devices together. Top it off with a completely redesigned Google search, and we think that this is one of the most significant updates Android has ever had.
Expected in: Already available
Device to look out for: Google Nexus 7 tablet
What we like: Butter smooth operation
What we hate: We don’t know when we will get it