Time for a Mobile OS refresh

Published: Nov 25, 2012, 10:00 IST | Nimish Dubey |

The gadgets may hog all the highlights but it is the software inside them that really makes them rock. And two of the most prominent ones � Windows Phone and Android � have just got new avatars. We take a closer look at both

Google and Microsoft, two of the biggest names in the world of technology, have been in mobile OS update mode of late.

While Microsoft, which has been on a launch spree (Windows 8, Surface), has come out with a new version of its Windows Phone for mobile devices, Google has gone ahead and refreshed Android, although there has been no new name given to it.

Of course, devices that run these operating systems are limited in number right now, but in the coming days both are likely to face-off in a battle of smartphone supremacy. Here is a brief look at what the latest mobile offerings from these behemoths serve up. 

Windows Phone 8
It has sneaked in unnoticed, overshadowed by the hype and hoopla surrounding its desktop cousin, Windows 8, but the fact is that there is a new Windows Phone in celltown. And while in look and feel, it seems just like its predecessor, Windows 7.5 (also called Mango), beneath that familiar exterior, lie a truckload of changes. For one, Microsoft has finally joined the tech spec race, with support for dual core processors and higher resolution displays, paving the way for more powerful apps and richer multimedia content than we saw on previous editions of the OS.

There are also a number of very handy additions in terms of functionality — although the tiled interface remains, you can now resize the tails. There is also better integration with Xbox, letting you follow a different aspect of the game you are playing on your console (say, a map). A very neat touch is the option to have an area of your phone especially for children, complete with apps and shortcuts, which they can access whenever they pick up your device even while your own data remains solidly password protected. The browser has been improved and multitasking has been given a boost, while core strengths such as seamless social network integration and incredibly smooth operation remain well in place.

Pros: Support for higher resolution displays, dual core processors,
better multi-tasking, resizable homescreen tiles
Cons: Likely to be available initially on expensive devices, users of Windows 7/7.5 will not be able to upgrade to it
Currently available on: HTC 8X
Expected shortly on: HTC 8S, Samsung Ativ, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820 

Android Jelly Bean 4.2
So what if it is not named after a bakery product, the unalterable fact is that there is a new Android flavour in town. Google has pushed out version 4.2 (still called Jelly Bean — the name that was bestowed on Android 4.1) of Android with a number of improvements. Apart from general bug squashing, the update brings a new notification bar area, allowing users to see updates from social networks in one part and also tweak device settings on the other. And when you want to type something you can now slide your finger across different letters, just as you would on those keyboards that support Swype. Most significant of all, now more than one user can log in to an Android device (although the option is currently limited to tablets) — and each person who logs in will see the apps and shortcuts they had created on the device.

You can also share content from your phone or tablet with an HD TV wirelessly, provided the TV has a wireless display adaptor. Android Beam gets a boost, letting you share photos and videos by just tapping two devices together, and photographers will love the Photo Sphere feature which lets you take pictures in every direction and then bring them together in one stunning shot. And of course, if you thought Jelly Bean 4.1 worked smoothly, then 4.2 works even better. The catch of course, is the same as with other Android versions — when on earth will device manufacturers push them out to different handsets? At the time of writing, the new flavour of Android was available only on one device in India (the Nexus 7).

Pros: Much better keyboard with SWYPE-like typing, improved notification bar, multiple user support
Cons: When will it come to non-Nexus devices?
Currently available on: Nexus 7 tablet
Expected shortly on: Nexus 4  

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