A mobile operating system (or mobile OS) is an operating system for phones, tablets, smartwatches, or other mobile devices. While computers such as typical laptops are ‘mobile’, the operating systems usually used on them are not considered mobile ones, as they were originally designed for desktop computers that historically did not have or need specific mobile features. This distinction is becoming blurred in some newer operating systems that are hybrids made for both uses.
Android OS is owned by Google and powered by the Linux kernel, which can be found on a wide range of devices.
Android is an open source operating system which allows developers to access unlocked hardware and develop new programs as they wish.
This means unlimited access to any anyone who wants to develop apps for the phone and places very little restriction on its licensing, so users benefit from masses of free content.
Android is currently the dominant smartphone platform due to its tremendous traction with a wide spectrum of users.
Some of the best features of Android include the ability to customise multiple homescreens with useful widgets and apps that give you quicker, easier access to the content and functions you most care about.
It also has an excellent capacity for multitasking – with the ability to close programs by simply swiping them away.
Last but not least, the Android Market, which is the Android equivalent of the Apple App Store is home to millions of apps, many of which are completely free.
The Apple iOS multi-touch, multi-tasking operating system is what runs the Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod. A special version of the software is what powers the Apple Watch too.
iOS responds to the user’s touch – allowing you to tap on the screen to open a program, pinch your fingers together to minimise or enlarge an image, or swipe your finger across the screen to change pages.
The Apple iOS is not allowed to be used in third party systems, so you will only be able to use it on products made by Apple. It comes with the Safari web browser for internet use, an iPod application for playing music and Apple’s Mail for managing your emails.
You can download millions of applications currently available on the App Store directly to any device running iOS, be it an iPhone or an iPad. These encompass everything from recipe books to guitar tuitorials to games.
3. Windows Phone
Microsoft released a hugely revamped version of its Windows platform for mobiles in late 2010, after its software fell behind iOS and Android.
Redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up with a greater emphasis on the user experience, the result was an operating system called Windows Phone.
Window Phone is recognisable from its tile-based interface – dubbed Metro – which features removable and interchangeable squares sections on the home screen, each with its own purpose and function.
It also has aggregators called ‘hubs’, that group together all photos from all applications, or all music into one library, meaning your Facebook photos can be found with your camera photos and your documents from different sources grouped together in one, easy to access location.
Windows Phone comes with a mobile-optimised version of the Internet Explorer for accessing the web, and Exchange, which supports secure corporate e-mail accounts with push support.
4. Blackberry OS
BlackBerry OS is a proprietary mobile operating system developed by Canadian company BlackBerry Limited for its BlackBerry line of smartphone handheld devices. The operating system provides multitasking and supports specialized input devices that have been adopted by BlackBerry for use in its handhelds, particularly the trackwheel, trackball, and most recently, the trackpad and touchscreen.
The BlackBerry platform is perhaps best known for its native support for corporate email, through Java Micro Edition MIDP 1.0 and, more recently, a subset of MIDP 2.0, which allows complete wireless activation and synchronization with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise email, calendar, tasks, notes, and contacts, when used with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The operating system also supports WAP 1.2.
Updates to the operating system may be automatically available from wireless carriers that support the BlackBerry over the air software loading (OTASL) service.
Third-party developers can write software using the available BlackBerry API classes, although applications that make use of certain functionality must be digitally signed.
Symbian OS was the most widely-used smartphone operating system in the world until 2010, when it was overtaken by Android. Development of Symbian OS was discontinued in May 2014.
Symbian OS began as an operating system called EPOC, which was developed in the 1980s by a company named Psion. In 1998, in a joint venture with telephone manufacturers Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola, Psion became Symbian, Ltd., and EPOC became Symbian OS.
In 2008, Nokia acquired Symbian, and the majority of Symbian OS’s source code was released under an open source license. At the time, it was one of the largest open-source code bases ever released to the public.
As of 2014, developers are no longer able to publish new Symbian applications, but existing applications are still available for download.
6. Bada OS
Bada OS is a proprietary operating system for smartphones, developed by Samsung and presented in 2009. The first Bada phone – the Samsung Wave – was launched later on, in 2010.
Samsung uses Bada OS alongside Android OS and Windows Phone, but in 2012 the development of new smartphones using Bada has been quietly halted in favor of the more popular Android OS.
Samsung markets all Bada devices under the Wave brand name; similar to how all of their Android-powered devices are branded under the Galaxy name.
Maemo is a software platform developed by Nokia for smartphones and Internet tablets. The platform comprises both the Maemo operating system and SDK.
Maemo is mostly based on open-source code and has been developed by Maemo Devices within Nokia in collaboration with many open-source projects such as the Linux kernel, Debian, and GNOME. Maemo is based on Debian GNU/Linux and draws much of its GUI, frameworks, and libraries from the GNOME project. It uses the Matchbox window manager and the GTK-based Hildon framework as its GUI and application framework.
The user interface in Maemo 4 is similar to many hand-held interfaces and features a “home” screen, from which all applications and settings are accessed. The home screen is divided into areas for launching applications, a menu bar, and a large customizable area that can display information such as an RSS reader, Internet radio player, and Google search box. The Maemo 5 user interface is slightly different; the menu bar and info area are consolidated to the top of the display, and the four desktops can be customized with shortcuts and widgets.