With PalmOS gone, Nokia’s Symbian traded in for Windows Phone 8, and Blackberry about to become extinct, choosing a mobile operating system for your company’s cell phones really comes down to three options: Android, Windows Phone, and iOS. Still, picking the best of those three can be a pretty difficult job. How do you know you’ve made the right decision, and will a decision made today still be right a year from now?
Each mobile operating system comes with some advantages and disadvantages that make them more or less ideal for certain companies. Once these pros and cons are understood, choosing the right OS becomes a fairly easy process of matching what’s important to your business with what each operating system offers.
iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system that runs the iPhone and iPad, has long been thought of as the cool kid on the block. It’s also the oldest of the three mobile operating systems. That gives it some pretty big advantages. For one, the number of apps available on the Apple App Store far outnumbers the competition. Many popular entertainment and productivity apps also come out for iPhones and iPads before they come out for Android or Windows Phone devices, making it easier to stay current. Apple devices are also much more homogenized and locked down — there is much less of a risk of downloading malware from the Apple store, and fixing and maintaining Apple devices is much simpler since they are all so similar.
The biggest con of using iOS is the price. iPhones are still considered a luxury good, and the cost of a new iPhone reflect that. They are also a closed-off ecosystem, with only apps approved by Apple being allowed. Finally, some of the cachet of the iPhone is coming off, and it might not be the most advanced platform for long.
Android is a great platform for businesses where flexibility is key. The Android operating system from Google can run on almost any device, can be customized to fit almost any need, and is easy to upgrade, downgrade, and modify as the need arises. It has been around long enough to have a robust app store, and is updated fairly regularly (though not all devices receive updates). Because it can run on so many devices, businesses can easily find phones and tablets running Android that fit their budget.
The biggest downside that comes with Android is that there has recently been an uptick in malware for Android devices, so they require a little extra care in operating. They can also suffer from a lack of updates, since each phone’s updating is in the hands of the carrier.
Windows phone is exactly what it sounds like — a phone OS built by Microsoft to resemble their popular desktop operating system, Windows. It’s a relatively new OS, and it shows — there are still some bugs to work out, and the app store is not nearly as full as the app store on the other OSes. Windows Phone can be good in an environment that is already very Microsoft-heavy, and as MS continues to tie their desktop and mobile products this will become even more the case. For now, though, it’s probably best to pick one of the more mature mobile OSes.