If you want to develop a successful mobile application, there are several things that you have to get just right. The look and feel of the app, the functionality, and features are some of the most important things to consider. However, the one crucial thing that affects all of these is the choice of the operating system you want to target. While seasoned developers are confident working on many platforms, many budding developers stick to one operating system.
Choosing the correct operating system can be crucial to the overall success of your app. For starters, the three most popular operating systems in the world- Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile, offer distinct advantages. Some developers may like working with one of these better than the others. Another important thing to note is the popularity of the platforms. Although all of them are quite popular, their geographic popularity varies quite a great deal. For example, while iOS is very popular in the developed countries such as the US, Australia, and European countries, Android still dominates the developing nations. As an app developer, is is crucial for you to get familiarized with these three leading operating systems. In this article, we will be talking about the similarities and differences between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone in detail. So, let’s begin.
A Brief History
The smartphone revolution started around the year 2008. Apple released the first version of iPhone operating system in 2008 and named it iPhone OS. A couple of years later, they rebranded the now hugely popular operating system- iOS. It is at the heart of all the mobile devices that Apple manufacturers including iPhones,iPads, and iPod touch. As the years progressed, Apple made significant changes in the OS, and the iOS became more sophisticated, user-friendly and easy to work with for the developers. As of 2016, iOS 9 is the latest version of the OS and drives almost all the Apple mobile devices.
The journey of Android also began around 2008. Google released the first version of their mobile operating system around 2008 and branded it- Android. Soon, Android started to compete with the iOS as the popularity of smartphones went through the roof. Again, with years passing by, Google tweaked the OS to iron out the flaws and continues to improve the experience. The latest version of the OS is called Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Microsoft was the last to enter the mobile device scene. The first dedicated Windows Operating system designed for mobile devices came in the form of Windows Mobile in late 2010. With a mission to integrate the user experience across the various platforms, Microsoft released the Windows Mobile 10 to accompany the Windows 10 for desktops this year. Although the OS is quite young, it has attracted many developers as it presents a familiar Windows environment that the developers have come to love.
The Market Share
The race to dominate the world mobile phone market has heated up a lot in the past few years. All the three top players have put in a lot of effort and technology to popularize the respective OSs.
According to the latest figures put out bu the International Data Company (IDC), Android remains the most popular mobile operating systems in the world. According to the most recent reports, Android enjoyed a market share of 82.8% as of August 2015. Apple’s iOS came in second with a total market share of almost 14%, and Windows Phone lagged significantly behind at 2.6%. Although the market shares of all these three operating systems keep fluctuating, Android is head and shoulders above the competition.
The User Experience And Overall Design
All the three operating systems have received significant upgrades over the years; iOS has managed to maintain the look and feel of the first release. Both Windows and Android have undergone major rewrites, and it reflects in the way the systems look and feel. The new versions of Android focus on making the user interface engaging. As the iOS has not changed that much, cosmetically speaking, all the effort has gone improving the experience on a more functional level. As for Windows, the new tile interface of Windows Phone 10 focuses on ease of use more than anything else.
Ease Of Use
It is a very personal matter of opinion, and we won’t be painting with a broad brush as far as ease of use is concerned. All the three operating systems are fairly easy to use with the iOS being the most straightforward. Android, on the other hand, offers much more customization options for the users but has a slight learning curve compared to the iOS.
The home screen is the center of the appeal of all the three operating systems. While the iOS and Android use the home screen to display the installed apps, the Windows Phone uses live tiles to display relevant information on the home screen.
As for the access to the settings go, all the three platforms perform equally. Both Android and Windows Phone OS handle the notifications quite well. Although the notification panel was missing from the earlier iterations of the iOS, the newer versions handle notifications quite well.
One of the biggest difference between the three operating systems is the licensing. While both Android and Windows Phone OS are open source, iOS is not. As a result, mobile phone manufacturers can use both windows phone OS and Android without incurring any licencing fees. Google stands out in this department as it allows the manufacturers to tweak the vanilla Android experience and completely customize the user experience. For example, mobile phones manufactured by Samsung have a different appearance than those by HTC, although they both run on the same Android version.
Programming Language Support
As far as programmers are concerned, this is the most dividing feature between the three operating systems. The latest iteration of te iOS requires the programs to be written in a language called Swift. Android uses Java as the programming language for its apps. However, with the Android Native Development Kit (NDK), programmers can even write apps in C or C++. If you want to write apps for the Windows Phone OS, you will have to stick to C# or VB.NET.
Although both the Android and Windows Phone OS give greater flexibility for the programmers, iOS experience is more organized. Many programmers prefer this organized structure and find that writing apps or iOS is an easier experience. As both Android and Windows are open sources, almost anyone can write apps for them. While, iOS app store is very regulated, and there are more quality control measures in iOS in general.
Quality And Volume Of Apps
While there is no dearth of apps on both iOS and Android, Windows Phone OS seriously lags behind in both quality and number of apps. Although most popular apps are present on all the three platforms, the Windows Store sorely lacks Google apps, even youtube.
As Android has a huge market share, developing an app for Android has many perks of its own. There is a greater chance that the app will be downloaded and used by a huge number of people all across the world. However, iOS offers better monetization options for the developers and hence many developers like to build apps exclusively for iOS devices.
There are many cross-platform tools at the disposal of the developers these days. These allow them to design apps for multiple platforms easily and quickly. If you are a mobile app developer, these tools can save you a lot of time as well as effort. I would encourage all the young and budding developers to take advantage of these resources. There are inherent differences between the three operating systems, but with the right tools, these differences can be worked to your advantage.