Familiarity with the five main cell phone operating systems can aid your investigation.
The cell phone industry is very competitive. Manufacturers often implement innovative features for their products to make them more attractive to potential buyers. Irrespective of innovations, there are numerous features that are common to all cell phones. Some of those include a rechargeable battery (some better than others), an input mechanism (key pad or touch screen), a display screen, an access scheme used by the phone (CDMA, GSM, etc.), and an operating system (OS). Starting in 2010 another new feature began to make its appearance. Several major manufacturers agreed to begin using a Micro-USB universal connector for charging handsets.
The different generations of cell phones that have been/are marketed utilize different OSs, some proprietary, some open source. Unlike computers, the OS that is preloaded on a cell phone cannot be readily changed or easily uninstalled to install a different one. However, updates to the installed OSs are often provided by the manufacturers. Although many makes and models of cell phones are available, most rely upon a handful of OSs. In 2009, the majority of cell phones in use worldwide ran one of the following OSs: Symbian (47.2%), RIM’s Blackberry (20.8%), Apple iOS (15.1%), Microsoft’s Windows CE and Windows Mobile (8.8%), and Google’s Android (4.7%).1 This has changed somewhat in 2010 as more buyers purchase smartphones. Currently, cell phones with the Symbian and RIM Blackberry OSs still dominate (41.2% and 18.2% respectively), however smartphones using Google’s Android OS continue to gain in popularity (17.2%) while smartphones running Apple’s iOS also continue to be popular (15.1%).2 This trend will most likely continue in the immediate future.
Cell Phone Operating Systems
With the proliferation of smartphones over the last couple of years, it seems that a person’s lifestyle can have a direct bearing on the type of cell phone purchased. However, before purchasing a cell phone, buyers should probably inquire as to what type of OS is installed on the phone. This is an important consideration since the phone’s OS will generally determine what features the phone can offer and what applications it can support. Several common cell phone OSs are discussed below.
1. Symbian OS
In 1998, Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, and the British computer company Psion formed a partnership called Symbian Ltd. At that time, Psion’s multi-tasking OS (which was used on their hand-held computers) was renamed the “Symbian OS.” The first phone to use this OS was manufactured by Sony Ericsson in 2000. Nokia purchased the rights to the proprietary OS in 2008 and recently made it available as open source. It is now maintained by the Symbian Foundation. Currently, many cell phones use this OS, including early Nokia phones, Nokia “N” and “E” series smartphones, Nokia “Communicators,” and the Sony Ericsson “P” series. Symbian v9.5 offers numerous features for smartphones, including support for various memory formats, FM radio and digital TV support, support for local services that use GPS, and e-mail capabilities for POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP formats.
2. BlackBerry OS
This proprietary OS was developed by Research In Motion (RIM) for their BlackBerry smartphone handsets which they introduced in 1999. Handsets can seamlessly allow access to information via phone, e-mail, text messaging, the Internet, or other applications. The BlackBerry OS is multi-tasking and can support specialized input devices (track wheel, trackball, touch screen). Its intelligent keyboard software (SureType) facilitates data entry. The OS is generally regarded to be among the best to support corporate e-mail via the Mobile Information Device Profiles (MIDP) 1.0 and 2.0 (published specifications for using Java on embedded devices). This allows easy synchronization of tasks, e-mail, contacts, calendar, and notes with mail clients such as Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange. Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 1.2 is also supported (an international standard for network communications in a wireless environment). The OS supports many applications which can be downloaded from the BlackBerry App World.