Top 3 OS's compete for 2011 mobile market

By Scott Pachilis
Around the Town Editor

Photo by Kayloni Wyatt
A side-by-side comparison of the home screens of the iOS and Android OS on the iPhone 3GS and the Motorola Droid.

It was just last week that I became frustrated that my iPhone's 3G connection was showing some lag as I was on a phone call while simultaneously purchasing tickets on my Fandango app and downloading a retail size Grand Theft Auto tile.

In retrospect, I found it interesting how easily irritated I became. Was it not that long ago that the Motorola Razor was the most popular phone? That cellular Internet browsing was so painful that most did not bother.

The 2003 version of myself would not be able to comprehend today's cell phone capabilities, let alone validate my discontent.This brings me to my point.

The increasing popularity of technological advances in smartphones has the mobile/handheld sectors of the gaming industry is sort of a flux.

Now instead of competing against only each other, Nintendo and Sony essentially have to compete against the concept of "cloud gaming" and the economic benefits and convenience an application store provides.

There's no doubt that 2011 will continue the growth of smartphones in the marketplace.

When looking at the top three OS's, there are pros and cons to the iOS, Android and the new Windows Mobile 7 that will influence your mobile gaming experience.

iOS

The Apple iOS is exclusive to the iPhone, and similar products such as the iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV.

By remaining in charge of both the operating system and cell phone design, the iPhone removes itself from the technical issues that plague operating systems on phones made by third-party manufacturers in certain instances.

The screen of the iPhone 4, in particular, is hands down the best touch screen on the market.

Using Retina Display, the iPhone 4 can display approximately 330 pixels per inch. Also, the sensitivity of the touch screen is also the slickest around, providing an optimal navigating or "swiping" experience.

If you are basing your purchase on popularity and sheer number of applications, then look no farther.

Apple's App Store currently has 400,000+ apps, compared to the Android Market's 230,000 and Windows Phone Marketplace's 7,000.

With the release of GameCenter in a recent firmware update, you can now keep track of leaderboards and in-game achievements of you and your friends, much like you would on Xbox Live.

The service is free to use and is only available on the iPhone 4 and the 3GS, as is the multitasking feature. It should be noted that the iPhone 4 will be offered on the Verizon network beginning this month.

Key differences include the ability to turn your iPhone into a personal hotspot for multiple Wi-Fi devices.

However, the inability to talk and surf the web simultaneously on Verizon's CDMA network means that an incoming phone call will drop Internet connectivity to all hotspot devices. A small inconvenience.

Android

Next up we have Google's Android OS. This operating system launched in late 2008 and is based off a Linux family of OS's.

Despite getting a later start on the smartphone market than rival Apple, Android has grown into an industry powerhouse.

Many would be surprised that Android owns 43 percent of the smartphone marketshare, compared to Apple's 15 percent.

It's also encouraging to to see that Google does not plan on slowing down any time soon.

It was recently announced that Google is hiring 6000+ jobs, most of which deal with new technologies and web-based operating systems.

The advantages that Android has over Apple are pretty influential to a smartphone purchase.

First of which, Android phones are already available to purchase with 4G network data plans, such as the HTC Evo.

Secondly, there is the ability to modify your phone much like you could to a PC.

If you are willing to unlock your phone and are familiar with writing code for Windows or Linux, the level of customization is extensive.

Chances are if you are tech savvy enough to unlock and root your phone, you are somebody who frequents emulator websites. Well, now you can successfully run these emulators in order to play classic console games on your phone.

Lastly, in a very important developing story, Sony Ericsson is planning a 2011 release for a new phone called the Xperia, which was rumored to be the next incarnation of the PSP.

We now know that this is not the case due to the announcment of Sony's next generation portable, codenamed NGP.

However, it will include touch screen and a slide out section that emulates a Sixaxis controller instead of a full keyboard.

It will also include an application currently dubbed as the Playstation Pocket, where PSN film and game content will be distributed separately from the Android Marketplace.

Windows Mobile 7

It's been a pretty rocky decade for Windows. With the disastrous release of Windows Vista behind them and the stepping down of Bill Gates, Microsoft seems to be making some interesting moves forward.

Previous Windows Mobile versions have always felt like a direct port of its PC counterpart. They never really translated well to a small touch screen interface.

Luckily, with Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft has taken some risks, started from scratch, and it seems to have payed off.

The interface is completely original and ascetically pleasing, designed with an artistic style choice that consists of dynamic tiles and menus using a Metro typeface.

Each tile acts as a "hub" for various online and offline applications. The selection of tiles is customizable and update in real-time.

This next feature is where hardcore gamers should sit up and take notice. Xbox Live Integration. That's right. You can now log on and access your Xbox Live account and be able to edit your avatar and view achievements, profiles and leaderboards.

You will be able to play mobile ports of Xbox Live Arcade games and can actually play online multiplayer with someone playing on a console. A very impressive feat.

Flash support is supposedly in the works. The marketplace is still young in terms of the number of apps, however, the Xbox Live games make up for that on the most part.

Brand new first generation mobiles apps for Microsoft Office mobile 2010 and access to the Zune marketplace, which could actually be a nice re-imagining of the "Zune" name for the next generation, are very attractive mobile exclusives.

Summary

No phone is clearly the number one phone/operating system to have. It's all about preferences.

If you're a casual mobile phone user who wants a very sleek and intuitive interface and wants the most popular applications, then the iOS on the iPhone 4, and to a slight lesser degree the 3GS, will more than satisfy.

If you are a hardcore PC user and/or modifier, then the Android OS can be highly customizable and the Android Market is open to all developers and hardly as strict and restricting as Apple.

If you've found yourself in love with Windows 7, or deeply into gaming on Xbox Live, then Windows phone is a very fun first generation effort by Microsoft.

It should also be said that both Android and Windows Mobile 7 tend to feel and run better on HTC manufactured phones.

As always, go online to further examine the hardware specs and data plans to make the most intelligent purchase.