I wrote a post earlier comparing various mobile O.S.es on things like features, stability, battery backup etc. Here I’ll do a comparison of some features I find unthinkable to live without. This is not an exhaustive feature comparison, just some features which I regularly use. I have used Stock OSes to compare. CLick on the image for a bigger version
- Multi-tasking:- Symbian/Android & Blackberry OSes support full multitasking, where any program minimized will keep running in the memory in the background and will be able to perform all functions it normally can, in the foreground. This means that a minimized browser will continue to load a web-page in the background, a messenger application will continue to stay connected to its server and keep you online. iOS and Windows Phone 7 on the other hand have a slightly different concept of multitasking. Any minimized application is frozen in memory and can perform only basic functions in the background. This means that a browser will not continue to load web-pages in the background, but will resume where it left off. However, messenger applications will be allowed limited connectivity so that they stay connected with the server and can show notifications whenever there’re any updates. They below semantic explains how this works on Windows Phone 7.
The latter method is inherently more restrictive, but more efficient in battery, RAM and CPU usage, especially for users who forget to close apps after using them.
- Notification LED:- Symbian, Blackberry (and some) Android phones support a physical LED on the phone front, which would blink whenever there’s a notification (Missed call alert, unread message, email etc.) that needs attention. Blackberry goes a step further and employs 7 different colors in its notifications LED depending on the kind of alert. Now this feature was present on feature phones since the last 10-15 years but has conveniently been left out by Apple & Microsoft in iOS and Windows Phone respectively. This feature is even more important on modern smartphones where the display is switched off when the phone is in standby. There’s no way to know if you have any notification without bringing your phone out of standby and looking at the display.
- Profiles:– I have a been a Nokia user ever since I started using a mobile phone and this is one of those features I am completely used to and cannot live without. Basically, profiles allow you to configure different behavior exhibited by the phone when there’s a notification. I have at-least 4 different profiles I use everyday (General, Pocket, Car and Sleep). e.g. in General, there’s high volume ringing and no vibration, in car, there’s low volume ringing and no vibration, in pocket, there’s no ringing, only vibrations, in sleep, there’s no vibrations but ascending ringing tone. This is just one aspect that can be customized; I am used to customize everything e.g. message tone, e-mail tone etc. iPhone, Windows Phone 7, Android all allow just a toggle between “General” & “Silent”. For me, this is not enough.
- Free turn-by-turn Navigation with offline maps:-As the names saw, this is the ability of the Mapping/positioning software to provide turn-by-turn voice based navigation. Nokia has an excellent Maps application which can do this with ease, Android’s Google Maps version supports this only in a few countries, iOS doesn’t support it a all natively, nor does Blackberry or Windows Phone 7. However, it is confirmed that Windows Phone 7 will get Nokia Maps for Nokia Windows Phones. Offline support means that the maps for a certain country/region can be stored on the device rather than the device downloading it from the server every time the maps application is invoked.
- Access to device Filesystem:- This mean that you can simple connect your phone to the computer using a USB cable and without any software installed browse the device memory card/native filesystem, copy files to and from the device. Nokia, Android, Blackberry all have it, but iOS and Windows Phone 7 don’t. This means that you have to reply on a software like iTunes and Zune respectively to copy files to and from the device and also that there are only a few supported file types you can copy to the device. Far cry from how I often use my Nokia as a USB drive to transfer files
- Custom ring-tones:- Frankly, this is not a must-have feature, but something I have got used to. Symbian, Android, Blackberry all alow you to set any mp3 file as a ring-tone. iPhone doesn’t allow this without a jailbreak, Windows Phone 7 allows this, but you have to trim the mp3 file and rename it etc.
Everyone may not want all these features, but are something I would look for whenever I would like to switch to a different O.S.