My Thoughts on Most Operating Systems Since the Beginning of Smartphones
Well, after developing for a few different OSes (WinMo, Windows Phone, Meego, Maemo, Android, BBOS) and owning pretty much every high end phone under the sun, I thought I'd pour out my thoughts pertaining to each individual OS and why I feel this way about them. This is by no means a comprehensive guide or anything to live by. Just one person's experience in each OS that I've used.
Have to start with the classic, I never owned a Palm and WinMo had a place in my heart from the first time I ordered that HTC Wallaby, of course back then it was something like, "Microsoft Pocket PC 200X" or some outlandish name like that. Oh man, 32 MB of ram on a phone? This thing was monstrous! Mockeries aside, it started a love affair, the likes of which many girls came to be jealous of. I was an avid Winmo fanboy, transitioning from the Wallaby, to the Samsung Behold, HTC Dash, Samsung Behold 2, HTC Touch, HTC PPC 6800, then the Samsung Omnia which was everything a phone should be at the time. I remember geeking out so hard over the accelerometer. So few phones had them back then. I even briefly went back to WinMo after starting Android when I saw how amazing the HTC HD2 was.
I always felt that, despite not being truly open source, Windows Phone was just so much more capable than Android. I know that's not the case but it definitely felt like it. That and the launchers for it offered so much more depth than the same generic rows of icons with one added, mostly menial, feature. I played my first PS1 emulator on Winmo which made me love it by itself and I also co-developed my first app on it. It was an awful little RPG with 32 bit graphics but I was so proud you wouldn't believe it. It was my high school project and my little game blew people away. The OS was definitely not without flaws. HTC delved in as far as they were allowed to make the menus usable by something that wasn't a stylus but could only go so far which required a pretty nice and very well-aimed push right on the check box. If you missed it, too bad. This was also mostly on resistive screen technology making the odds of being dead on much worse. I'd also get random reboots even when I was just texting at times. Still, I remember having so much trouble transitioning into Android only because how could I use an OS without Swype? Sounds like some kind of sadistic torture if you ask me... WinMo held it's own and just destroyed the iPhone in every way except being pretty. For that and for it's time frame, it will always hold a special place in my heart.
My next big transition was into Android. I saw HTC making a big move and I was an HTC fan. That Z Hinge on the HTC Dream/G1 was too cool and futuristic to pass up, plus who doesn't like track balls? So, I went to Android. Android has and will always be to me, a very basic OS that the consumer is expected to make usable. This isn't based off just the one HTC Dream (Which, funny enough, is currently flashed with Kit Kat) I've actually owned over 80 Android phones throughout the years. I've felt this way even on my Galaxy S4. I became a fan only because I got to say, "Oh, your iPhone can... Well, mine actually has 3G and can picture message." It was all a battle with the iPhone for us early adopters. A battle that back then, we won. Then, Apple kept progressing, they fixed all of the little things that effected everyone and only left flaws for us nerds to gripe about. That war quickly became pandering. Something along the lines of, "Well, my phone has this trivial gimmick so it's better than yours!" I was literally trading around and upgrading phones every 1-2 weeks. I lived in Austin and there is always someone dumb enough on Craigslist to trade you what you want there if you make yours sound sweeter, especially when it's not. I had pretty much every GSM Android phone released in the US from the G1 to the Galaxy S2 Of course there were some that I missed but I even had that awful Garminfone Asus that we all try to forget existed. I always wanted something that could keep up but as I was playing RoboDefense on my Android device, the iPhone was getting Infinity Blade. It got to the point where I harbored a distaste for Android but I was too stubborn to go iPhone. Roughly when I reached that point is when Windows Phone 7 dropped. Android was dead in the water to me though I still own Android devices. They're there for development. My opinion on Android is this, it is a foundation. It's something that you take and you build on to make good. It is awful as a standalone. That said, individuals aren't going to be able to make the same quality software that a multi-billion dollar company can. To this day there are no good keyboards on Android. The OS is still buggy, there are still no devices that feel premium and there is still far too much lag even on the revered Nexus devices. I think that perhaps the Oneplus One might aid in resolving some of these issues based solely on videos but anything can be spoofed in a video.
So, on to Windows Phone 7. Spoiler alert: I hated it. At least I thought I did. I got the HD7 three days prior to release due to an error and was so excited. After using the Galaxy S Vibrant with it's AMOLED display, the HD7 looked awfully washed out but I'll deal, whatever. I thought I wanted those roms though, I thought I wanted Swype, I thought I wanted app folders. So, I traded that HD7 for a Dell Streak. Many of us remember this as the first "Phablet" with it's absolutely massive 5 inch screen *snicker* and prior to the HD7, I thought it my dream phone. I was absolutely giddy to get that trade... Then, I started really noticing Android's flaws. The incessant lagging, the bad keyboard, everything. I missed that HD7. I missed Windows Phone. I missed a coherent and speedy experience. I hunted and hunted and finally found another HD7. This was late in the year, maybe October, and for Christmas, I knew what I wanted. The Dell Venue Pro. Hands down, the best hardware keyboard I've ever used and I've used most. It was the first of two phones to ever last me more than two months and actually retained use for a full 8 or 9 months. I loved the thing. It was everything I wanted in a phone. Then, in a stroke of luck, I got offered to be a part of Nokia's developer program and got a pair of Nokia Lumia 800s shipped to me. I believe one was supposed to be for my old development partner who'd left to pursue other interests two months earlier so I had two Nokia Lumia 800s. One of which I traded for a Nokia N9 and both of which inspired a love for Nokia in general Nokia sells Windows Phone as well, if not better than the OS and the early marketing was often effective and always hilarious. This phone was bulletproof... I got pushed into a pool holding it, I fell off a motorcycle with it in my pocket and landed on it and this thing just kept going. In my opinion, it's the highest quality Nokia device with a touchscreen. However, it wasn't long til I realized that it would soon be tragically obsolete with the release of Windows Phone 8. I made the sad decision to trade it for the iPhone 4S which was new and worth a lot more at the time in hopes that I might soon trade the iPhone for a Lumia whatever comes out. Windows Phone 8 is an entirely different monster so I'll come back to that one. Ultimately, Windows Phone laid a strong foundation but due to poor support on the part of developers, it really was as their advertisement said, A phone to keep you away from your phone.
So, as I stated, my next endeavor was Meego. I also branched in to Maemo at this point but it was pretty uneventful and I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other about it. I got myself a cyan 64 gig monster with a front facing camera, imaging software that destroyed any other non-Nokia phone at the time and features that Samsung is just now incorporating into their phones while claiming they're revolutionary. Meego is also a heavily gesture driven OS which, let's face it, is the future. Meego, to me, was what Android should have been. It was smoother, it felt alive, it was on a premium device, it seldom lagged, it was pretty and it was bursting with features. Honestly, I still wish I hadn't gotten rid of that thing. I might still use it as a backup if I hadn't but as a broke College kid obsessed with the latest and greatest I had to get rid of both for the Nokia Lumia 920 which I don't regret but I would still love to have that huge piece of cell phone history. To date, I'd say it's the only non-Windows phone to breach my top 5 favorite phones of all time. Everything was seamless, the experience was great... I'll be honest, I had 0 complaints with this phone. I mean, sure there weren't a lot of apps but the basics were there and at the time it trumped Windows Phone in that regard. Aside from that, I wish Meego were still alive.
Then, there's iOS. I had this phone all the way up to iOS 7 so I can give at least some opinion on each version from then on. iOS when I got it on the 4S was ugly, plain and simple. It looked so painfully outdated that I had to jailbreak it just so looking at it didn't give me an aneurysm. The keyboard was almost as bad as Android's and the auto-correct was worse. It just felt like a jumbled mess at all times regardless of how things were arranged. If I had to explain iOS as an OS at that point, I'd call it a glorified app launcher because it was little else in my eyes. That said, as it progressed they added new features to make it a unique experience and enhance Siri (The one part of the OS I enjoyed) to offer deeper integration though it doesn't touch Google Now or Cortana. My biggest issue is that if you went Apple, it seemed you had to go all Apple or bust. To get out of their stupid iMessage system is hell, want to transfer contacts away from iPhone? Too bad, go through this lengthy and unorthodox process to do so. It was pretty bad. 7 added a few gestures I really liked but having been spoilt by Meego at this point, it was pretty underwhelming in comparison. iOS, to this date, feels like a glorified app launcher that they occasionally attach a new gimmick to for people to confuse for revolutionary. At least they finally made it easy on the eyes though.
Now, back in to Windows Phone 8. Given that my brand new Lumia 800s were made obsolete, I wanted something profound. What it felt like I got were slight improvements and a lot of apps that I'd paid money for that didn't transfer over. Some of my favorite Windows Phone 7 games don't exist on Windows Phone 8. This includes several Xbox live titles that I poured a bit of funds into including Tentacles, Splinter Cell, and the bullet hell game that Cave released for us. The name escapes me at present. I was taken aback, I had given up my perfect little Lumia 800 for this? The Lumia 920 which felt okay in comparison. On top of that, the wireless charging coil wasn't even in my first one so I needed a replacement and had to settle for black instead of yellow for my replacement. Overall, the experience started rough. Then, there was wordflow. Since the beginning of phones, I'd always wanted a keyboard that was smart. Sure, there are learning keyboards out there but none compared to Windows Phone's. I don't know who Belfiore sacrificed to The Dark Lord but this is perfect. The live tiles also certainly kept me enveloped. The slightly better customization in different tile sizes also made everything a bit less stagnant. Overall, it warranted at least a continued interest. Since then, I feel that Windows Phone has made great strides plus, thanks to Nokia, they're releasing the highest quality devices of any OS. At this point, I feel like Nokia took Windows Phone and single-handedly built it. The 8X was a beautiful device with a lot of issues and no real added software and Samsung just tossed another OS on their galaxy series. However, despite being carried by a single OEM, Nokia paired with Microsoft has created an OS to be revered and even with little things like Glance background has really flexed their muscles. Overall, the OS wasn't enough of an upgrade to just sell me but thanks to Nokia's additions and the overall quality of the OS that it exuded from it's Windows Phone 7 roots, it is the premium OS. That said, there is still an app gap that was made even worse by the poor transition to Windows Phone 7 to 8 and they've shown that they're not shy about alienating users.
Then, there was the Blackberry. this is something I bought from someone locally for $40 very recently and overall, it's a new experience. What do I think so far? Well, it's budget Meego on higher end hardware. The gestures are not as good, the OS itself looks like a very confused version of Android (which has enough conflict of it's own) and it's heavily dependent on the work of other OSes to try to stay afloat. I never had the earlier Blackberry devices so perhaps there was a point at which they were ahead of the game and the hardware is honestly pretty amazing, easily matching the iPhone in terms of sheer quality. However, they sacrificed security which was a massive selling point for them in favor of trying to swim in the big kid's pool and to say that they failed miserably would be an understatement.
So, what am I rocking now? I'm sadly rocking a Lumia 1520. Not that it's bad, it's great really, just a bit big. I'd bite on the 930 but no Glance screen is a deal breaker. I also have a Moto G and a Blackberry z10 as backup/development devices. None of them have ever been taken out into the wild though because they're not functional daily drivers to me. A key point in my eyes is texting and the keyboards are pretty dismal. I know I've touted the Windows Phone keyboard a lot in this thread but honestly, it's that good and with the shapewriting technology in 8.1, they put themselves light years ahead of everyone else in a very necessary though sadly underappreciated area.