All The Smartphone OSes: A Beginners' Guide

Windows Phone Series 7 is here, and it's like nothing we've seen from Microsoft - or anyone else - before. But how does it measure up? And where does every other smartphone OS stand?

iPhone OS 3.x The third major release of the iPhone's software, and the second since the platform got its App Store, iPhone OS 3.x has succeeded on the strength of simplicity, intuitiveness and a tremendous selection of applications. It serves as the basis for the OS that will ship with the new Apple iPad. Available: June 2009 Open Source/Free: No Multiple Handset Manufacturers: No Multitasking: No Multitouch Interface: Yes Browser/Engine: Safari/WebKit Video Recording: Yes Upgrades: Sync/Patcher Syncing Software: Yes App Store Size: 100k+ App Sideloading: No Jailbreaking/rooting: Yes Flash Support: No

Android 2.x In just over a year, Google's Linux-based Android OS has gone from a rough-edged software experiment to a smartphone powerhouse, running atop some of the most powerful hardware available. Version 2.1 is the software platform for Google's own first phone, the Nexus One. Android phones vary in both hardware configurations and software versions, but are generally increasing in popularity. Available: October '09 Open Source/Free: Yes/Yes Multiple Handset Manufacturers: Yes Multitasking: Yes Multitouch Interface: Yes Browser/Engine: Chrome/WebKit Video Recording: Yes Upgrades: Over the Air Syncing Software: No App Store Size: 20k+ App Sideloading: Yes Jailbreaking/rooting: Yes Flash Support: Within six months

Palm webOS 1.x Palm's webOS represented a complete reboot for the company, whose aging Palm OS found itself outpaced by more modern, finger-friendly offerings from Apple and Google. At the core of the OS is a novel multitasking system, with which users can cycles through apps, or "cards". Another webOS selling point is the deep integration of social networking directly into the OS, and an emphasis on messaging. Available: June '09 Open Source/Free: No/No Multiple Handset Manufacturers: No Multitasking: Yes Multitouch Interface: Yes Browser/Engine: webOS/WebKit Video Recording: No Upgrades: Over the Air Syncing Software: No App Store Size: 1400+ App Sideloading: No Jailbreaking/rooting: Yes Flash Support: Within six months

BlackBerry OS 5 RIM is known for issuing frequent updates for its mobile OSes, but they are minimal, and at heart, BlackBerry OS 5 is deeply similar to its early, decade-old predecessors. BlackBerry OS is inclined towards messaging - its inboxes feature prominently - with web browsing and apps as secondary focuses. RIM's recent success with the consumer (as opposed to enterprise) market shows they've taken pains to improve the usability and aesthetics of the OS, though its corporate roots still show through. Available: November '09 Open Source/Free: No/No Multiple Handset Manufacturers: No Multitasking: Yes Multitouch Interface: No Browser/Engine: BlackBerry/Proprietary (WebKit forthcoming) Video Recording: Yes Upgrades: Sync/patcher/over the air Syncing Software: Yes App Store Size: TBD App Sideloading: Yes Jailbreaking/rooting: No Flash Support: Within six months

Windows Mobile 6.5.x Windows Mobile 6.5 is the last predecessor to Windows Phone 7 Series, and it will coexist with WP7 for the foreseeable future, as a bridge for corporate customers. Its basic design and codebase harks back to the early 2000s, and while it featured multitasking, copy and paste and a significant number of third-party apps well before the iPhone or Android did, WinMo failed to keep up with its competitors. Even with version 6.5, which added new, finger-friendly interface elements and an app marketplace, success was not to be. Despite its successor's seemingly related name, this is the end of the road for the WinMo OS. Available: October '09 Open Source/Free: No/Licensed Multiple Handset Manufacturers: Yes Multitasking: Yes Multitouch Interface: No Browser/Engine: Internet Explorer/Trident Video Recording: Yes Upgrades: Sync/Patcher Syncing Software: Yes App Store Size: Under 500 App Sideloading: Yes Jailbreaking/rooting: No Flash Support: Yes

Windows Phone 7 Windows Phone 7 is a total revamping of Microsoft's mobile strategy, drawing more on design philosophy of the Zune HD than of Windows Mobile. The interface is designed primarily for touch input, and eschews icon grids and menus for a series of panelled hubs. The unreleased OS features deep integration with Xbox and Zune services, as well as a completely new app store. Available: Christmas-ish '10 Open Source/Free: No/No Multiple Handset Manufacturers: Yes Multitasking: No, probably! (With possible exceptions.) Multitouch Interface: Yes Browser/Engine: Internet Explorer/Trident Video Recording: Yes Upgrades: TBD Syncing Software: Media App Store Size: TBD App Sideloading: TBD (Unlikely) Jailbreaking/rooting: TBD Flash Support: TBD (Probable)

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