Battlemodo: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Vs iOS 6 Vs Windows Phone 8

A few weeks ago, we compared the feature sets of iOS 6 and Android Ice Cream Sandwich to see how they stacked up. But then Google and Microsoft went and dropped all sorts of new features in their new Android Jelly Bean and Windows Phone 8 operating systems. That means it's time to re-examine the relative merits of each once again. Let the battle begin!

For the record, this is not a review. There will be no review until we have spent some quality time with the final versions of iOS 6, Android 4.1 and Windows Phone 8. This is a look at how these three stack up on paper in 12 key categories.


iOS:650,000 apps. 225,000 for iPad. Still tops as far as smartphone platforms go.

Android: Android is currently at 600,000 apps for Android. Most apps will run on tablets, but the number of tablet-optimised offerings is significantly lower than iOS (Google won't give an official number, but a quick run through Google Play makes the situation abundantly clear).

Windows Phone: Windows Phone currently has 100,000 apps available for download, which is considerably less than the other two. And since there's no Windows 8 tablet yet, well...


iOS: Apple now has a maps service of its very own, following in the footsteps of Google and Microsoft. Not only does it deliver traffic updates, points of interest and turn-by-turn navigation (which is integrated well throughout iOS 6), there are 3D maps that both look cool and might be helpful when lost in the middle of a crowded metropolis. But the lack of public transport directions hurts, even if they're offering a third-party API solution. And iPhone users reared on Street View might sorely miss it; Apple hasn't presented an equivalent. One overarching concern that emerged today however was that Apple might not make voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation available in Australia at the launch of iOS 6. We'll have to wait and see for that one.

Android: Google Maps in Jelly Bean will likely be unchanged from what Google showed off a few weeks ago at its dedicated maps event: 3D buildings, offline caching and Yelp integration will all be added to supplement the top notch combination of search, turn-by-turn navigation and Street View. Plus, the search giant is going crazy with mapping the insides of notable locales -- Compass Mode employs a phone's gyroscope to give you 360-degree interior views -- so expect to see more of that over time.

Windows Phone: Windows Phone 7 was a showcase for Microsoft's Bing maps, but the mobile navigation turf will belong to Nokia on Windows Phone 8. That means terrific NAVTEQ maps, turn-by-turn navigation, 3D buildings, offline caching and dynamic routing for public transit -- all of which is good news. There aren't many bells and whistles here though, for better or worse.

Browser Sync

iOS: iCloud Tabs are new in iOS 6 and unify your browsing across all of your iOS and OS X devices. It's not a full cloud browser that offers the same tab view across all devices, but rather a list of tabs tucked behind an icon or sub-menu, along with your bookmarks.

Android: The Chrome Beta on Android offers tab syncing with your desktop as well, but throws in bookmark and search syncing as well. And since there are more desktop Chrome users in the world than any other browser, a lot of people will be taking advantage of this feature.

Windows Phone: Browser sync is conspicuously absent from Windows Phone, which is odd considering it will run the same version of Internet Explorer that Windows 8 will in the Windows RT environment. Then again, with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 both not expected until later in the year, there's a lot of time for Microsoft to make this work. Fingers crossed.

Facebook Integration

iOS: Facebook is integrated throughout iOS 6, which means you can update your status and upload images from various apps (not to mention Notification Center), sync contacts, and have your Facebook events coordinate with your iOS Calendar. Plus, a third-party API is on the way, so all apps can integrate Facebook into their wares.

Android: Android has always been good for Facebook sharing, and there's no reason for that to change with Jelly Bean. You can share and upload from pretty much anywhere in the OS and inside most Android apps. Plus, you can pull Facebook data for your contacts already stored on your phone, or pull all your Facebook friends into your contacts.

Windows Phone: Facebook integration has always been one of Windows Phone's selling points, as the platform seamlessly integrates features like status updates, images, Contacts, Chat and Events into Microsoft's own sections (People, Messaging, Calendar, etc). It's as well-designed as Facebook integration can get.

Voice Commands

iOS: Siri wasn't amazing in iOS 5, but it worked OK. In addition to being able to dictate texts and emails, schedule calendar events and set timers, Siri in iOS 6 has much more promise, at least in the US, given its ability to pull data from even more sources (sports scores, movie times, dinner reservations), in more useful ways. Plus, Siri will be able to interface with car audio and navigation systems once iOS 6 goes live later this year.

Android: With Jelly Bean, speech recognition is about to get a big update. Google has always allowed for voice search and dictation across the entire OS, but now it taps into Knowledge Graph and a built-in speech recogniser that will be installed on future devices. Not only should Android voice recognition improve dramatically, but it will recognise voice input even while offline. Like Siri, it can also spit back Wolfram-like semantic search results (with or without your voice).

Windows Phone: Windows Phone also has voice commands, allowing you to place calls, send texts, search the web and launch an app. It may not have the depth of Google's and Apple's efforts, but it's there.

Mobile Payments

iOS: Surprise! The iPhone doesn't have NFC, which means Apple doesn't have much to offer in terms of mobile payments. But Passbook is Apple's way in. When it's up and running, it will collect tickets, rewards cards, debit/credit cards and more into a single app that relies on both GPS and QR codes to work. It can also deliver updates and notifications for the items you have stored in Passbook (flight updates, expiring deals, etc). It's clearly been designed with NFC payments in mind; we just have to wait a few months until Apple makes it official and to see if any of it will come to Australia.

Android: For the time being, Google Wallet -- which includes mobile payments, deals/rewards/offers and more for users in the States -- remains unchanged. But it is a huge question mark for Google. US mobile carrier Sprint is still the only official Google Wallet mobile partner (and even they're rumoured to be parting ways), MasterCard is the only card company on board, and the number of devices NFC is available on is limited. Google announced new NFC-based features today unrelated to payments; hopefully it's enough to entice hardware partners to include the tech in future devices.

Windows Phone: With the arrival of Windows Phone comes Wallet, which is Microsoft's full-fledged attempt at, well, a digital wallet. You'll be able to store credit/debit cards and rewards/loyalty cards, not to mention the ability to access deals. But what might set Windows Phone apart from Android and iOS is that it will make use of secure NFC elements stored on SIM cards, which will allow for more flexibility -- and security -- when it comes to the preferred standards of card companies and mobile carriers (Google Wallet has hit a wall because of resistance to its own built-in secure elements). Save for Apple strong-arming everyone into playing by its rules, this may be the most frictionless way for NFC-based payment technologies to succeed.

Video Chat

iOS: Apple has FaceTime, which can place calls over 3G or Wi-Fi and works fairly well. But its also a pretty insular app that only works with other Apple devices.

Android: Android's Gmail/Google Talk-based video chat system is a bit more universal, considering you can video chat with anybody who has Gmail on a Mac, PC or Android phone. And yes, you can chat over 3G or Wi-Fi. But Google's ace in the hole, surprisingly enough, might just be its Google+ app, which features Hangout support and will be available for both Android and, some day soon, iOS.

Windows Phone: Microsoft's secret voice chat weapon is Skype, which is arguably the most universal standard of them all. There are already proper Skype apps for Macs, PCs, iOS and Android -- and Microsoft owns all of them.

Call Features

iOS: iOS 6 lets you decline a call with a canned SMS response, filter out calls annoying contacts, and includes a Do Not Disturb toggle, all of which will prove useful for power users.

Android: Android lets you compose a series of texts you can use as quick auto-replies when declining a call, and also lets you filter out calls from specific people, but it lacks the ability to enter into a Do Not Disturb mode.

Windows Phone: This is another weak point in Windows Phone, as there are no pre-composed texts you can fire off to people you don't want to talk to, nor is there any sort of Do Not Disturb functionality. But there are advanced filtering and call block options for those people you're trying to avoid.


iOS: iMessage is a beta feature with a lot of promise, given its ability to trade messages between phones, tablets and laptops. But it's hardly seamless, it's barely reliable, and it's not exactly intuitive. There's currently no real way to link a phone number and iCloud account of a contact and have texts and iMessages appear in a single thread. Nor do messages always arrive to all your connected devices. And there's no way to instant message with non-Apple users. We have yet to see the final implementation of this cross-device integration, which probably won't be settled until iOS 6 is officially out, but there's definitely some work to be done in this regard.

Android: With webOS all but dead, Android has the best native instant messaging platform hands down. Sure it doesn't integrate with AIM or Facebook, but AIM has a foot in the grave anyways, and Gchat is every bit as ubiquitous as Facebook Chat. When you're logged in to Gchat, messages always arrive on all connected devices reliably and quickly. That's more than can be said for iMessages. Plus, Google Voice is well integrated throughout Android, which means text messages sent from your phone or laptop stay perfectly synced.

Windows Phone: The messaging effort on Windows Phone is solid and well considered, allowing you to seamlessly send texts, Facebook messages, and Skype messages to a given contact from a single window. No, there's no Gchat or AIM, but that's not particularly shocking, given the trend towards walled ecosystems with each platform.

Smarter Icons

iOS: When it comes to dynamic app icons, Apple is sorely lacking. Sure it has badges that let you know when there are new messages, emails or notifications, but they don't really tell you anything else. One of the things we'd hoped for was that Apple would smarten up its app icons. Let them change to display information. Unfortunately, Apple is still stuck in the past on this one.

Android: Android doesn't really do much with app icons either, and that doesn't change with Jelly Bean. But since the App drawer is pushed into the secondary layer of Android, it doesn't matter. Android employs widgets to take on the task of real-time updates, which allows for a fair amount of customisation when it comes to getting your mail/weather/calendar updates from your home screen in a quick manner. They can sometimes be messy and unruly, but when properly implemented, are quite useful.

Windows Phone: Windows Phone 8's Live Tiles are the cream of the crop amongst smartphones. Not only can they display notifications and vital info (such as texts, mail, weather calendar events), but they arrange into a neatly organised grid that is now bolstered by the ability to break tiles into three different sizes depending on how you want info displayed. Microsoft is way ahead of everyone else in this regard.

Media Streaming

iOS: iOS 6 has AirPlay, which has been one of the easier, more intuitive implementations of media streaming we've seen so far. You can push music from your computer or iOS device to AirPlay-approved speakers, AirPort Express routers, and Apple TV (which also accepts video and iOS device mirroring, and soon OS X mirroring). And if you're streaming from a computer, you can push to multiple AirPlay devices. But like some of Apple's other features (FaceTime, iMessage), AirPlay doesn't really extend past the Apple product ecosystem. That said, you'll find AirPlay baked into more and more devices with each passing month.

Android With the introduction of the $US300 Nexus Q, Google just provided its own streaming standard for Android-based devices, but it's only for the US market right now. The hubs will be able to take audio and video streams, and spit them out to televisions and speakers (powered by the Nexus Q's 25W amplifier). Plus, you can link hubs together for more robust multi-zone streaming than what Apple offers. Think of it as Sonos for Android, complete with the modest sticker shock.

Windows Phone Windows Phone will have SmartGlass to serve as its media streaming portal to the Xbox. Though built directly on top of DLNA streaming standards, the app simplfies and visualises the process of pushing content back and forth between the Xbox and Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 devices. Plus, SmartGlass can beam supplementary content to your device while watching a TV show, such as Game of Thrones. Toss in the possibilities for gaming and support for Windows, Android and iOs, and you have yourself a very intriguing streaming platform.



    Did you watch the keynote this morning? Google : We have 600,000 app and 20Billion app downloads, a basic fact mistake that early on in the article makes the rest suspect

    Chrome is now out of Beta, did you even watch the Keynote?

    zzzzzzz.....600000 google apps. I agree with Graham

    Perhaps worth mentioning that iOS6 won`t be compatible with Turn By Turn Navigation in Australia.....I mean Gizmodo actually wrote the post on it

      How about you read the whole article instead of creating 3 individual responses, and keep the insinuating attacks to a minimum?

        If there weren't so many mistakes he wouldn't have the need to post 3 times lol. You would think proof reading and fact checking wouldb be higher on the checklist.

      Turn by turn navigation will be coming out in Australia by October this year. Scott Forstall himself replied in an email saying that they're working with Australian mapping services and making sure that all the navigation data is all good before activating the function.

    Are individual eBooks still counted as "apps" in the iOS/Android stores?

      Of course they are, its an easy way to increase "App" numbers ;)

        They are certainly not on iOS. iBooks are obviously a separate format, available from a different part of the iTunes ecosystem (or the iBooks app) that reside solely in your iBooks app. iBook downloads do certainly not count as an "app" download. When Apple says app, they mean app. Couldn't tell you how it is on Android, but Google Play does lump everything together in the one place so its possible.

          yeah but what about all those apps in the Books category that aren't eBook readers and are simply just a single book in app form?

            Yep, that's true, they are self-contained IPA's in the App Store so obviously they count as apps. But the type of self-contained " books" in the App Store are generally not a typical book, as they usually contain animation, video, music etc. More like an "interactive book" that is a program rather than an eBook, so fairly classed as an app.

          who give's a sh** how many apps there are. 600,000 apps, i'm sure once you deleted all the rubbish there'd be less than 1000 apps you would ever consider using.

          you forgot - Apple still utilizes iTunes -1000 points

    This will be worthy of a bigger article later in year.

    iMessage is only in Beta on Mac, has been mainstream on iOS since v5. Not cross platform but better integrated than other platforms due to it being the same as the SMS app, reliability is an issue but has SMS as fallback which the others don't offer

      The messaging in Windows Phone is pretty good, you can send messages over any of the supported formats (windows live, facebook, sms , skype in wp8 and may be others I havent used) and it all organizes nice and neatly in a single thread and you can switch"channels" on the fly so if im chatting to someone on facebook and they go offline I can switch straight to sms with tap of a button

        Back in the day when I had a blackberry bold, BBM was the best messaging service I have ever used, and its only now that everyone is developing their own.

    I hate the Apps comparison, sure they have one billion apps more than they do.
    But how many of them would you ever use (crap ware, shovelware freemium etc.) and it is the quality and price of the apps that should decide to win this category.

      Exactly, I bet there are thousands of variations of some stupid app like "The fart button" (don't even know if that exists but i suspect it does)

      But is that really anything impressive to boast about?

        hey don't knock the fart buttons

          But if i knock the fart buttons then they will make a fart noise! thats the entire point!

      Every thriving market has its fair share of crap. But the good thing is that ratings ensure the good apps generally rise to the top. Android is the worst of the lot in regards to the amount of garbage apps it has, due to its open nature.

      Only someone in strong denial would argue that Android has as good an app selection as iOS when it comes to actual app quality. Particularly on tablets where the iPad currently whoops Android's arse (that may of course change now thanks to the Nexus 7 and all the other cool Android tablets on the way).

      I'm not bashing Android in any way by the way. I actually think its the superior OS overall for other reasons. Just stating a fact about iOS that is easily verifiable. Having lived with both iOS and Android devices over the last 12 months, Android simply doesn't have half the apps I love, or the ones it does have appear as a "stretched phone" app, rather than a purpose built tablet interface like every iPad app.

        The problem I've found with Android is its a fragmented mess of devices , so an app may not work on one device but will work on another, or an app wont even appear on the store based on a play store check against a hardware spec for that device, I had this exact problem trying to install an ebook reader on my mums Kogan tablet, it didnt show up in the market search on the device, when I tried to get it going through the web it said the device wasn't compatible

        But sure enough when I downloaded the apk separately and installed it it worked no problem. It still didnt make reading ebooks on a tablet any less crappy (which is why mum bought a Kindle) but thats a completely different flame war!

          Exactly. Android is great for tech-savvy tweakers, but how is the average Joe Blow supposed to deal with all that? Android has a long way to go before they can match the simplicity and "just works" factor of iOS on the iPad. Apple gets criticised all the time for its closed sand-boxed apps (and I'm often the first one to complain about it) however app curation, and strict API guidelines, do admittedly ensure a smoother and easier experience for your average consumer. Every single App on the App Store will tell you what devices it will and wont run on. Which is pretty easy given Apple only has a few devices to cater for! :)

            Apple only gets criticised on techie websites by techie tweakers, its very different in the real world where people don't like tech for its own sake, they like NOT caring about it!

            As an IT technician who is currently deploying 150 iPads into a school environment... there is nothing at all that "just works" about iOS.

              Thats funny....I've never had any problem with an ios device that wasn't easily fixed?

          Can't win either way here, if the apps were displayed on the device but you could not install them, there would be rage from a different group of people. Even though I would prefer it to be like the web (tell us its incompatible with the device), I can understand why the result doesn't come up and clutter the search results.

          Also, the developer set up their manifest file when they submitted to the market and your Kogan tablet doesn't meet their specs for some reason or another (who knows what, the developer might have had a good reason). If that was on the App Store with an iOS device, you would accept that it's incompatible right? I applaud you for trying and going around the restriction and showing a strength of Android but don't complain that you had to do it, be happy that you could do it.

      On a related but slightly off topic, this was the same argument for Nintendo - they had tighter control and standards for their platform, but if this really mattered to everybody, then Sony and Microsoft would not have the huge market share that they have now. By having more apps means more developers are choosing the platform, and having more developers increases the chances of better quality apps being built (in theory), because it's simply a numbers game - the more people developing for you, the higher the competition and need to make an app that sets itself apart.

        But Nintendo makes their money from their 1st party games on their own system. If Nintendo consoles ONLY ran Nintendo games, I'd still have bought every one of them :)

    How does a "quick run through Google Play" make the situation "abundantly clear" when there is no indication whether or not an app has a fragment based layout unless the developer is kind enough to tell you (still have to browse one app at a time) or the developer has posted a screenshot from a tablet? As an Android tablet owner, I can tell you it is impossible to tell most of the time. It is getting better now that ICS is getting more penetration into the market and there are many apps that are built with tablet layouts that are very very nice... and those that don't are not as terrible as you try to make them out to be unless the app was made for phones in Titanium or some other cross platform framework (terrible everywhere!).

      I'm not making out that Android apps are terrible ! Quite the opposite when it comes to phone apps and I agree its getting better for tablets (slowly). There are some truly awesome apps available that Apple would never allow, like different launchers and a plethora of widgets being the most obvious examples.

      However as you quite rightly point out its the lack of attention to tablet formats, and clear indication in app descriptions that causes confusion, and often there's a presumption that everything will just automatically scale ok to larger devices. Sometimes this works well. Other times its a joke how bad an Android tablet app can look compared to its counterpart on the iPad.

      I imagine a lot of the problem with developing tablet software for Android, is due to that dirty word "fragmentation". With so many different devices out there with different screen sizes and resolutions it must be difficult designing scalable interfaces or different UI's to suit a particular device or chipset..I hate the "one size fits all" approach and I think even Google are backing away from that now. Its no wonder people say that devloping software for Android is a nightmare compared to iOS.

      Note: I want Google to succeed with tablets and eventually I think they will. I just think the app situation for tablets is currently pretty grim. As for phone apps, they are kicking arse on ICS, and JellyBean is only going to make things better.

        Personally I think that allowing developers to maintain one codebase for multiple form factors was a great idea (despite the annoyance of not being able to search for tablet apps directly because there really are none) but it backfired due to backwards compatibility apps have to be targetted at an API level and features from later API levels (think Activity Fragments and the Actionbar class introduced in Honeycomb) and for some developers they are fine with their app the way it is or think it is too hard to update their app using the new APIs or compatibility libraries.

        Fragmentation, sigh... Fragmentation has nothing to do with screen sizes and resolutions if you build your layout xml files properly (you don't even need to specify exact resolutions, generalized size and density can cover most cases and you can tweak weird devices from there) declare supported screens in your manifest and provide bitmaps for different densities (4 of each bitmap) like you would for retina vs non-retina on iOS (2 of each bitmap there).

        As far as the grim situation: On my TF Prime I have 40 preloaded apps that are tablet optimised, out of the downloaded ones 40 show evidence of high dpi graphics or tablet layouts, 21 need updating for tablets, 16 scale well or you don't know/notice (eg lower res games and graphical apps, media players that are started from Mizuu) and 14 are background or widgets. Most importantly, they all function or scale to be usable, hardly grim IMO.

    Smarter Icons

    Windows 8 does not beat android here. SOrry personally Android is just as brilliant. Widgets are not only more customizable however they do not limit you to a retarded square that looks good only to a few people.

      It's bizarre that they are talking up WP7 icons and completely ignoring the Android notification bar, which is the best already and are going to get better with Jelly Bean. Apple's notification system is poorly implemented and very un-apple like- a knee jerk to Android's. I don't know why notifications aren't mentioned in this article and smart icons are, before this article I hadn't heard of smart icon, seems like it's crowbarred in to the article to talk up WP.

        Really? You don't think the comparison of Apple's icon-with-a-number vs Android's widgets and WP7's live tiles is a viable comparison?

        Have to agree Notifications should have been included, but the icon comparison is totally valid.

        FYI, WP7's ability to ship information straight to the user (which will only improve with WP8) is pretty fantastic. Yes widgets do this too, but I find WP7's implementation to be much more elegant and all-encompassing. Maybe it was included to beef up WP7, but with good reason; it's awesome.

    It's worth mentioning that while Android does not have the same number of apps that are specifically designed for a tablet, i feel that no app is unusable on an android tablet. In fact sometimes i can't really tell if the app is just a phone app or if has a specific tablet resolution.

    With my ipad, Unless the app was made to run on ipad there isn't really much point of me downloading it because it's either going to be terrible to look at or take up 1/4 of my screen.

    I watched the Windows Phone 8 regarding Voice integration and it will have deep app integration which will not only launch apps and search the web etc, but have the ability to execute commands within the app itself. Check out the section where the app "Audible" is demoed in the WP8 presso, mighty impressive. I already use SMS to voice within the car on WP7 which reads out the SMS if you ask it to. It also allows you to dictate a reply, call the sender or do nothing.

    (insert favourite OS here) FTW!

      Every OS sucks.

      Well played ^^

    Android and WP8 have not Core Audio or Midi. So if your into music creation iOS is your only choice. Currently WP has the same latency issues as Android. Not sure about WP8 or Jelly Bean, but discussion online indicates no change. So for me it's iOS which is a pity because I like both Android and WP.

      My Galaxy S3 has never experienced 1 latency issue. Can't say the same about my iPhone 4.

      I'm sorry but you have no idea what audio/MIDI will be available in WP8. Given that it is built on the WindowsNT kernel and will support games, it is reasonable to conclude that it will support DirectX, which includes DirectSound. MIDI is an 8-bit serial protocol from the early 19080's. It would be no trouble at all for anyone to write an app to support it on any platform. All that said, what kind of idiot would want to make music on their phone?

    I think Jack means audio latency, which is different to the latency in regards to the operating system response time. Only iOS has music creation apps as Android and WP have to much audio latency. Developers are trying to work around this issues but Google have not addressed the issue and neither have Microsft.

    Did you forget to mention maximum hardware limitations of iOS6- maximum cpu of a 2-core and ram of 1GB as opposed to at least double in Android(quad-core processor) and WP8(upto 64 core cpu and plenty of ram.). Why these count? Because now both Android and WP8 offer developers more power to create apps. Look, how quickly Android got 600,000 apps. Also what about DirectX, i think its not there in iOS6, and we already know what directx is capable of.

      This comment makes no sense whatsoever. Just thought you should know.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    I thought this article was great.

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