Opinion: iOS/Android vs Microsoft/Blackberry: Apps vs Information

You've got choices when it comes to buying a smartphone, and that's no bad thing. I wonder, though, how much weighting people put towards the delivery of information versus the delivery of apps when making their smartphone buying choices.

I test a lot of phones, and the truth be told, there's no one phone operating system that does it all for me. They've all got their good sides, and they've all got their bad sides. What strikes me most, though, is the division between the current two top runners, and the two that would dearly love to take their place.

Right at the moment, I'm testing out the Nokia Lumia 1020 as my daily phone. That's a device that changes quite a lot over the course of a year given what I do for a living, boucing around each of the mobile operating systems in turn. I tend to end up back on an iPhone, but that's not always a given.

Now the Lumia 1020 has indeed got a very nice camera, but that's not the only thing that it's got. It's also got Windows Phone 8. There are those who love Windows Phone 8, but, if the sales figures are anything to go by, there are an awful lot more who prefer either iOS or Android. Windows Phone 8 sits in third place in most markets, alongside Blackberry's BB10, and the gulf is pretty wide.

This got me thinking about the things that I like, and don't like about Windows Phone 8 and how they relate to the other major operating systems. There are minor details I don't like — for example, for whatever reason, the trailing loading dots for apps bug me in ways they probably shouldn't. There are larger factors, mostly relating to apps. Yes, the picture for Windows Phone 8's apps has improved in recent years, but there's still plenty of work to be done there.

Then a though struck me about how Windows Phone 8 — and to a certain extent, BB10 — approach their apps anyway, and how that differs quite a bit from the Android and iOS experience.

With WP8/BB10, information is the key thing that the smartphone is trying to impart to you as quickly as possible. Full sized tiles on WP8 show you 6 icons on the basic screen; slightly more if you shrink them, but then you're remembering what each icon is for in turn. From there, if you want a whole lot of apps, you're scrolling down to get to them in sequence, or shifting to the right for the full alphabetical list. I'm not presenting this as bad or good; it's the way it is. It's the same way that BB10 sells itself; pretty much everything that you might do at an app level is secondary to the Blackberry Hub.

With Android and iOS, though, it's an app-centric approach; while Android dabbles in information via Widgets, it's still very much a question of stacking up and enjoying the slightly richer app environment, and that seems to appeal to a wide market, whether they're rabid Instagrammers or fans of Real Racing 3.

This has me thinking. Again I stress I'm not advocating for one side against the other per se, I'm merely interested. Do those kinds of decisions — in terms of the way the mobile operating systems lay themselves out — have specific appeal (or disincentive) for a given mobile buyer? Do Android users "prefer" Android because they've got a preference that way, for example?

I'm often told by those who adore WP8 that they do so because they find it easier to get to the information they most want as quickly as possible, and that's certainly a key theme of most Blackberry presentations. I can only think of one person I know who actually uses a Blackberry full time, mind, but then he's a rather information-centric kind of chap anyway. Equally, many of those who I find passionate about iOS or Android talk up the ecosystem and the apps as the key driver.

I'm passionate that there should be as wide a choice as possible, because having only one smartphone choice would stink. But it's an interesting thought. Where do you sit on whether apps or information is the most important thing on your smartphone?

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