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iOS vs. Android vs. BlackBerry OS vs. Windows Phone

It's a two-horse race for now but competitors are revamping their wares

By Brad Reed, Network World
November 02, 2011 06:06 AM ET

Network World - Right now the mobile operating system wars have only two main combatants: Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

IOS is well-known as the platform Apple uses for its ever-popular iPhone and iPad devices. Android appears on a huge range of devices from different vendors, ranging from Motorola's Droid series to Samsung's Galaxy phones and tablets to HTC's Thunderbolt LTE smartphone. According to the latest Nielsen numbers, Android-based devices now account for 43% of American smartphones in use today while the iPhone accounts for 28% of American smartphones in use today and RIM's BlackBerry OS devices account for 18% of the market. What's more, Android's adoption rate has been accelerating as 56% of users who reported buying a new smartphone in the past three months purchased an Android device. By comparison, 28% reported purchasing an Apple iPhone while just 9% of recent smartphone buyers reported purchasing one of Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices.

RELATED: Android adoption accelerates, says Nielsen

READ NETWORK WORLD'S OTHER TECH ARGUMENTS

So since Android is currently the top dog, let's look where it's headed in the near future. Google will soon release its Google Nexus Prime smartphone that features Android 4.0, a.k.a. "Ice Cream Sandwich," that is designed to unify the Android platform for use on both tablets and smartphones. Scott Main, the lead tech writer for Google's Android Developers Blog, last month started prepping developers for the impending release of Ice Cream Sandwich and reminded them that the new Android will "support big screens, small screens and everything in between." Main also emphasized that Android would maintain "the same version ... on all screen sizes" going forward. Put another way, this could mean that the era of Android fragmentation will soon end if Google is successful.

As for iOS, Apple just released its iOS 5 update this past month to go along with its new iPhone 4S. Key features include Notification Center, a new app that lets you manage all your notifications "in one place and without interruption" and the iMessage service that can be used to send SMS, pictures and videos to fellow iOS 5 users. Apple is also touting improvements to iOS's photo editing capabilities, its Safari browser, and its integration capabilities with Twitter. Apple's mobile operating system is also now supporting the iCloud online data storage and syncing service, and Siri, a voice-enabled "personal assistant" that can interpret your speech patterns and provide you answers to your questions just by asking it in a natural voice.

So we know now how the two mobile OS titans have been doing, but what about their competitors? RIM has been taking its time in developing its new QNX operating system for its next generation of smartphones, due to be released next year. RIM gave QNX a test spin on its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, although the general consensus has been that the PlayBook was rushed to market and that it lacked even basic features such as access to corporate email that isn't dependent on owning a BlackBerry smartphone. RIM has seemingly learned its lessons and is making sure that when it releases its QNX smartphones they'll be ready from Day One.

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