Which Phone is Best? Easy guide to Android vs iOS vs Windows 8

Android vs iOS vs Windows Phone 8

One of the most fundamental questions faced in choosing a new mobile phone is to consider which Operating System is right for you. Until recently, the decision for almost everyone came down to Android ( that’s Google’s handheld device Operating System ) vs iOS ( that’s Apple’s mobile device Operating System. )  Then Windows Phone 8 was released at the end of 2012. Windows Phone 8 added another layer of choice and, for some, confusion, in to the process.

This article is designed to provide you with the pros and cons of each of the 3 major Operating Systems. Your final choice is always going to be a deeply personal one. Our goal is to make it a little easier for you to choose the right one for you.

Where you can get the cheapest deals on your Android or iOS phones

As you will know if you have read our other articles, we believe buying your phone outright and adding a SIM to it is by far the cheapest way to go about running your Android or iOS phone.

And if you’d like to know more about why we recommend a SIM Only deal for your Android or Apple phone, check out our article on how to save 30% on your phone bills.

A quick summary of the differences between the major Operating Systems

Before we get in to the detail, here’s a quick summary.

  • Android :
    Available on a wide range of device sizes, weights and from a broad array of manufacturers. Android offers flexibility, personalisation and a super slick tie in with Google’s services like Gmail or Google Plus. Perhaps best of all, Android offers Widgets – which we tell you about below. If you’re the person who sets up the family TV when it arrives, Android might be best for you.
  • Apple’s iOS :
    Simple, reliable and consistent across Apple’s range of products including iPads, Apple’s IOS is familiar to almost everyone. You’ll find compatible accessories everywhere you go, if you choose it. If you’re new to ‘smart’ mobile phones or already have some Apple products in your home, Apple’s iOS  just could be right for you.
  • Windows Phone 8 :
    Underrated, simple, stable, both personalisable and innovative, Windows Phone 8 is only let down by the number of apps which are available for it. If you love Nokia phones, have a family or run your own corporate IT team, Windows Phone 8 could be your ideal OS.

Android / Apple iOS / Windows Phone 8 Homepages

The image below is what you’ll see most often if you choose ( in order ) Android / iOS / Windows Phone 8.

The homepages of the different handset options you have.

1. The Android Homepage – This one has the HTC Sense User Interface Overlay
2. The iOS Homepage – Classic Icon Griid
3. The WIndows Phone 8 Homepage – Tiles are updated with behind the scenes info

The 3 most populae phone Operating Systems have been compared, below, on their key attributes :

  • Simplicity
  • Reliability
  • Flexibility
  • Range of devices
  • and, ultimately, the sort of user they are likely to appeal to.

Of course, the other key aspect of a mobile phone Operating system is the apps available on it. This is covered briefly, below. However, it’s so important, we’ve considered app stores independently, too, in this article : Android vs IOS vs Windows Phone 8 App Stores.

Android OS

Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system platform and it’s my personal favorite.

Pros of Android :

  • Available on a large range of devices.
    Android ships on a broad selection of handsets. Android mobiles vary in value from $100 to $600. Android is available on everything from tiny devices like the Samsung Galaxy Ace, to enormous phones including the largest ( in the mobile category, anyway )  mobile available right now, the Samsung Galaxy S4. A wide range of devices means you are more likely to find an Android that fits your size, weight, cost needs.
  • Flexibility.
    Android is the most flexible Operating System of the three we’ve considered. Want to hack your own phone and configure it to whistle on a Friday ? No worries. Want to use a different keyboard or typing method ? It’s possible. Android takes some time to set up but if you’re prepared to invest it, Android can adapted, almost endlessly, to do exactly what you want it to. Personalisation allows you to set the device up according to your needs. Mobiles can be an expression of the sort of person you are and personalisation helps you paint that picture exactly as you’d like.
  • Google services experience is slick.
    Apps which tie in with Google’s online services have been integrated well in to Android. Google maps, Chrome, Gmail and Google Plus’ mobile experience are all incredibly mature and well integrated in to the Android OS. If you are already using many of Google’s web products then you should consider this a serious plus point.
  • Android has Widgets.
    Widgets are part web page, part application, widgets expose information from the internet live on your handset. If you’re not familiar with this idea, it may be hard to get your head around. Imagine a weather widget on your device home-screen. Every time you look at your phone, it will show you the weather forecast for the next 24 hours. You don’t have to open an app, you don’t have to open a browser and search, it’s just always there. The Widget capability is a useful feature you’ll only find on Android. We’re all hooked on information and Widgets make the information you want easier to find.

Here’s how Android looks and feels.

1. Personalised HTC Android with Weather Widget
2. HTC have a ‘Sense’ User Interface – inconsistent with other Androids
3. A Music Widget – music straight from homepage – no ‘app’ opened

Cons of Android

The cons of Android are the other side of the flexibility / configurability coin.

  • Android is not about Simplicity.
    All that configurability comes at a price. It might take you a while to learn how to get the most out of the Android platform. Android appeals particularly to geeks ( like me ), early adopters and people with a bit of experience using modern ( smart ) mobile phones. Android is not the simplest platform to pick up and use from the 3 we’ve compared.
  • Android does not have the best Reliability.
    I can only talk from my personal experience of Android. I suffer more freezes and call drop outs on Android that I do Windows or IOS. It doesn’t happen every day or every call but  I’ll get a crash once a week at least. If you’re going for Android, be prepared to expect the same.

Android products might appeal to the more technically capable, people prepared to invest in considering their product, who like a particular device form factor and / or who already uses a lot of Google’s online product suite.


iOS is the Apple Operating System.

Pros of iOS

  • Simplicity is Apple’s strength.
    One of Apple’s slogan is ‘It Just Works.’ For the vast majority of situations, that’s true of the Apple Mobile Operating System. If this is your first ( smart ) mobile phone or if you find it hard working with computers in general then Apple is more likely to be your sort of device. It’s easy to navigate iOS and it’s hard to imagine you don’t already have at least some experience of Apple’s Operating System on at least one platform, be that an iPad, iPod, Mackbook etc.. If you do, you’re halfway there before you start and many don’t have the time or the patience to learn something new.
  • Apple offers Consistency across apps and platforms.
    The experience on Apple devices and in the apps is far more consistent than on other platforms. Apple’s guidelines for those submitting apps, in this area improve the usability of the iPhone itself and how it and apps integrate in to other elements of the Apple infrastructure.
  • It’s hard to fault Apple’s reliability.
    I don’t think I’ve ever had a call drop out on a call made from an iPhone. Apps have to be checked with Apple before they’re put in to the iTunes store so conflicts and accidental shutdowns are even rarer than on Android products.
  • There are a lot of accessories available.
    There is a fantastic array of accessories available for Apple mobile phones. From Bose sound systems to remote controlled helicopters you can fly using your iPhone 5 touchscreen, don’t under estimate the power of having so many users all on one platform, in stimulating hardware manufacturers to develop an iSomething which ‘Works with iPhone.’ More accessories can make your iPhone more useful to you and more integrated with your life.

Here’s how iOS looks and feels.

1. The iOS Homepage has icons, no widgets and limited personalisation
2. iOS is more reliable. Simple tasks are done well – here, browsing
3. iOS is simple. You’ll be able to pick it up and use it immediately.

Cons of iOS

  • Device range is limited.
    Unless you want an older iPhone 4S instead of a newer one, range of Apple iPhones is not as broad as those available to people prepared to consider the other two Operating Systems. There’s no mini version of the iPhone, there’s no phablet variant, there’s no cheap offering. Colour options are limited – except when it comes to the iPhone 5c.
  • Apple devices have apps but no tiles or Widgets.
    The range of apps available in the iTunes store is great. But they’re just apps. And if you’ve experienced Widgets or even the Windows Tiles then you’re likely to feel you’re taking a step backwards going to iOS. That said, the apps which are available for Apple tend to be more mature than their equivalents on the Android or Windows Platforms.
  • Apple products are not that personalisable. 
    You can change the homepage screen and put a picture of your kids on it. And you can give people their own ringtone when they call you but that’s about it.
  • Price. iPhones are expensive.
    You’ll be lucky to get away with a contract less than $50 per month for any kind of iPhone.

Apple products can appeal to people new to smart mobile phones, who love the Apple brand and have experience of it and who know how useful apps can be.

Windows Phone 8

The Windows Phone 8 mobile Operating System falls somewhere between Android and Apple. It’s not nearly as popular, especially now. However, the platform is gaining momentum. It has some features you won’t find in either Android or iOS. Windows 8 is a credible product and, in the opinion of Whatphone, you could do a lot worse than consider it.

Pros of Windows Phone 8

  • Simplicity.
    Windows Phone 8 is clear, simple, slick, looks modern and is holistically considered. The interface feels well put together and mature.
  • Stability.
    Like Apple’s iOS, I’ve never had a  dropped call or a crashed app.
  • Personalisable.
    The homepage can be configured with Tiles. Somewhere between an app and a Widget, tiles expose some information from ‘behind the scenes’ – whether that’s pictures from your device shown in a tile on the homepage or your latest Facebook post. You can change the colour of every screen component in settings.
  • Innovative software features.
    Windows Phone 8 has a few new features which neither Android vs iOS have managed to imbed. A kids area can be configured in the settings of Windows Phone 8. Swipe left from the homepage (once set up( and you’ll see an area where children can play safely. Put whatever apps you want to in there, from drawing to angry birds. There’s a shared ‘Family’ facility where parents and their children can all have access to notes (for shopping lists, for example), pictures they’ve all taken and a calendar. Android and iOS have been in market for some time. Windows Phone 8 developers have come up with genuinely useful capabilities. It’s to their credit and if these sound useful to you, why not take a look at a Windows Phone 8 product.

Range of devices is neither a Pro or a Con at this stage for Windows 8 devices. There are only a small number of products in the Australian market but it’s growing all the time.

The Windows Phone 8 range is already larger than Apple’s portfolio. It should also be mentioned that each of these products is styled in a unique way with a variety of full body colours. There is more flexibility in pricing options too. Not all Windows Phone 8 devices are at the top end of the pricing bracket.

Additionally, some Windows 8 products have other innovative features, this time related to the hardware they provide. A good example is wireless charging.

Here’s how Windows Mobile looks and feels.

1. Tiles expose info on home screen – e.g. Last Facebook post and favorite pictures
2. Windows Phone 8 devices have Microsoft Office apps installed
3. Children’s corner – innovative features for the family

Cons of Windows Phone 8

  • Apps. There is not nearly the range of apps available for Windows Phone 8.
    Of the dozen or so applications I install as default on iOS or Android products I’m testing, less than half were available in the Windows 8 store. Over time, this is likely to get better. One of the core elements of the Windows 8 platform is that apps can be developed for the desktop and then easily transferred to the mobile platform. There are 75,000 apps a year being developed for Windows Phone 8 so, before long, the most common apps will be dealt with. Importantly, every Windows Phone 8 device comes with Microsoft Office.

Windows Phone 8 might appeal to business people, those who put family first and everyone who wants to keep it simple.

Summing up the handheld OS comparison

What used to be Android vs iOS is now Android vs iOS vs Windows Phone 8. As with all these things, OS is a very personal choice. However, there are clear differences between them. Apple’s the safe bet. Android is for people who like to play with their phone settings to get it exactly the way they want. Windows Phone 8 falls somewhere in between.

Some parting thoughts designed to make you feel a bit more reassured about this : This is probably not a decision to worry about. There is no bad choice here. As you can see from the above, each one has its strengths and weaknesses. One of the funny things about operating systems is that, the first time you use it, you complain it’s hard. Then you get so used to whatever you have that you can’t stand to leave it. Rest assured, in a few months post buying your phone, you’ll feel that way about whichever one you choose.

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