Should I Switch Mobile Operating Systems

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on December 15, 2015, Buying Guides

Most of us have a preferred mobile operating system, and it’s generally whatever you had on your first ever smart phone. However, many people do make the switch, and most of them make it at around this time of year. Since Christmas brings gifts, which means not shelling out cash yourself for a new phone, a fair few people are going to be thinking about switching operating systems. Plus, with January sales meaning steep price cuts on mobiles, you might be tempted by a sweet deal. Should you be switching? We’re taking a look at some of the things you need to keep in mind.

The Operating Systems

Basically there are three main operating systems: Windows (the most current version being Windows 10, run more or less exclusively on Lumia phones), iOS (the most current version being iOS9, run exclusively on iPhones), and Android (the most current version being Android Marshmallow, run on pretty much everything else).

Whilst some people have strong views on which operating system is the best, the truth is that there is no “best” operating system, all three are good choices, depending on what you want to do. But there are some factors that will effect that switching decision.

The Question of Compatibility

Probably the main issue here is one of compatibility, and that effects iPhone owners more than anyone else. If everything you own is made by Apple, meaning your computer, laptop, tablet etc., then you’re simply going to find that you have better compatibility if you stick with (or switch to) an iPhone. It will be easier to back up your phone, to load data onto it, and to switch between devices. It really is that simple.

The same, however, doesn’t really hold true for Windows phones and Windows users. Yes, a Windows phone will probably be a little more intuitive if you use a Windows computer, but you won’t have the same compatibility issues, since Android is really compatible with anything. Plus, if you’re a Windows user and want to get an iPhone, installing iTunes is simple, and is all it takes to make that iPhone compatible with your PC.

The Question of Apps

Smart phones need apps, and most of us have heaps of them, and both the number and kind of apps you want is going to be an issue when choosing an operating system. The Windows app store has the smallest selection of apps, meaning less choice. But, the Windows app store probably has a better selection of business and word processing apps than anyone else, making it a solid choice for a business phone operating system.

Both the Android and Apple app stores have millions of apps to choose from. However, Apple do strictly control the kind of apps they allow into their store (not selling third party apps that compete with their own products, for example), meaning their market is a little less competitive. In general, you can expect more paid Apple apps than Android ones. Again, this doesn’t make one system better than the other, but it might be worth your time checking out the Apple and Android app stores to make sure you can get what you need before buying your phone.

The Question of Choice

There are thousands of mobile hand sets on the market, and that can make deciding on a new phone kind of tough. However, that choice is a good thing for you as a consumer, since it means that you’re more likely to get the kind of phone you want at a price that’s right for you. But there’s a problem here…

If you opt for iOS or Windows your device choices are going to be severely limited. iOS is restricted to the handful of iPhone models available at any given time (usually four to five different models). There’s slightly more choice with Windows, since all Lumia phones are Windows phones, but even then you’re looking at a choice between maybe twenty or so devices. Android? Well, you’re spoilt for choice there, with hundreds and hundreds of models to choose from.

This question of choice should certainly play a part in your decision. Okay, maybe you’ve found the perfect phone and it’s an iPhone, great. But what about in the future? Most of us are likely to stick with an operating system once we’re used to it, and are you willing to go on buying iPhones for the next few years? Break that iPhone and you don’t have a cheap alternative, unlike with Android where if you break a top end hand set you can always buy a £100 phone to tide you over until your mobile contract is over.

The Question of Usability

Finally, there’s the question of usability, and this really depends on you. You can, of course, learn to use a new phone operating system, though there might be a learning curve, but most of us find that one system is simply more comfortable to use.

In general, iOS is considered the most intuitive OS to use, though this comes at a price. You’ll find few customisation options in iOS, meaning you’re pretty much stuck with the interface you’re given and the stock apps available from the app store. Android is still fairly intuitive for new users, but gives more advanced users a ton of customisation options, including the ability to add a new user interface that meets your needs. Windows, lastly, is intuitive if you’re already a Windows user (on your PC, for example), but less so if you’re not. Customisation is better than with iOS, but nowhere near as good as with Android.

Should You Switch?

Whether or not you should switch phone operating systems is really just personal choice, but you will need to keep the above considerations in mind, or risk making a purchase that you’re going to regret. No one system is better than any other, but certain operating systems do tend to suit certain customers better than others. When in doubt your best bet is to at least try out the OS that you’re thinking about. Head to a local mobile shop and play around with the demo models, and you should get an idea of whether or not an OS will suit you.