Modern Mobile Operating Systems

This post may come off slightly grumpy…so apologizes in advance.   Over the past several months, I’ve spent a pretty good amount of time working hands-on with iOS 6, Android 4.x, and Windows Phone 8.  Maybe I’m just getting jaded, but I’m still left underwhelmed by all of these operating systems.  I’m left wanting more.  Actually, I’m left wanting not just more, but something much better.  From all of them. 

When I look at iOS, my first thought is “hey, it’s the same phone I had in 2007!”.  I bought an iPhone v1 the first day they were available, and yes, that phone was truly amazing compared to what was on the market at the time.  It’s actually incredible to me that today’s iOS (counting both phone and iPad/iPod Touch) home screen looks basically exactly the same as it did nearly 6 years ago.  Exactly the same.  Sure you can have folders now, and there is an extra row of icons on a iPhone 5, and there have been other very minor visual changes, but by and large – the same.  Effectively zero innovation in one of the most important features of a smartphone – a navigational model for getting around the dozens of different apps you probably have installed.  iOS, you can do better.  I know you are limited since you have just that 1 hardware button to work with, but I think you can do better. 

On Android – and I’ve mainly spent time lately with a Nexus 4 running Android 4.2.1 – we are getting somewhere.  The UI over the years has gone some pretty drastic changes, for the better in my opinion.  The landing screen is fairly customizable.  The browser is nice, multi-tasking is good.  Something just always feels not quite consistent throughout though.  Apps, even the built-in ones, can feel dramatically different.  (To be fair, iOS suffers from this as well, and iOS apps tend to throw on skeuomorphism as well, which is an entirely different issue.)  For example, why is the default phone app have a dark, patterned background, while the messaging app has a white background?  I don’t know, and there are a lot of little issues like this.  But I do think Android is headed in the right direction in terms of feeling more modern and advanced.

Lastly, Windows Phone 8…I’ve been running a Windows Phone 8 device (Nokia Lumia 920) as my primary smartphone device for a few months now.  While it generally works well (as do iOS and Android), it definitely feels “young”.  Polished, but youthful and not mature.  I like the flat design, and Live Tiles – or at least this type of concept – is what phones need.  There is work to be done with Live Tiles – like maybe making them even more animated or even interactive.  Perhaps different shapes and sizes to more interestingly define your start screen.  How about a large vertical tile, instead of just a wide tile?  That would make a calendar or email tile more interesting.  Maybe a really skinny wide tile too, instead of the tall wide tile?

Well I guess that’s enough complaining for today.  I’m just left wanting more.  More use of the modern hardware we have (I have yet to actually use my NFC), more useful interfaces, and an abstraction away from “apps” and more just “data”.  While we’ve advanced greatly in the past several years, I’m looking ahead to what is next.  (and please don’t say smartwatch! Smile)

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