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What’s the best mobile OS: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 or BlackBerry 10?

The main four smartphone operating systems compared

Google Android

While iOS is managed with a firm hand (some might say iron fist) by Apple, Google Android is more of an open-source renegade. This hasn’t always played out well.

Alongside the ability to gamble and view porn (a no-no for Apple users) are security issues. As long as you install apps only from the Google Play Store and use recommended app security software you should be fine. Since NFC (near field communications) and mobile payments are supported, ensure you don’t make payments or log on to financial websites unless security is active.

Android Jelly Bean

Google Ice Cream Sandwich (the version before the current Jelly Bean) covers all the basics, with fancier media management options (Samsung. HTC and Sony) and prettier weather and contact features (HTC in particular) being added on some handsets by manufacturers.

More confusingly, mobile operators such as Vodafone and Orange pimp their handsets with preinstalled entertainment extras and their own separate lists of recommended apps. In the past, these extras have interfered when upgrading to new Android versions.

Google is doing plenty right, though. Android advocates are a fast-growing army. One clear advantage is the well-developed Google Maps app. Strong mapping, 3D and satellite views are accompanied by built-in voice-control and turn-by-turn navigation. Android also offers built-in voice search, NFC support, screen mirroring and contactless content sharing. You can ‘throw’ photos and music to devices across the room and queue up actions in a form of home automation (that's all dependent on the particular handset, as not all support NFC).

Google Now

Android’s app selection exceeds 600,000, with anything you’ve bought or downloaded for free to one Android device automatically available on any other you buy - everything is linked to your Google account.

This contrasts with Apple’s separate apps list for iPhone and iPad - not all apps are 'universal'. There’s a limited magazine selection – don’t worry, PC Advisor is one of them – but the books section is as strong as Apple’s iBookstore. The Movies list numbers dozens rather than iTunes’ hundreds. Netflix and LoveFilm complement both. iOS is stronger for kids’ games and educational content and for creative apps.

Some users will be put off by Google’s apparent ability to know everything about their web use, email accounts and personal details. Being logged in to the default Google Chrome web browser won’t help.  A Google account is used to manage app and other purchases.   

Google Now (which is now available for iOS devices, albeit in a slightly more limited form) serves up useful information based on your past behaviour, but also on location and time of the day. Travel information, currency rates when overseas and other pertinent information is served up as a flash card when Google reckons you’ll find it most helpful. This does nothing to dispel the idea that Google knows your ever move and thought, but much to prove its slavish devotion to you, its customer (and ad-supporting cash cow).

Next page: Microsoft Windows Phone 8

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