The Great Wireless OS Debate

It’s decision time again around my house. Time for the wife to get a new cell phone (not quite as urgent as my need a couple of months ago, after I dropped my old phone in a parking lot and a car ran over it). But these days a new phone involves an agonizing decision, given that the long-term price of a smartphone rivals that of a powerful desktop computer.

At least with the desktop your choice of operating system remains pretty clear: You get a Windows-based machine, or you pay somewhat more and you get an Apple. Every attempt to unseat those two over the years has failed. Not so in the world of the cell phone.

In this corner we have Apple and the new iOS 7. For now, Apple is the king of the heap, but remember not so long ago it was Blackberry that was the king – and these days Blackberry is desperately trying to make a comeback with some slick stuff released and more already “previewed.” More, the latest two generations of Android-based phones have been rated as roughly equal to – some say a tiny bit better, other a tiny bit worse – Apple’s best. And finally we have the Windows Phone, whose latest iteration, Windows Phone 8, is blazing hot. I know, because that’s what I have, and it looks like after a half dozen tries Microsoft has finally figured out a winning smart phone formula. Given all of that, Apple’s perch may indeed be precarious.

But, as good as Windows Phone 8 is, it still can’t begin to match the applications base that both Android and iOS have built up. And don’t forget the old saw in the PC world: He who has the most applications wins. Microsoft knows that, and its working like crazy to get an applications base built up for its phone software.

Now my wife’s thinking goes like this: A Windows Phone is more likely to integrate seamlessly with what’s on her Windows-based desktop. But an Android-based phone may synch best with her tablet, and from her Android tablet (and Windows Phone 7) experience she knows that there are more Android apps that she wants than there are for Windows Phone.

Oh, and price isn’t an issue: The Android and Windows phones she’s looking at cost roughly the same right now (Windows because of some big marketing concessions on the model of HTC phone I’m toting, Android because she’s looking at a Samsung that’s one generation back).

And comparing features doesn’t help much. From what I’ve seen, both are great, indeed all of the contenders have their strengths (and weaknesses). Windows Phone 8 does browse a slight bit faster (assuming you can get LTE, which I can) than the others. On the other hand, Microsoft recognizes that Android may well become the market leader, so it is quietly backing Android software to link to desktop Windows.

Ah, and Apple, in its latest technology previews, has more than hinted at integrating VoIP compatibility right into its operating system, its demonstrated it in public. But somehow I think VoIP is coming to every operating system, and it won’t be long before my cell phone, via its wireless data persona, is an extension of my Phone.com small business phone system. After all, my Windows laptop already is.