Comparing smartphone operating systems

CNET shows you just how competitive the OS battle has become. See how popular features compare among the latest operating system versions from each manufacturer.

Apple's announcement of iOS 4 and the iPhone 4 in just the last three months shows that the smartphone wars aren't cooling yet. Just consider everything that has happened in the space of the last year. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Windows Mobile OS, and Google continues to aggressively roll out updates to Android. Palm hasn't been quite as active in the news recently, but we're not discounting its WebOS quite yet.

The following chart compares popular features from the smartphone operating system that have been most active this year. Note that we left RIM off because the manufacturer has not issued major updates in the past 12 months. A quick look at the chart demonstrates just how competitive the OS battle has become. As each company fires a shot, you can expect its competitors to respond in force. And that's something we love to watch.




Apple iOS 4 Google Android 2.2 Palm WebOS 1.4 Windows Phone 7
Consumer availability June 21 TBD; will vary by device and carrier Now Fourth quarter of this year
Multitasking Yes, but iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 only Yes Yes Yes, but limited. Third-party apps will not be allowed to run in the background.
Notifications Yes, but only one at a time Yes, with multiple notifications bar Yes Yes
App folders Yes Yes No Apps arranged in "Hubs"
Tethering Yes Yes, with built-in support for tethering and mobile hotspot feature
Yes, but dependent on carrier TBD*
VoIP Yes, with third-party apps Yes, with third-party apps Yes, with third-party apps
TBD
Gaming Many gaming apps available. Game Center feature adds new functionality Many gaming apps available Palm publicly released its PDK in March for game development. 3D games are already available. Xbox Live integration
Flash support You're kidding, right? Yes Yes Yes, but not at launch
Number of titles in App Store iTunes App Store: More than 225,000 Android Market: More than 30,000 Palm App Catalog; More than 2,400 Windows Phone Marketplace; hasn't launched yet
Voice commands Yes Yes No TBD
Mass storage No Yes Yes TBD
Universal search Yes Yes Yes Yes
Music store iTunes Music Store Amazon MP3 Store Amazon MP3 Store Zune
Web browser Safari Android WebKit Internet Explorer
Copy-paste Yes Yes Yes No
Pinch and zoom multitouch Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video calling Yes, but iPhone 4 only Yes, but on limited phones No Not yet

* Microsoft has yet to fully detail the features for Windows Phone 7.

Editors' note, Monday, April 12, 2010
:  This chart was updated to show that Palm WebOS 1.4 supports third-party VoIP applications. This chart was further updated on June 14, 2010, to reflect the changes from iPhone 4 and Android 2.2

About the author

Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.

Kent German

Senior Managing Editor Kent German leads the CNET Reviews editors in San Francisco. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he still writes about the wireless industry and occasionally his passion for commercial aviation. See full bio

 

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