Completing 2012: Android 4.2 and Windows Phone 8

Google's & Microsoft's Phone Announcements Wrapped Up 2012 for Mobile OSes.

Google’s & Microsoft’s Phone Announcements Wrapped Up 2012 for Mobile OSes.

Android 4.2 was launched on the same day as Windows Phone 8. These announcements concluded 2012 for mobile operating systems. Similar to how Apple had nothing really innovative in iOS6, Android 4.2 and WP8 are marginal updates.

2012 has seen Android take a surging lead in the mobile market. A lead that comes at the expense of more dated OSes such as BlackBerry and Symbian. It has, to its credit, also eaten away at Apple’s share and is responsible for iOS’s slow growth. Windows Phone had a larger growth but one must remember it is growing from a really tiny base, so a tremendous growth doesn’t mean much. In absolute figures, nothing has really changed. Android again takes the giant’s share with iOS and WP8 filing behind.

 

 

Android 4.2

Android 4.2 confirms that Google has been satisfied with the sweeping changes made in 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. 4.1 and 4.2 are both under the Jellybean code name and rightly so. Android 4.1 stuck with the same design as 4.0 but introduced ‘butter’ to focus on the biggest complaint on the platform – random lapses of lag. This was a major experiential change that came early this year. 4.1 also introduced Google Now, an app that gives you information and recommendations based on the massive amount of info you have in the Google ecosystem. These were huge features of 4.1

Android 4.2: Just making the 4.1 experience better.

Android 4.2: Just making the 4.1 experience better.

4.2 builds on it and adds multiple incremental features that improves Google Now, Gmail, notifications, typing, lock screen widgets, multiple user logins for tablets and wireless display sharing with Miracast TVs. These updates are good but aren’t game changes. None of these features will cause iOS and WP8 users to switch. Launching two flavors of Jellybean signals Android’s focus on polishing its often perceived coarse platform. Android has been known to boast the most features on a mobile platform but often without the shiny polish that iOS is known for. This year, Google has answered them both.

 

Android has been known to boast the most features on a mobile platform but often without the shiny polish that iOS is known for. This year, Google has answered them both.

 

Android has not changed dramatically from Ice Cream Sandwich. However, 2012 has been a telling year because Google extended its lead by not simply offering a glutton of devices but also a refined platform that is in every way competitive with iOS. Similar to how iOS first gained maturity in version 4.0, Google’s doubling down in its own 4.x versions have added great value to the platform. The legacy of old, clunky Android devices will stay for a year or two, but as users buy phones in the coming year, they will be using a mobile operating system that is finally ready to stand toe to toe at the very peak.

 

 

Windows Phone 8

With the multiple generations that Android and iOS have gone through, it is often surprising to note that Windows Phone 8 is only the second generation of the series. Like Google and Apple, Microsoft have stayed true to the design and user interface of the proceeding version. Windows Phone 8 is a marginally improved version of 7.

Windows Phone 8 offers nothing visually new besides an improved home screen  This is good news for WP8 users as Windows Phone’s greatest strength lies in its home screen and live tiles. In fact, the excellent home screen is one that hands the OS a rare ‘best in class’ tag. Besides that, WP8 looks very much like WP7. The same silky smooth, forward looking design is still there.

WP8: All about people - like Jessica Alba as a mom.

WP8: All about people – like Jessica Alba as a mom.

Under the hood, Windows Phone 8 has added features that are literally people orientated. There is a kids mode so that your phone can be locked to only allow certain apps (such as games) to be used. There are rooms for better customized connectivity to certain circles within your social sphere. The improved People Hub and Skype again bears testament to the ‘people focus’ that Microsoft was hammering on.

 

Windows Phone 8 is an improvement but this is not the same ‘4.0 moment’ that iOS and Android have already enjoyed.  It is far from maturity.

 

Windows Phone 8 is an improvement but this is not the same ‘4.0 moment’ that iOS and Android have already enjoyed.  It is far from maturity. The OS is great but have many things to iron out. It’s apps ecosystem will require a massive injection in interest. Core features such as centralized notifications have yet to be seen. Windows Phone users will love what 8 has in store for them, but WP8 still does little to draw users away from the Android and iOS platforms.

 

 

What’s Next?

As much as I have found iOS6 boring, Android 4.2 has brought a fairly low amount of excitement. Some great features that should have been there are finally in and that’s about it. It is clear that Android 5.0 and iOS7  must take their respective platforms to a whole new level in 2013.

 

It is clear that Android 5.0 and iOS7 must take their respective platforms to a whole new level in 2013.

 

The impending departure of Scott Forstall, iOS chief at Apple, might allow iOS7 to take a much needed fresh route. Forstall’s tight control of iOS has seen it stagnate with new features few and far in between in the past 2 years. His departure whether voluntarily or forced may allow greater integration between iOS and OSX – something that Microsoft has boldly taken by the horns in marrying Windows 8 on desktops, laptops, hybrids, tablets and phones.

iOS: Will Forstall's departure lead a new dawn?

iOS: Will Forstall’s departure lead a new dawn?

Similarly, Google has to look at Android 4.2 and ask themselves how they can take this to an entirely new stage – a new stage that is deserving of a new version number. I am much more certain about Google’s ability to do so because of the rabidly innovative company culture (so rabid that some have accused Google of having ADD).

Microsoft still lies a distance behind on the mobile platform, a far cry from their 90% dominance on computers. Microsoft knows the value of developers and have been driving them to Windows 8. It is simple. Microsoft’s strategy is to position Windows Phone 8  to enjoy spill over effects from its successful Windows 8 launch. Windows Phone will require a few more revisions before it can claim to be a premium operating system.

There is potential but potential is nothing without proper execution. Microsoft has a been helped by the lack of quantum leaps by iOS and Android in the past year. Nonetheless, it cannot hope for the market to stagnate so that it can catch up. It needs to proactively drive forward, add features that users expect and more aggressively drive developers to its phone OS.

 

 

2012: It’s a Wrap

This year has been rather tame in the mobile sector. The Nexus 4,  iPhone 5 and Lumia 920 haven’t exactly made big technological waves. This is exactly because Android 5.0, iOS6 and WP8 have been improved but none can be deemed a game changer. Increased competition between the big 3 should intensify in the coming year. I look forward to such competition that will breed better and more innovative mobile operating systems in 2013.



Comments are closed.