Operating Systems that power a Smartphone, Part 1 – Introduction

Operating systems that power smartphones, Part 1 - Introduction

Operating systems that power smartphones, Part 1 - Introduction

This is the first in a three-part series on Operating Systems that power a Smartphone. Here the focus is on introducing the concept of a Smartphone in general and identifying a couple of operating systems like iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. In Part 2 other operating systems such as Blackberry, Symbian, Bada and Maemo will be talked about. And Part 3 includes an infographic on the history and facts related to the same.

The Introduction

Everytime I recall the time when mobile phones got introduced in India, I am pleasantly surprised to visualize the evolution graph. But then, that’s technology for you!

Do you remember your first mobile phone? I definitely do, with every detail intact! Also, I remember reading about phones which work like handheld computers, the Smart Phones and how I longed to own one, someday.

Anyhow, the smartphones are here! And almost everyone of us, is well informed of the latest mobile devices available on the shelf. Of course, the number of smartphones available at present is huge. The factor which has always kept me curious is that these phones are well complimented by a large variety of Operating systems. To top that, these operating systems have latest versions releasing every now and then.

According to Wikipedia, a smartphone is a mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary basic feature phone. Smartphones and feature phones may be thought of as handheld computers integrated with a mobile telephone, but while most feature phones are able to run applications based on platforms such as Java ME, a smartphone usually allows the user to install and run more advanced applications. Smartphones run complete operating system software providing a platform for application developers.

Now that we understand the concept of a Smartphone, let’s list and get to know the operating systems that power almost all the smartphones available in the market.


iOS known as iPhone OS is Apple’s mobile operating system. iOS is derived from Mac OS X, with which it shares the Darwin foundation, and is therefore a Unix-like operating system by nature. Developed originally for the iPhone, it has since been used on the iPod Touch, iPad and Apple TV.

The user interface of iOS is based on the concept of direct manipulation, using multi-touch gestures. Interface control elements consist of sliders, switches, and buttons. The response to user input is immediate and provides a fluid interface. Interaction with the OS includes gestures such as swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching. Internal accelerometers are used by some applications to respond to shaking the device (one common result is the undo command) or rotating it in three dimensions (one common result is switching from portrait to landscape mode).

The latest version iOS 4 introduced multitasking, threaded email, and several business-oriented features.

P.S. iOS is only found in Apple products.


Android is a mobile operating system initially developed by Android Inc. Android was purchased by Google in 2005. Android is based upon a modified version of the Linux kernel. Google and other members of the Open Handset Alliance collaborated to develop and release Android to the world.

Google with HTC launched their first hardware product i.e. a mobile phone called Nexus One. The Phone got very short life span as Google removed it from market after few months of its launch.

The Android operating system software stack consists of Java applications running on a Java based object oriented application framework on top of Java core libraries running on a Dalvik virtual machine featuring JIT compilation.

The latest version available is Android 3.0 nicknamed Honeycomb.

Android is found in large number of hardware from Texas Instruments, Broadcom Corporation, Google, HTC, Intel, LG, Marvell Technology Group, Motorola, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, PacketVideo, ARM Holdings, Atheros Communications, Asustek Computer Inc, Garmin Ltd, Softbank, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba Corp, and Vodafone Group Plc.

Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile is a mobile operating system developed by Microsoft that was for use in smartphones and mobile devices, but is being phased out to specialized markets. It is designed to be somewhat similar to desktop versions of Windows, feature-wise and aesthetically. Additionally, third-party software development is available for Windows Mobile, and software applications can be purchased via the Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

Originally appearing as the Pocket PC 2000 operating system, most Windows Mobile devices come with a stylus pen, which is used to enter commands by tapping it on the screen.

The latest version available is Windows Phone 7 and it is renamed from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone. It is aimed at the consumer market instead of the enterprise market like its predecessor.

Currently Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung are manufacturing Windows Phone 7.

Recommended Read:

Operating Systems that power a Smartphone, Part 2 – Conclusion

Related Posts

About the Author:

Developer, likes to develop on different platforms, amateur photographer, follows technology trends, loves driving on road and in games, loves traveling and a vegetarian foodie. Follow him on Twitter: @DrivenRajat

  • Anonymous

    well written and concise. Would love to see more technical information like the codecs available in android not in iphone, comparisons etc(like flash)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tarun-Mitra/1626107759 Tarun Mitra


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tarun-Mitra/1626107759 Tarun Mitra

    Nice….but somewhere lines blurred between the geek language and language of commoner

    • http://twitter.com/SparklinGuy Himanshu Khanna

      If I may say so.. the line between geeky language and a commoner’s is mostly blurred. It is very rare that we see them not getting intermingled. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/SparklinGuy Himanshu Khanna

    Very informative! What I’m personally more interested in, is to know your viewpoints on each of these OS. As Arzvi mentioned before, it’ll be good to have some comparisons as well. Good start!

  • sakhil

    The article is good way to know the basic information about all the major smart phone technologies.

  • http://www.techvorm.com Paritosh

    Windows Mobile is as good as dead. Windows 7 although a great computing OS, will find hard to compete with mobile major’s like Symbian, or even budding OS like Android.
    P.S: I am a little annoyed with the inclusion of Windows Mobile instead of Symbian when talking and comparing Android or iOS.

    Symbian still has that edge guys :)

    • Rajat Gupta

      Paritosh! Symbian and others are covered in later part of this series.
      And yes you rightly said, Windows Phone 7 is great but Android being open source it attracts lot of developers like me.

  • Sruthi Deepak Jain

    Loved it….really did some homework :) and android seems to be the only thing on your mind right now..all the best :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/drivenrajat Rajat Gupta

      Yep! there was lot of work and after Android its Blackberry and Afaria :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mathur.harsh Harsh Mathur

    A Good Read!
    Especially like the piece on windows mobile that says “is being phased out to specialized markets”!

    Looking forward to the further reads in the series. May be a graphical aid on the not-so-common OS would help

    • http://www.twitter.com/drivenrajat Rajat Gupta


  • http://twitter.com/beeayeanoowhy Bee Aye An Oo Why

    Why Symbian & Bada isn’t on the list?
    Are you hinting that, it’ll be on the part2? A list is a list…and there’s no point spreading it across two posts just so that people can come to read the other post, just for the sake of it. That too for such a short list.

  • http://twitter.com/vanshkapil Vansh Kapil

    @Rajat Since you are a developer, IMHO I am a bit disappointed with the article. A couple of points that I would like to be added are
    1) There should be a common theme. For example this article started with discussing features of iOS but for Android it was discussing more about Google and other OEMs. To continue the theme you could have spoken about stuff that is not available in iOS.
    2) Its been more than 3 years now since iOS, Android, and Windows mobile OS are in the market. Most of the info that you have given out is more about common knowledge or something that is randomly available everywhere. I think readers will be more interested if you give them something unique or specific, may be ur experiences with these platforms.

    I dont wish to be critical, just want you to write to your full potential. All the best


    • http://www.twitter.com/drivenrajat Rajat Gupta

      Vansh! i agree to your points on theme mismatch and common knowledge. My motive is to give introduction or little background of the common available OSs in market to non-technical people. For some people, even this is a lot of technical info. Those who are technical can easily dig info about anything.
      But surely will keep your points in mind while writing next time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashutoss Ashutosh Malguri

    nice summary of all the OS’s , wish to know more about blackberry OS really what makes blackberry and iphone what they are is their OS (specially iOS)

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