Choosing a smartphone platform in 2017

So I've put forward the case for Windows 10 Mobile in video form, plus I've shown that W10M is still relevant in 2017. But - like any intelligent person - you'll have been looking around at other smartphone platforms, eyeing up shiny new phones. It's only natural. Which is why I wanted to set down my thoughts on how the three* main platforms compare - which way should you jump?

* OK, so the 'third ecosystem' is only in contention numbers-wise if you include Windows 10 on all form factors, but it remains the only real alternative to the big two on mobile: iOS and Android.

iPhone, Android, Windows examples!

Writer's note: A casual perusal of the table below will show that there are many more positives than negatives for Windows 10 Mobile, with slightly more negatives than positives for the iPhone and iOS. Although I've tried to be objective below, I can't help a little personal subjectivity creeping in - this is AAWP, after all! And comments welcome below, as usual...

  iOS Android Windows 10 Mobile
Pros/
advantages
  • Good security, locked down Store and installation
  • Wide application selection
  • Network of Apple Stores worldwide for support and repair
  • Ostensibly simple 'what you see is what you get' UI
  • Good update prospects, typically 4 years per handset after launch
  • Wide application selection
  • Home screen interactive widgets
  • microSD support (hardware dependent)
  • Very wide variety of hardware to choose from
  • MTP file access to desktops (in theory, doesn't always work IME)
  • Standard USB Type C or microUSB compatibility

  • Good security, locked down Store and installation
  • UWP applications across form factors
  • Plug and play file compatibility with Windows PCs
  • Start screen and resizeable live tiles
  • Virtual controls that can be dismissed completely for more visible content
  • Continuum and external genuine secondary displays
  • Monthly security and patch updates for two years per OS branch, so typically 3 to 4 years per handset after launch
  • microSD support
  • Standard USB Type C compatibility
  • All phones ever made have 3.5mm audio out(!)
Cons/
disadvantages
  • No microSD expansion
  • Proprietary USB port (Lightning)
  • Many models have no 3.5mm audio out, so dongles needed
  • No back control in the UI, 'back' function varies according to application [gesture being added for iOS 11]
  • Locked down file system, access only through very specific mechanisms
  • Static and inflexible app launcher/home-screen
  • Security worries if not kept 100% bang up to date or used properly (latest big scare here)
  • Along similar lines, only flagships tend to get significant updates, and even then only for 18 months at most
  • Lots of UI variations, all slightly different
  • Vertical/boutique applications, social apps, all missing or less capable
  • Very poor games and VR selections
  • Very limited hardware selection for new handsets

I think I've been pretty fair above. I've not been shy about both praising and criticising the iPhone and iOS in the past, while I use several Android smartphones in my day to day rotation/life. But however much I try and look away from Windows 10 Mobile and - specifically - the Lumia 950 XL, I keep getting sucked back by the pros/advantages above.

They're genuine advantages too, as I've mentioned several times. Yet they're undermined by the three cons/disadvantages, which are - if I'm honest - rather huge. The app selection most people could work around (see our directories of general apps and imaging/reading apps), with third party applications and services accessed though the Edge browser. But the last one - limited new hardware is probably the killer in the wider phone market. Lumias are out of stock almost everywhere by now, the promised third party budget phones are still just IFA demo material and the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro is effectively the only game in town, at least when wanting to pick up something brand new.

For AAWP old hands, of course, you're wondering whether to stick with your trusty Lumia 830/930/950/whatever - in which case hopefully this table has given you food for thought. The grass isn't always greener on the other side, you see.

PS. Of course, I've admitted that one of my daily phones runs Android and Rafe runs an iPhone as one of his main devices. I don't think that makes us hypocrites, it just means that we have at least one too many SIM cards! It does emphasise the usefulness of buying something running another OS, even mid-range and even second-hand, just to play with it and gain perspective on what you might gain and what you might lose in switching from Windows 10 Mobile!

Published by Steve Litchfield at 6:31 UTC, September 13th

Section: Articles
Categories: How To, Comment
Platforms: General, General