Updated: August 14, 2015
The moment hath cometh. Dedoimedo is going to give you the ultimate verdict on smartphone usage. Indeed, now that I've finally had the opportunity to try all three major operating systems used on smartphones, I think I'm entitled to give you a short guide on which one of these you should use, when and why and how.
Remember, I am not a great fan of smartphones, I'm pragmatic, I'm cynical, and I treat these little devices as yet another - fairly overrated - piece of the computing spectrum. There's nothing special or magical about them, but you can still make your life slightly more meaningful by making the right selection for your next handheld set. To wit, this short comparison article, which tells you the strong and weak aspects of each, so you can avoiding coming across as too much of an idiot. Please follow me.
My Android experience is limited to Sony and Samsung. I've never had a chance to use pure, stock Android, and it's supposed to be better, more streamlined and whatnot. Then, I've also not yet used Cyanogenmod, which could be the dog's bollocks. Moreover, we must remember that third-party customizations and hardware play a big part in the overall experience, so it is important to remove these from the consideration.
Android is highly customizable, and you will find at least one useful application for every single aspect of your day-to-day needs. This is the strongest and most prominent advantage Android has over other mobile systems, and it's one of the chief reasons why it's become so wildly popular. You may have too much choice, too many options, and you will spend time tweaking and tuning and clicking through a hundred menus, but at the end of the day, you will have achieved your task.
Sharing data between Android and other devices is relatively easy, and you're not too restricted. In general, you can just connect an Android phone to another computing device, most often a laptop or a desktop, and then copy files, including photos, videos and music back and forth, without any special protocols or restrictions. Overall, if you have a problem, you will eventually solve it, but some tinkering is needed.
Normally, the privacy side is fairly weak. You are tightly coupled into the Google's ecosystem, and you can't really use Android without it. You can't sign out of your account. Nopey nope. A big reason for this is the fact Android itself is not generating Google any cash, but the applications and advertisement on top of it definitely are. Android is just a gateway to the real product, and that's you and your information, blended together into a powerful mix. This is why Android is so prolific, but also why so many programs come with sub-part quality, overloaded with junk and downloadable pay-for-use content and such, as everyone wants a piece of the pie, and the baking contest is free for all.
A distinct lack of offline navigation - well, before HERE Maps were ported anyway - is and was one of the weak elements of this operating system. Android is geared toward as much online use as possible, and you won't find much pleasure in using it when data is turned off. But it's getting better, at least.
You may also discover that your phone's operating system cannot be upgraded to a newer version, and that this often happens with various Androids. This helps drive the market, but it also means more monetary penalty for you, as a user. The novelty wears off pretty quickly. You can also destroy your phone easily, as there's virtually no limitation on what you can install or uninstall.
Visually, Android is not the prettiest around. Even the latest version, with its distinct flatness still falls short of the competition, although it is vastly improved than before. Last but not the least, blimey, I had another one, and I totally forgot it. Really can't remember, and it's been bothering me the whole day. Well, just remember there's another baddie here, and if you can think of it, then it's probably that. Or something else entirely.
For me, the experience comes down to just using iPhone 6, which is a rather impressive piece of hardware. However, the software part is a different story altogether. Even though my journey has been relatively short and somewhat restricted in terms of areas of interest and use cases, and probably nothing like the typical user, I think I have learned some valuable lessons from the few months of iPhone use. Both on the device as well as anthropological level.
For people who just want things to work, iPhone/iOS presents a perfect productivity formula. You get a highly precise aesthetics + compatibility combination, which offers excellent performance and stability, backed up by high-quality choice of hardware, intelligent design and a tight, flawless integration into the Apple universe. There's no third-party crap, which is also quite important. Applications are also usually good, as the company does not want its reputation sullied by someone else's code. Makes sense.
You can also upgrade the operating system, even on older devices, unless there's a hardware limitation. This allows Apple to control their market more easily, with less fragmentation and reduced cost for legacy support, and it gives users access to new products and technology.
Doing things outside the immaculately defined sphere of what your phone ought to be and how it should behave, as conceived by Apple's engineers and marketing, is a big no-no. You cannot even customize the software selection on the phone. Connectivity with other non-Apple devices is also very troublesome. Well, practically, it's almost undoable, unless you use iTunes to sync your data. In turn, iOS is geared toward online use, and it can get pricey, as App Store and iTunes are your one and only gateway to Internet happiness. This works for rich people in developed countries with a good communications backbone, but not everywhere. Novelty will either spike like mad or plummet like a dead duck. There's no middle ground here.
On the privacy front, Apple is friendlier than Android, or shall we say Google, but you still need to give away a hefty portion of personal data when setting up your Apple ID, including your billing address, phone and birthday. The keyboard does not really have any uppercase lowercase distinction, so it's tricky when typing, especially passwords. However, you can sign out of your account when you want. Plus encryption and whatnot, it's pretty tight and secure. But there are better alternatives, as we shall soon discover.
Being a Linux person, you might imagine me hating Windows with passion, but that's not the case. In fact, I use Windows quite often, and I happen to really like Microsoft's mobile products. I also own and frequently use two Lumia phones, one older 520 set, still created by Nokia, and one newer Microsoft-branded 535 device.
Microsoft sells these phones directly, which means they come free of any third-party junk, trialware or similar. Simple, spotless, pure operating system, with excellent aesthetics. The tiled interface makes perfect sense on tiny phones, to the same incredible amount it sucks yak's testicles on the desktop. It's OCD heaven, plus it's snappy and fast and fuss free. There's no glamor and drama, but the feeling remains steady over time, which is nice.
Privacy is probably the best of the three, as Microsoft only needs an email address of some kind, without asking any other details. You can always setup your other information later on. The necessity for online integration is the lowest of the three, and Windows Phone is actually highly usable in the offline mode, with an excellent default set of free software, including navigation and photo-editing apps.
Sharing is quite easy, and I've never had problems hooking up Lumias into other Windows boxes or Linux machines. You can load your own music and videos, and they will be easily detected by onboard software. The operating system is clean and uncluttered and very easy to use.
The Windows Store is quite thin on content, compared to Android and iOS. It comes with a relatively limited repertoire of software choices, and you may struggle to find all you need in there. Partially, the reason for this is the strict requirements set by Microsoft on what applications can or cannot do, and partially because of a lack of market demand. Using Windows Phone, you will be somewhat left behind. It's like using Linux on the desktop, you will always be a second-class citizen, even if there's no technological justification for that.
Some people also may find the system too simplistic. It is compared to Android, but it's not as closed and restricted as iOS. However, this being Microsoft's first and fashionably late entry into the mobile world, they are kind of lagging, and new features are being added and developed all the time, at a pretty rapid pace. Applications are much slower to follow, because the developers have less of an incentive to brave the profit storms, unlike Microsoft, which doesn't really have a choice.
So, you will find this article either massively helpful or totally abstract and not useful. It's also quite personal, and it does not give you any kind of precise, table-like comparison, probably because one such isn't feasible. You can't quantify emotions and taste.
However, I believe my rough estimates and blanket statements are correct and accurate, and they give a decent rule of thumb overview of how these three distinct operating systems behave, although you'll never be able to eliminate the hardware piece and the social elements from the equation. That said, iOS is the most closely guarded and defined one, with a zealous self-centric approach to how mobile is done, awesome aesthetics and great performance, and tons of frustration for techies. Android gives you everything to the point of being fragmented and confusing, with Google's fingers groping you ever so gently from every direction, plus little to no offline use. Windows Phone offers the most balanced set of beauty, functionality, especially offline, and privacy, but its application side is the weak one, as it cannot compare to the two other two.
At the end of the day, you will have to decide which factors are most important to you. My article may shed some light on your doubts and indecision, but if you ask me, and you should, it's Windows Phone followed by a question mark. If I had to choose between iOS and Android, I'd have to think hard which I dislike more, being forcefully integrated into one world or the other. Well, we're done. One awesome man's awesome opinion, just ignore if you don't like it.
Well, I still have to test Sailfish OS, now that I sampled Ubuntu Phone, and that's a hint of things to come, so the final verdict isn't in just yet. Stay tuned. And please, I'm waiting for your emails. If they come with valuable and useful pointers, I might actually add them here. If you go full retard with your love for XYZ, then you will surely help the green movement with so much recycling of digital data. I've got a whole bin for that. Bye bye.