Can the latest Windows Phones pose a threat to the iPhone and Android?


In this article we take a look at how Windows Phone 7 is coming out with a strong competition against Android and iOS. Read about the cool features that Windows is offering to compete in the competitive market of smartphones against Google and Apple.

Despite Google and Apple battling it out for market share with Android and iOS devices respectively, Microsoft is also an up-and-coming player in the smartphone market (not to mention its impending foray into tablets as well). Like Google, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform is outsourced to various hardware vendors. Microsoft doesn't make the hardware itself or rely on a single manufacturer. Companies like Samsung and Nokia make the hardware using the Windows Phone platform. Out of the three companies — and there are others in this crowded market — Apple is the only one that makes both its own smartphone and the OS that runs on it. With that said, let's take a look at what the— Windows Phone 7 offers and how it differs from the rest of the smartphones.

The Windows Phone 7 was launched in the second half of 2010 and first half of 2011, depending on what region of the world you live in. It is a successor product to the Windows Mobile platform that was geared to enterprise users who wanted to use traditional Microsoft software on their handsets as if they were sitting in front of tablets, PCs, and notebooks. However, mobile phones are different devices entirely and Microsoft is learning this with the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft also partnered with Nokia as the main hardware manufacturer of the platform — although other vendors also use Windows Phone.

Operating system - Microsoft Phone 7 vs Android vs iOS


The OS comes with a user interface called Metro, which the upcoming Windows 8 for tablets will also feature — although modified for larger form factor and Windows 8 features. This means Microsoft is targeting ease-of-use over technical functionality and making the OS as consumer friendly as possible. Tiles, central to Metro, are somewhat like the apps you've come to know and expect on iOS, but look and feel much different.



Search feature integration in Windows, Android and iOS


An innovative search function — also sometimes referred to as a Web search engine- that is also included in Windows Phone 7, is called "Bing." This feature allows users to search for things using audio, voice and vision. For instance, you can find a song and let the phone figure out what it is by allowing it to listen to it playing in the room. Bing Vision allows you to use your handset camera to look up product information by bringing the object to view. Though most of us prefer to use Google, the Android search engine; Microsoft has taken a good step to integrate Bing in WP7 and promote its search engine. iOS too use Google search engine by default, though there are plans to integrate Baidu for Chinese iPads.

Social features in WP7


Windows Phone 7 features organization and social network integration through a service called "Hubs". The Hubs combine local and online content and allows users to have integrated content to social networks. A "People Hub" is used to organize contacts. This service allows contact to be imported from social networks such as Facebook, Windows Live, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Microsofts answer to iPod as multimedia device


Microsoft launched a piece of hardware in 2009, called Zune HD that was a multimedia device designed to compete with Apple's iPod. However, it didn't catch on with consumers. There were also previous Zune products including a Toshiba-branded 1089 that was created in 2006 with Microsoft's cooperation. These devices were more similar to early iPod models pre-touch. Despite this, Microsoft has continued to support Zune software for Windows Phone handsets. This is an entertainment and synchronization software akin to iTunes in a way, and allows users integration between PCs and Windows Phone handsets. Windows Phone hardware is seen as the successor product line to the Zune HD by many sources and Microsoft is said to have encouraged transition in late 2011.

Various versions of WP7


There are a few different versions available as of now of Windows Phone 7 OS. One of them is called the Mango and is also referred to as Windows Phone 7.5. This is really the second version of Microsoft's consumer operating system geared or handset users — or an update to a first-generation OS depending on the way you want to look at it. It seems that Microsoft is still behind Apple and Google related consumer-based mobile OS experience — remember, Microsoft has traditionally been an enterprise-focused company. However, Mango takes many standard features Android and iOS uses and integrates them into the Windows Metro environment. According to a Engadget review of the OS, it was released in late 2011 and comes with over 500 new features.

This can be best seen in the two main and recent Windows 7 smartphones: Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II features.

Upcoming Windows Phone 8 handsets


You may be aware that Microsoft is planning on releasing Windows 8 for tablets and PCs sometime at the end of this year. However, that is not the only OS the company will possibly be revealing this year. The upcoming smartphone operating system is called Windows Phone 8 and there is some information about it already.

According to PC World, Windows Phone 8 is also going by the codeword "Apollo". If you want a smartphone with this OS, you may want to hold off from any Windows Phone purchase right now. This is because existing Windows Phone 7 or 7.5 handsets may not be upgraded to Windows Phone 8.

However the question still remains in the air and Microsoft hasn't ruled out an upgrade path despite these rumors.

So how do Windows phones perform in comparison to the iPhone exactly?


Like Google's Android OS, one of the many complaints you may hear related to the Windows Phone platform is the lack of apps and developer support. This is obviously when drawing comparisons to the iPhone. However, Microsoft is providing some great incentives to developers, including providing financial backing and giving away devices to get development support for the platform. This should continue as Windows 8 enters the market with tablets and Windows Phone 8 handsets.

One Windows Phone aspect that has been gaining fans is how clean and functional the Metro interface is. It comes with mainly two home screens to toggle between and makes it hard for users to get lost looking for specific apps.

There is a lot more variation in terms of carriers, sizes, shapes, and looks when picking a Windows Phone over the iPhone. The iPhone comes always in the same standard size with features that are already familiar to consumers. However, this isn't the case with the Windows Phone platform. Right now, Windows Phone is more similar to Android than it is to iOS.

Conclusion


Even though Microsoft failed with the Zune and hasn't been supporting smartphone hardware themselves, some devices have finally incorporated Windows 7
and are using it to its fullest extent, including the Nokia Lumia 900. Whether the Lumia can pose a significant threat to the iPhone or Android handsets remains to be seen. It seems as if Microsoft is finally coming to understand the consumer market. It will be a gamble for them to be able to catch up to Apple anytime soon, but it is refreshing to see a variety of competent smartphones on the marketplace at once. This will force Apple and Google to continue innovating features in their smartphone operating systems. It also gives consumers choices, which is always a good thing.




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