How Android differs from Windows Mobile

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Background

Most pocketnow readers are more familiar and comfortable with Windows Mobile than any other mobile operating system. And well you should be! Windows Mobile (or Palm Sized PC then Pocket PC as they were known back in the day) gave Newton and Palm OS a run for their money, outshining them in speed and functionality.



Newton was killed off by Steve Jobs, and Palm faded away as their OS became less and less viable “modern applications” as Windows Mobile kept pushing the envelope of operating system, user interface (GUI), and hardware design. But when Microsoft had cornered the market with Windows Mobile they sat back and let their platform stagnate. Programs like Wisbar came out which let users customize their GUI. Companies like HTC and SPB came out with shell replacements to add a more modern look and feel to the aging Windows Mobile GUI. When the iPhone hit the shelves Microsoft knew it had let their OS stagnate far too long.

windows mobile logo


Android Joins the Game

Finally, handheld hardware was fast enough and had enough storage space to run a full-featured desktop operating system.

Before long Google had announced Android. Microsoft still didn’t have a GUI to compete.

Android was revolutionary. Unlike Windows Mobile, Android is not a “mobile OS” at its core, it’s a customized version of Linux with a touch-friendly interface and networking built in. This opened the door for more heavy-weight applications.

Similarities

Multitasking

Android, like Windows Mobile (and unlike iPhone) offers the ability to run more than one application at a time.

Apps Run in the Background

Windows Mobile’s “X” button doesn’t close the running app, it’s more like a “minimize” button. Windows Mobile monitors memory and closes apps when it needs to.

Android doesn’t even have an X button; when you navigate away from an app the app keeps running in the background.

Hardware

Both Windows Mobile and Android devices are made by top-tier hardware manufacturers, using fast processors with a respectable amount of storage space and memory.

Differences

Web Browser

Android comes native with a modern browser, optimized for mobile layout.

The stock web browser in Windows Mobile is playing catch-up with the browsers that come with Android and iPhone; handset manufacturers and telcos realize this and often bundle Opera or a similar browser to address the shortcomings of Pocket IE.

Email, Contacts, Calendar

Windows Mobile comes with native support for Exchange, Contacts, and Calendar; Google offers Google Sync for Gmail, Contacts, and Google Calendar.

Android comes native with Gmail, Contacts, and Calendar sync; Android itself didn’t come with native Exchange support (until version 2, but still doesn’t natively support syncing of calendar or tasks), HTC and others have built apps to bridge this functionality.

Touch-Screens

Windows Mobile has traditionally been known for its stylus-centric screens and UI, and hasn’t been very finger-friendly; this is beginning to change with Windows Mobile 6.5.

Android was born finger-friendly.

Operating System Licensing

Android is open-source and free for anyone who wants to use it on their hardware. This allows various players in the community to update, patch, and enhance the OS.

Windows Mobile must be licensed per device. Microsoft alone provides updates, patches, and enhancements to the hardware vendor (or carrier).

Summary

Both operating systems are viable players in today’s mobile market.

The biggest difference between the two is the manner in which the operating system is licensed. The Android method promises faster development cycles, quicker deployment to partners, and faster adoption on handsets. In short, Android’s momentum is significantly faster than Windows Mobile.

Microsoft has redoubled their efforts and promises a contender in Windows Mobile 7. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, what OS are you using? I’d love to hear from others who have jumped ship from Windows Mobile to Android, but I’m equally interested in hearing from those who are still drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid, and what they think of Android.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.