Apple vs. Mango: UI, App Stores, Music, & Web Browsing

We thought it would be fun to do a little comparison between Windows Phone Mango and Apple’s iOS. Just to warn you, we decided to use Apple’s iOS 4 on a 4th generation iPod Touch rather than the iOS 5 beta since the latter seemed to be too buggy for now. So take a look at some of the major differences and similarities between two tasty fruits–Windows Phone Mango and Apple’s iOS.

Startup time

First, let’s see which one boots up faster. This isn’t really that crucial since you’re probably going to leave your phone on most of the time anyway, but at least we’ll get to see which operating system has a more optimized boot up sequence.

Interface Design

When you look at the lock screens on iOS versus Windows Phone Mango, you’ll see some significant differences. On Mango, you see the time, date, next appointment, and a few icons at the bottom with numbers signifying missed calls, text/instant messages, and 3 of your email accounts (in the order they were originally set up). There is no textual indication of how you are supposed to unlock the screen. If you were just looking at it, you might be lost. However, as soon as you touch it, the whole area bounces up a little bit to show you a glimpse of what’s underneath. This little visual clue gives you a pretty obvious indication that you are able to push the screen up with your finger in order to access what’s inside.

Apple’s iOS opts for the text-based clue for unlocking the device. At the very bottom is a big grey arrow button in a groove with flashing text that says, “slide to unlock.” It’s pretty obvious there as to what you’re suppose to do. iOS also adds some chrome to the date and time area. The shiny transparent bar surrounding this data will obscure your preferred background image, but it will also make the date and time more readable in case you choose a high-contrast background image.

After unlocking both devices you get to their respective home screens. Apple’s iOS home screen is all about apps. You’ve got a big grid of app icons with little labels underneath them and it’s all very similar to every other graphical user interface design since the dawn of the graphical user interface. A handful of the static app icons will update dynamically however. For example, the calendar app icon shows today’s date, email will show the number of unread messages, other apps will show the number of new notifications in their icons, etc. In the iOS 5 upgrade coming later this year, the top status area will be drag-able in order to show all sorts of notifications in one place just like on Android phones.

Windows Phone Mango on the other hand looks like something completely different. You’ve got big colored squares filled with different types of information. They look a bit like window panes from an old house except with just empty space holding them together. Each window pane is really a tile and they can be arranged on your start screen in any way you like. The tiles can represent many different types of content. They can be people, groups of people, playlists, Facebook photo albums, apps, etc. And when Mango is released, app developers will be able to release any type of live tile they want. For example something like a boarding pass can be turned into a live tile.


When it comes to multitasking really what we are most often talking about is the ability to switch between recently used applications as well as what apps may be running in the background. iOS’s task switcher/manager can be accessed by double pressing the home key. It will pop up from the bottom and push whatever you were doing out of the way. From there you’ll see four icons representing the most recent apps that you’ve used. Tapping any one of them will switch you to that app. You can also swipe this row to see even more recently used apps. The advantage to this design is that you instantly have 4 options to choose from.

Windows Phone Mango’s task switcher is a bit different since holding the back button down zooms the current app out, and shows a row of recently used apps as large thumbnails. You can only see the one you were using along with part of your previous task as soon as you launch the task switching. You have to swipe through the list with your finger to see more options to switch to. The disadvantage to this is that it is more work than the iOS version, but the advantage is that you can see a lot more information in regards to which app you’re switching to and what you were doing in that app since you left it.

Apps and Music Stores

Apple’s App store and iTunes music stores are separate icons on the home screen but they look very similar. The main difference is that you have to go to one for apps and the other for music. In terms of design, you usually get a few ads for special featured sections at the top and then a scrolling list of shaded rows for the rest of the content.

Windows Phone’s Marketplace is much different. It features a large panoramic design with a background image representing some featured app or album. The background art changes frequently to give you a fresh look every time you visit the marketplace. The music and apps sections are integrated into the one app, but searching has pivot tabs so that you can find the content you want more easily. It’s even possible for third party carriers or OEMs to integrate their own app stores right within the general Windows Phone Marketplace.

Music Player

Apple’s iPod has been the long time favorite for digital music players, and the iOS version is no exception. It features a very cool looking 3D carousel of album art covers that you can smoothly flip through to see each album you’ve got on your device, but that’s just about where the innovation ends. Of course it also has the normal ways of sorting music via genre, artist, album, and playlist as well.

Mango takes a very different approach to the music player. It still has the usual ways of browsing content in your music library, but the main interface is a panoramic magazine-like graphic that shows background imagery from the most recent artist that you have listened to. The music player itself includes this gorgeous background art as well, and it even comes through on the lock screen wallpaper imagery when your phone is locked but still playing music.

Web Browsing

The iPhone has been extremely popular for its portable web browsing. The multi-touch zooming and panning is extremely smooth and easy to use. It turns out Windows Phone Mango’s Internet Explorer 9 is just as smooth and easy to use, but actually seems to process client side rending a bit better. We see this in the javascript animated slideshow test, as well as the HTML5 rendering of course. On the other hand, it would seem that Apple’s iOS is faster at downloading and processing normal webpages at least on the hardware we’ve tested here.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!