Which Operating System Works for Your Smartphone?

Girl on cell phone
d3sign/Getty Images

Some smartphones are smarter than others. Some, like the LG enV and all BlackBerry models, excel at messaging. Others, like the Motorola Q9m, offer cool music and multimedia applications. Still others allow you to view, edit, or even create office documents and spreadsheets.

The capabilities of any smartphone are largely determined by its operating system, which is the platform on which all of its software applications run.

Here’s an overview of two of the most popular smartphone operating systems: Palm OS and Windows Mobile.

Palm Operating System

The Palm OS originated on the Palm Pilot PDA back in the 1990s. It has been updated many times since then, and has evolved to work on the company’s line of Treo smartphones. (Keep in mind that not all smartphones made by Palm run the Palm OS: The company does offer Treo phones that run on the Windows Mobile OS.)

Picking a Platform

You likely won't select your phone on the basis of its operating system alone. A variety of factors, including the cellular carrier you prefer and the type of handset you’d like, will come into play. Still, you should carefully consider which operating system meets your needs and works well for you. Taking the time to consider all of your options will help you end up with a smartphone that's just as smart as you'd like.

Palm OS: Pros

The Palm OS is widely considered to be one of the most user-friendly platforms out there.

It is approachable, easy to learn, and easy to use. There are plenty of software applications, including productivity tools, available for Palm-based devices, so you'll be able to get work done on your phone.

 

Windows Mobile OS: Cons

Windows Mobile is not always user-friendly.

It's easy to be confused by the operating system, partly because the environment can feel very familiar to, yet also very different than the version of Windows that you run on your PC. Windows Mobile can also be slow, sluggish, and buggy.

Palm OS: Cons

The Palm OS looks and feels dated--because it is. It has not had a major overhaul in years. The company says it is working on a new version of the OS that will combine elements of the current version (called Garnet) with elements of Linux, an operating system that runs on servers, personal computers, and some smartphones. This update has long been rumored to be coming in 2008, but its release date has not been announced.

If you love the Palm OS, you have a very limited selection of handsets from which to choose. Your choice is between a Palm Centro or a Palm Treo, and that's it.

Windows Mobile OS: Pros

Handsets, handsets, handsets. Windows Mobile is available on a wide range of smartphones, so you'll have plenty of choice in hardware. The AT&T Tilt, Motorola Q, Palm Treo 750, and Samsung Blackjack II are just some of your options.

Windows Mobile also has a familiar feeling that Windows users will appreciate. You can easily send files from your PC to your smartphone and vice versa, and most documents will be compatible with both devices.

You'll also find plenty of software applications—especially productivity applications, like Microsoft Office Mobile—that run on Windows Mobile.

 

Windows Mobile Operating System

Like the Palm OS, the Windows Mobile OS originated on handheld computers, not smartphones. It was originally designed for the Pocket PC line of PDAs.

Now in version 6.1, Windows Mobile is available in two versions: Smartphone, for devices without touch-screens, and Professional, for devices with touch-screens.