IOS 5 Battery Drain, Thoughts of Android Fragmentation, and Windows Mobile

Engadget reported yesterday that an IOS bug was discovered that seems to be responsible for poor battery life found by many iPhone 4S users. Luckily for me though, it seems that I’ve not run into any major battery problems, but I must admit that I’ve not experienced the improved battery life Apple promised in the 4S. Apple has committed to fixing the issue with a software patch in the coming weeks, which is good news. But this bug report isn’t the real reason why I’m writing this blog article.

I started thinking about what would happen if this bug was discovered in an Android phone. I’m not a heavy Android user, and I only lightly follow it, since I’m heavily invested in IOS devices. It’s not that I dislike Android, indeed, I find Android has some excellent attributes, but I fear that Android has started down the road that Microsoft’s original Pocket PC did – I know, it’s blasphemy to say such a thing, but truly, that’s how I see it. Pocket PC was Microsoft’s first mobile operating system, which followed in the wake of Apple’s Newton and existed along side Palm back in the day. Pocket PC, which later became Windows Mobile, was a very advanced mobile OS, which leveraged Microsoft’s strengths in the desktop. Windows Mobile, however, suffered from fragmentation.

Microsoft made the OS, but numerous manufacturers, like Compaq, Hitachi, Casio, and Sony Ericsson made Portable Mobile Assistants (PDA’s) and smartphones that ran on it. The problem wasn’t necessarily the operating system, but a lack of commonality. Each manufacturer adapted the OS to suit their needs. Some PDA’s like Compaq’s iPaq and Casio’s Cassiopeia had no keyboard, but had a directional pad. Hitachi’s G1000 smartphone had a small querty thumb keyboard, Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 had a flip out keyboard and a mouse like touch pad. You can see that there were very few similarities between each device, something very reminiscent with what has happened to Android. 

When Microsoft would come out with a patch or upgrade, the fragmentation problem became very real. For anyone like me, I like having an up-to-date device, even if it’s just a minor patch of some kind. But in the case of Windows Mobile, any update had to be released by the device manufacturer. Many of which didn’t care much for going back to support their device. I recall talking to Hitachi and Compaq about upgrading the OS, and both at one point simply said that wasn’t available, nor will it be. I do recall my old Cassiopeia was eligible for an upgrade, but I had to send my device back to Casio to have that work done. Compaq at one point allowed an upgrade, but I had to pay $30 for a new CD to load the OS onto the device, and Hitachi simply didn’t bother. I see this happening now with Android. Android 3, Honeycomb, has been out for months now, and Google’s latest “Ice Cream Sandwich” is either making it’s debut or already has. Yet, I’m still waiting for HTC to come out with a Honeycomb update for my wife’s HTC Flyer. Then there is the matter of Android on the phone, which I believe is still only 2.3 Gingerbread. Android devices are dominate in the marketplace because they are so plentiful, but each is so unique. From a development standpoint, I can only imagine how challenging that must be… The difference though, is that at least Android is a more capable OS than Windows Mobile ever was. 

Compare the above scenario to Apple. I’ve already upgraded and patched my IOS devices multiple times since I’ve owned them. Now granted I won’t let Apple off easy here, there have been some ugly upgrade paths, such as going to IOS5, but at least, I’m able to do so, and Apple didn’t charge me for the update. Obviously, this is only possible because Apple has complete control over their hardware specs, so there is no question of compatibility, since Apple knows what each IOS device has – no surprises. We can see that Microsoft, with their Windows Phone 7 platform has begun to follow this model, because there are obvious advantages to doing so, Microsoft is forcing manufacturers who want to create a Windows Phone to adhere to a hardware spec, so they can offer some of the benefits that Apple is able to. Microsoft isn’t dumb; slow, maybe, but they do seem capable of learning from their past. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in 2012, since it’s obvious that the era of portable computing isn’t slowing down, even in this down economy.