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Mobile Operating Systems Drive Better User Experience The mobile operating system (OS) ensures the interoperability of the hardware and software in your device and enables smartphones, tablets and wearables to run apps

By Tao Li

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Nowadays, instead of reading the newspaper at breakfast, many of us catch up with the latest news on our smart devices. Where earlier you would leave home, hoping for no traffic, you can now check the traffic on your smartphone before you leave and get the best routes to take. With the popularity of e-wallets, we now have a safe and easy way to conduct financial transactions and pay someone back. These are just a few ways in which our daily lives have been simplified, thanks to smart devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearables. The smooth functioning of different applications is a crucial element in the popularity of mobile technology.

A set of programmes, the mobile operating system (OS) ensures the interoperability of the hardware and software in your device and enables smartphones, tablets and wearables to run apps. A mobile OS also manages mobile multimedia functions, mobile and Internet connectivity, touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS navigation, cameras, speech recognition and much more in a mobile device.

The Mobile User Experience

The mobile OS has slowly become an essential part of the consumer's buying decision process. There are three layers of mobile user experience. The first is the mobile device hardware. The second is the mobile OS and the third, mobile applications. When we talk about a mobile OS, we look at how the mobile user experience encompasses the OS of a mobile device and a user's interactions with it. The features of a mobile OS typically include the ability of an application to run in the background, receive notifications, get push mail, open a WebKit Web browser, have Flash support for a browser, have a mass-storage mode, turn-by-turn navigation, copy and paste, universal search, MMS messaging and an App store experience. Although any mobile OS offers similar functionality, user experiences differ. Those who put the user experience on the priority and bring genuine value to users will win the final battle.

Mobile OS: A Determining Factor in the Smartphone Age

Today, India is one of the few countries around the world that went headfirst into the Internet via the smartphone and somehow skipped the computer age. In developed markets, users evolved slowly; first, they used the huge PCs, then laptops and then moved on to smartphones. In India, only a tiny percentage of people have ever had exposure to computers or laptops. There has been a lucrative market for smartphones in the last decade. There has been no sign of this trend going down, until now. In the end, the quality of the mobile OS is the most significant determining factor apart from price while choosing a smartphone for most Indians.

Another fascinating trend that needs deliberation is how users across the globe including India give precedence to the software of the phone. They typically are keener in updating the software rather than changing the hardware of the phone. Therefore, the quality of the mobile operating system, in general, takes primacy over other factors.

The Big Debate Globally – Android vs iOS

Many of us, who have been a part of the industry, have witnessed the OS evolution. Symbian, IBM Simon and Palm OS were among the early starters in the OS market, occupying nearly half of the market, but Android and iOS soon replaced them. Today, Google and Apple are the major players in the smartphone OS market. Google's OS, Android, is the most popular smartphone OS owing to its open source platform and user-friendly interface. Increasing adoption of smartphones is a significant factor responsible for driving the growth of the smartphone OS market. Increasing digitalisation is another major factor responsible for fuelling the growth of the global smartphone OS market. Industry reports state that 18 per cent of US Android users shifted to iOS while 11 per cent went the other way. People want devices that can do what they want in a fast and efficient manner, and they are willing to switch for better user experience. According to Statista, 88 per cent of all smartphones sold to users globally were phones with the Android OS in the second quarter of 2018. Apple's iOS ranks second regarding market share in the smartphone OS owing to the increasing adoption of iPhones. The company focuses on designing OS for smartphones, tablets, PDAs, computers and laptops. Microsoft and Blackberry rank next in line after Apple and Google regarding smartphone OS market share.

In India, the combined market share of Android OS and Apple iOS currently is at 81.8 per cent, with Android being the undisputed leader globally and in India as well. The global smartphone OS market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 20 per cent during the forecast period 2018-2023 and Android is leading. As per International Data Corporation's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the Android OS is expected to capture nearly 85 per cent market share in the OS market by the end of 2018. The volumes of the smartphones with Android OS are expected to grow at a 5-year CAGR of 2.4 per cent, with shipments approaching 1.41 billion in 2022.

At a time when a vast majority of users globally including India have showcased a strong penchant for Android OS due to a variety of reasons, it is essential for technology companies to identify ways to support and elevate the overall user experience – particularly for Android OS to bridge the gaps that still exist in the system. India is currently undergoing a mobile revolution and is a fast-emerging strategic market for globally known technology companies. It not only gives an opportunity to serve a large chunk of the heterogeneous population but also offers a level playing field to continually out-innovate oneself to satiate the demands of users who speak in more than 1600 dialects and 22 official languages.

The Way Ahead

If you are a technology company and want to tap into the OS market here in India, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you need to design an OS that studies its users/audience and remains in tune with global technology trends. Second, you will also need to develop a deeper understanding of the market that you are catering to so that it becomes possible to provide a more personalised user experience. Third, you will also need to offer a whole gamut of mobile applications that serve prospective users in more ways than one. Ultimately, it is the customer and user experience that is essential.

Tao Li

Founder and Executive Director, APUS Group


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