In the two months since I ditched Android and moved to using Windows Phone 7.5 Mango via the Nokia Lumia 800 as my daily driver, and then iOS 5 via the iPhone 4S, I have grown to appreciate the two OS platforms a lot more than I initially gave them credit for. The core design of the two devices as well as the OS that powers them could not have been more opposite, and yet in both cases, it was a joy to use both.
Design wise, both phones are completely opposite. The 4S retains the same design language as the iPhone 4, in that a metallic frame that doubles as the antenna for the various wireless functions, sits between two glass frames (the display and back frame). Some might complain that it doesn't feel as comfortable to hold as the curvier iPhone 3G, which is partly true, but it isn't a key issue. It is thinner, sharper and simply stunning in look. In their quest to create the most minimalist device, the iPhone 4S lacks any dedicated camera shutter of their competitors - but at least the volume button can be used as one.
As for the OS themselves, iOS5 is now a very mature mobile OS that is both powerful, and yet basic enough for everyone to use and master. The grid-based UI may look tired now, but iOS's biggest strength isn't its UI, but its huge repository of apps. There is little point in debating this: iOS is the world leader in apps, in terms of quality, quantity and value for money. If you value apps over anything else, an iPhone 4S is the smartphone to get. You would be kidding yourself if you think Android or Windows Phone comes even remotely close to iOS here.
admiration for Windows Phone 7 is well documented on this blog, even during the pre-NoDo era. For good or bad, it is the platform of my choice for the foreseeable future and I am glad that Nokia has given the platform its backing. No, it isn't for everyone. I have issues recommending the platform to anyone who isn't on social networks, of which the platform excels at. While the number of apps continue to grow, I have also witness Microsoft letting down developers when it came to approving quality applications, even once rejecting a killer app without any apparent explanation. If Microsoft wants Windows Phone to be taken seriously as a smartphone platform, they can't rely only on fresh UI and speed. Developers are an important ingredient that they must not neglet.
In the midst of this love letter, it is quick to forget about Android, the number one smartphone platform in the world. Android is great in that it is hugely scalable, is 'open source' (loosely) and is available in all forms of flavors, and I don't mean just the codename of each versions. However, as much as UI has improved, Android is still a geek's platform. It also performs well only on phones with the highest spec. Try getting a cheap Android phone and the first thing you will be doing is hurl it onto a wall. But get something well spec'ed, like the Samsung Galaxy S II, and you will embrace it like it was the best phone of 2011 - which it was for many, including me.
There really is no best phone for everyone. Give me the iPhone 4S, Galaxy S II or Lumia 800, and I will be happy using any of them, such are the maturity of the OSes each phone runs on. Each of these have their own strengths, either in the hardware or the platform. But what works for me might not work for you. My partner would not use the greatest Android device in the world even if you paid her, not because it is bad - it just isn't for her. Play the strengths of each device and find what works best of you.