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Keyboard and typing

Winners: BlackBerry 10 and iOS

The iOS 8’s default keyboard works best—in terms of key size, spacing and accuracy while typing. It beats third-party keyboards, including what is offered on Android and Cyanogen platforms. The standout feature of the BlackBerry 10 keyboard is the ability to predict words as you type along, which in turn quickens the typing speed. Plus, the layout of the on-screen keyboard is close to perfect.

Microsoft has kept the Windows Phone keyboard quite simple and easy to use. But the key size and spacing is still not optimal, and anyone with stout fingers could have an issue with spelling mistakes.

Customization

Winner: Cyanogen

Google’s Android allows deep levels of customizations—themes, change icons and even increase or decrease the number of home screens. The Cyanogen OS, which has Android at its heart, takes this to another level, allowing you to even change the boot-up animation (what you see when you switch on the phone) and much finer control over the on-screen interface, such as icon sizes, spacing between icons and app drawer layout.

In comparison, Apple iOS, BlackBerry 10 and Microsoft’s Windows Phone do not allow many visual changes, apart from the wallpaper and a few tweaks.

Email

Winner: BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry’s mail is still by far the quickest to sync mails, the most reliable with attachments and the integration with BlackBerry Hub makes it convenient to search, compose and manage mails.

Android phones are now using the Gmail app as the default mail app on newer Lollipop OS. Cyanogen is pre-loading the Boxer app, which offers more functionality and control over mail sync, attachments and folders. In iOS, the default Mail app has a shortcoming—it does not have any option to attach files. Windows Phone’s mail app’s horizontal tab interface is smooth to use with swipe gestures, but it is not immediately likeable.

Web browsing

Winner: Too close to call

While Android and Cyanogen rely on the Chrome browser, iOS comes with Safari, Windows Phone with the mobile version of Internet Explorer, and BlackBerry OS with something simply named “browser". If you need to use add-ons and extensions, Chrome offers the best experience. Safari is quite quick to load pages but does not support Adobe’s Flash, which prevents some online games and apps from running on it. Internet Explorer is much derided on PCs, but the mobile version is actually quite neat to use. However, the real surprise in this bunch is BlackBerry 10’s browser. It doesn’t shout a lot about its features, but is extremely quick to load pages.

Social networking

Winners: Android and Cyanogen

Heavy social media users would ideally prefer Android and Cyanogen. These platforms offer deep integration within the operating system—for example, a user can share a picture from the phone’s gallery app itself.

The iOS also makes it easy to share images from the gallery, but will not offer additional features such as constantly updating widgets. BlackBerry’s Hub puts all social network updates in a single window. But for some reason the individual apps aren’t as smooth to use as their counterparts on Android and iOS. Similarly, Windows Phone’s People Hub puts the social network updates from the people you follow in one place but doesn’t really come across as an attractive package.

Moving files and documents

Winners: Android and BlackBerry 10

When it comes to moving files from a phone to a PC and vice versa, Android, Cyanogen and BlackBerry 10 let you simply drag and drop files from your device to a computer. BlackBerry also has the Blend desktop app, which makes it even easier to see which documents are in the phone’s storage at the time.

Both iOS and Windows Phone depend heavily on the rather restrictive desktop software (iTunes and Windows Phone app, respectively). And iOS is particularly restrictive as it does not let you send files over Bluetooth. Android and Cyanogen are by far the most liberal in this department.

Games and apps

Winner: iOS

All the five platforms have app stores that allow users to buy and download apps and games. In terms of apps quality, iOS’ iTunes store has a significant lead over the others, because Apple follows a strict app-quality control standard and regularly tests apps to ensure they offer the best experience. Android has a vast number of apps but the Play Store is plagued with poor-quality apps which are best not downloaded. Windows Phone falls behind Android and iOS in terms of the range of applications, but is quite good in the games department, thanks to its Xbox integration. BlackBerry 10 does not originally have a big app repository, but users can install popular Android apps on a BlackBerry phone by downloading APK (Android app installation package).

Multitasking

Winner: BlackBerry 10

Want to switch between different applications, say from Facebook to Twitter, or from ‘Angry Birds’ to your email? BlackBerry 10 does it best—simply swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen (no matter what app you may be using at that time) opens the task manager, which shows all the apps running in the background at that time.

Android devices have dedicated “recent apps" key (integrated in the on-screen user interface, and usually next to the home key), which shows the apps that are currently open. Double tapping the Home button on an iPhone has the same effect, as does long-pressing the Back key on Windows Phone, and long-pressing the menu key on the Cyanogen-based OnePlus One phone.

Software updates

Winner: iOS

In this regard, iOS is head and shoulders above the others; users get access to the updated OS as soon as it is released. Android is the weakest, with a variety of factors delaying the arrival of the new OS—phone manufacturers take time to release the update, sometimes the updates aren’t optimized for the hardware running in your phone, and sometimes there are geographical delays owing to licensing issues. Cyanogen, even though it essentially runs an Android base, delivers updates frequently. Windows Phone assures updates to all devices but these reach them at different times; same is the case with BlackBerry.

Navigation

Winners: Android and Cyanogen

In terms of speed and functionality, Google Maps for Android and Cyanogen are miles ahead of the competition. However, HERE Maps for Windows Phone can often work without an Internet connection and is quite rich in detail too. iOS’ Apple Maps and BlackBerry 10’s navigation apps are not in the same class, and you will have to download a good third-party navigation app.

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