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Sponsored post: Mobile operating systems explained

Our friends at Sainsbury's have put together a phone buying guide for smartphone newbies. Here's the first part on the all-important operating system

Mobile phones used to be relatively simple devices that allowed you to make calls, send and receive text messages and perform a handful of other basic tasks. Nowadays however, the latest smartphones boast a plethora of capabilities and have become a regular part of our everyday lives. The technological advances in the mobile phone industry have meant that today’s smartphones actually function like computers. Therefore, they require bespoke operating systems of their own to perform all the tasks that we’ve come to rely on.

But what is an operating system?

Whether we’re talking about computers or smartphones, the definition of an operating system is fundamentally the same. Basically, the operating system is the element that brings all of the pieces of individual hardware together and allows them to work in harmony. Without an operating system, your phone or computer would just be a bunch of components with no common goal or instructions. An operating system also acts as the intermediary between any of your programs and the corresponding hardware that’s needed to run them. Understanding tech terminology can be a challenge at the best of times, however, a simple jargon buster will always give you the information you need in simple terms. Below we have outlined the different operating systems you are most likely to see when looking to purchase a new phone.


If you own an iPhone or iPad then it will be running iOS – Apple’s bespoke operating system. It’s not as customisable as Android, but fans of Apple devices have come to embrace it over the years because it simply works. Apple is known for its strict quality controls and iOS is testament to this fact. Its Safari web browser comes installed as a standard part of iOS and users can download even more apps/games from the Apple app store.



Google’s Android operating system comes pre-installed on smartphones produced by all manner of manufacturers. Powered by a software platform called the Linux kernel, Android has seen huge growth over the last few years, mainly thanks to its open-source nature. This means that pretty much anyone can develop applications for Android and run them on unlocked hardware devices. Android is instantly recognisable by the quirky names that Google has chosen for its various versions. Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich and Kit Kat are all versions of Android that have been available. With Android, individuals get the ability to customise home screens, add widgets and download apps/games from the Google Play Store. The sense of freedom is one thing that draws a lot of people to Android.


Windows Phone

Owned by Microsoft, Windows Phone is the other mainstream operating system found on mobile devices today. Despite its dominance when it comes to computers, Microsoft’s bespoke smartphone operating system has not enjoyed the same success. The first version was released back in 2010 but did little to make an impact against Google and Apple’s popularity. The latest iteration – Windows Phone 8 – looks remarkably similar to the operating system found on many newly purchased computers. Microsoft have recently unveiled the new Windows 10 (skipping over 9 completely) which they hope will address some of the issues users found with Windows 8, as well as selling applications across all devices from a single store.



You’d be forgiven for thinking that Blackberry is a make of handset because that’s what most people think. However, Blackberry is, in fact, much more than just a handset maker, as it also produces the operating system that Blackberry devices run on. Traditionally, the Blackberry OS was tailored for the trackwheel/trackball feature of many Blackberry handsets, but nowadays it is compatible with the touch screen interfaces of Blackberry smartphones. Best known for its corporate email support, the Blackberry platform has become a stalwart of corporate mobile solutions worldwide. That said, Blackberry’s popularity has been significantly damaged by the other big players in the mobile OS industry. Maybe with this latest instalment, Microsoft are hoping to bridge the gap between smartphones and computers making for a more seamless interaction between the two.