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Choosing the right smartphone platform

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The world of phones has changed a lot over the last eight years. Before the iPhone launched, you didn't really need to worry much about what "operating system" your phone ran. It was a phone, it would have some cool features, maybe a camera, probably some basic Internet functionality.

When the iPhone launched, and was followed by Android and later Windows Phone this all changed. The phone you chose, and the operating system, or OS, it ran would have a huge bearing on the usability of the phone. What apps could you get, how did it handle email, was it an easy phone to use if you had no experience with touchscreens?

The good news is, that in 2014 we're in a great position. There are loads of different phones, and many different operating systems. These all have their benefits, and their downsides, but there really is no such thing as a bad OS these days. So whichever phone you chose, you'll have a massively powerful device in your hand. But there are still significant reasons to choose one device over another.

In this guide, Ian Morris, Contributing Editor at Expert Reviews, takes a look at the various options on the market, to see what they have to offer. We'll also pick out a key device that uses that software, to give you an idea what each platform is capable of. 
Apple iPhone 5S
Apple
eBay loves: The most vibrant app, music and video store out there and the beautiful design
Watch out for: Expensive and hard to customise 
Key device: iPhone 5S
RRP: £549

It's fair to say that Apple has nailed it with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. These devices all run an operating system called iOS. Cleanly designed, it's now in its seventh major revision and it's looking better than ever. The main advantages of iOS are its speed, simplicity and clear design. 

Perhaps the biggest reason to choose Apple is that it has amazing services to offer too. The iTunes store has apps, music, videos, books and magazine subscriptions. The biggest and best content, the most exciting new apps, this is Apple's strength. It has strict rules too, so the store is a generally safe place with no risk to your device from malicious apps or the like.

The worst thing about the iPhone is its lack of customisation; you use this phone the way Apple wants you to, and that's it. You can't do much to make an iOS device your own, it looks like every other iPhone out there. 

The iPhone now comes in two distinct variants. The more expensive iPhone 5S is designed to offer everything, in one of the best-designed packages you can imagine. Made from aluminium, this phone looks great and should survive the rigors of daily life. 
There's a fingerprint scanner on the home button too, so pressing this reads your fingerprint and then unlocks the phone once you’ve registered your digit. The best bit is that unless you'd been told about it, you would never know. Apple is king of design for a reason; it does things that seem almost impossible, and does them with style.
Samsung Galaxy S5
Android
eBay loves: More features than any other phone, great performance
Watch out for: Samsung’s customisations can be frustrating 
Key device: Samsung Galaxy S5  
RRP: £580

Google's Android is by far the most popular phone platform on the market now. Google says that there are a billion devices in the world running some kind of Android. That's a mind-blowing figure. Google has the reverse problem to Apple. Android is available to use by any company that's interested, this means that everyone from Samsung to a tiny firm in China can make phones that run this software. While this is great for choice and pricing, it can mean that your Android experience is good on one device, but dreadful on the next.

Android has, however, come on in leaps and bounds. It's powerful, and in its most recent version, KitKat looks amazing and feels like a mature operating system. Apps are no problem either, there are loads to choose from and they're every bit as good as those on Apple's devices. 

Just hitting the market now, the Galaxy S5 is a response to the iPhone 5S. Samsung has added amazing new features, like a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner to a phone that has been really very good since the second generation handset launched a few years ago.

Samsung always throws plenty of power into its handsets, so the S5 feels powerful and can cope with any app or game you throw at it. Samsung phones generally look great too, and while we don't lust over them as much as we do the iPhone, the Galaxy S5 is still one of the best-designed phones on the market. 
Nokia Lumia 1020
Windows Phone
eBay loves: The simplicity of the device, and awesome results of the camera
Watch out for: Lack of apps is still a problem for Windows Phone
Key device: Nokia Lumia 1020
RRP: £400

Microsoft was early to the smartphone game with devices that ran something called "Windows Mobile," but when the iPhone launched, the company didn't move anywhere near quickly enough, and was left behind. When Microsoft finally announced Windows Phone, the market was full of iPhones and Android devices, and interest was limited to say the least. 

None of that matters though, because Windows Phone offers something that is a middle ground between Android and Apple's iOS devices. It's simple to use, in the same way Apple's OS is, and there are loads of features built-in. Plus, like Android, there's a choice of hardware from different companies. 

The big negative comes in the shape of the apps. While the situation is improving, you are still much less likely to get the app you want on Windows Phone. We have also found there are fewer free apps too, and the Windows Phone design can create a restrictive style too.

But, Windows Phone comes highly recommended to those who want a simple handset, with some really great features. Those who start using this operating system generally want to keep on using it, and that's praise indeed. 

The big draw of the Lumia 1020 is the PureView camera. It has a staggering 41-megapixels. That's more than you get in most DSLR cameras, and it's incredibly impressive. The camera performs brilliantly too, it can produce pictures no one will believe came from a phone.

Aside from that though, the beauty of the Lumia 1020 is in Nokia's design. A silky smooth screen, with a bright, colourful OLED display that makes Windows Phone look amazing. Everything you need can be accessed from the phone out of the box, like Twitter and Facebook notifications, and even Skype.

The Lumia 1020 isn't just one of our favourite Windows Phone handsets, it's one of our favourite phones full stop. 
BlackBerry
BlackBerry
eBay loves: Still the best phone for typing, and one of the most secure
Watch out for: BlackBerry is slipping further and further behind other manufacturers in terms of features and apps. 
Key device: Blackberry Q10
RRP: £280

Before the iPhone, BlackBerry was pretty much the only choice for people who needed to carry their office in their pocket. Security was always paramount with BlackBerry, as it is today, so it has always been popular with the business community. The other huge advantage tended to be physical keyboards, most companies have given up on these now, but they still offer a genuine advantage.

These days, BlackBerry has a touchscreen device that runs BlackBerry 10, as well as keyboard-equipped models. These models represent an advancement over the old system but they do still have problems. And with BlackBerry porting its messenger app over to other phones, and WhatsApp storming through the instant messaging market on phones, a lot of the firm’s old tricks don't work well anymore.

There are still people for whom BlackBerry is the right choice, though. That's largely business users now, while the old market of younger people keen to stay connected to their friends have moved to Android and iOS. 

Staying true to the original ethos, the Q10 has a keyboard, and it's still one of the best out there. The new BlackBerry OS is slick enough, and if you have the patience to learn how to use it, it's rewarding and rich. BlackBerry continues to keep its platform very secure, so those worried about viruses and email security on Android, will feel safe here.

These phones remain a great choice if you text a lot, or send any volume of email on the move. Anyone who uses instant messaging will love not having to mess around with an on-screen keyboard. Sadly, one of the other big selling points for BlackBerry was always battery life, and while it's reasonable on this device, it's not as good as the BB handsets of old.  
 
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