What is an operating system?

Glossary What is an operating system?

What is an operating system (OS)?

An operating system (OS) is vital software that manages a device's hardware and software applications. In mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, the OS is the backbone, facilitating the efficient operation of different apps and features.

Functions of an operating system

Now, let's dive into the specific functions an operating system on a mobile device:

  1. Resource management: The operating system manages the device's hardware resources, such as the CPU, memory, and storage. It allocates these resources efficiently to various applications running on the device.
  2. User interface: It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) with icons, tiles, and touch gestures such as swiping, pinching, and tapping to facilitate user interaction.
  3. Application execution: The operating system allows users to download, install, and run various apps, ensuring these applications work harmoniously.
  4. Multitasking: Modern mobile operating systems support multitasking, enabling users to switch between apps and run multiple apps simultaneously.
  5. Security: The OS ensures the security of the device and its data through features like encryption, secure boot, and regular updates.
  6. Connectivity: It manages network connections, including cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. This ensures the device stays connected to the internet and other devices.

Types of mobile operating systems

Although there are numerous mobile operating systems, Android (Google) and iOS (Apple) are the dominant players in the market.

Android (Google)

Google's Android OS is a mobile operating system largely based on a Linux modification. Designed for touchscreen devices such as smartphones and tablets, it's one of the most popular mobile OS due to its open-source nature and extensive hardware compatibility. Developers can access and modify the source code, leading to the creation of multiple customized ROMs and device-specific versions of Android.

Android offers a highly customizable user interface, enabling users to personalize elements like home screens, widgets, and app layouts. Google Play has a vast library of apps ranging from games to productivity tools, offering plenty of options. It also integrates seamlessly with Google’s suite of services, including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive, and Google Photos.

Additionally, Android accommodates different market segments, from budget to premium, as it runs on a diverse range of devices from various manufacturers.However, fragmentation is a challenge due to the diversity of devices and manufacturers. This can result in inconsistencies in performance, user experience, and timely security updates.

Types of mobile operating system

iOS (Apple)

iOS is Apple’s operating system for iPhones. It now powers not only iPhone, but is the basis of iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS. It has a reputation for robust security, a user friendly interface, and high quality apps, due to Apple's focus on design and usability, as well as a rigorous App Store review process.

iOS has an intuitive interface, smooth animations, and cohesive ecosystem and includes features like Siri, Face ID, and iCloud.. It also integrates smoothly with other Apple products and services, such as macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Features like Handoff, AirDrop, and Continuity allow for transitions between different Apple devices.

iOS users benefit from timely updates with immediate access to the latest features and security patches. Due to Apple's control over both hardware and software, updates are streamlined. However, the closed ecosystem of iOS can be seen as a limitation as it restricts user customization and confines users to Apple's hardware and software choices.

More mobile operating systems

Other operating systems on the market include:

  • Harmony OS (Huawei)
  • Windows mobile (Microsoft)
  • Tizen (Samsung)
  • WebOS (LG)
  • KaiO

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