Smartphone shootout: Which mobile OS is the biggest productivity-booster?

The usability pros test iOS 7, iOS 6, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Here's what they found.

Want to get more done faster with your smartphone? iOS 7, iOS 6, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone all have their fans. But if you really want to know the truth, you need to go to the pros: Usability experts who have put them through their paces. Here's what they found.

The Pfeiffer Report's Smartphone User Experience Shootout compared the usability of iOS 7, iOS 6, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 8 with an eye towards which is the best from a usability perspective. In large part, that means which will make you more productive.

The report compared the OSes on the basis of four benchmarks:

  • Cognitive load (how easy is it to use the OS when you first encounter it)
  • Efficiency and integration (how well all the OS's main features work together, such as multitasking, notifications, and so on.)
  • Customization
  • User experience friction (how many roadblocks does the OS put in your way)

Drum roll, please. The winner is iOS 7. And the big loser is Windows Phone 8. Here are the final results, with a larger number being better:

  • iOS 7 73.25
  • iOS 6 70
  • Android 57.25
  • BlackBerry 10 56.37
  • Windows Phone 8 47.25

iOS 7 was at the top or near the top in every category. In cognitive load it slightly lagged iOS 6, and was tied for second place with Windows Phone 8, with BlackBerry 10 a bit behind, and Android way in the distance. In efficiency and integration, iOS 7 was tied for the top spot with Android, just ahead of iOS 6. BlackBerry 10 came in fourth, and Windows Phone 8 was the worst.

As for customization, there was no surprise: Android was number one, with iOS 7 slightly behind, followed by iOS 6, BlackBerry 10, and Windows Phone 8 far behind. And in user experience friction (which the report refers to as UXF), iOS 6 came in first, followed closely by iOS 7, then Android, BlackBerry 10, and Windows Phone 8 once again in the rear.

In summing up iOS 7, the report had this to say:

"Apple has managed to create a new operating system that looks from any other on the market, and that is immediately easy and intuitive to use -- and that is identical on any iOS device the company produces. In terms of user experience, iOS 7 clearly remains the market leader.

But the report also holds out hope for Android -- at least if Google and the Android phone market leader Samsung pay more attention to usability:

"Android has come a long way in terms of user experience, and could easily become an iOS killer, not only in terms of market share, but in terms of user experience -- provided that Google and Samsung truly understand where the user experience differences with Apple's platform lies."

The report has harsh word for both BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8. About BlackBerry 10, it reports:

"The operating system is hampered by inconsistencies, unexpected behaviors, and user experience friction that make it frustrating to use."

It's even harder on Windows Phone 8:

"Windows Phone 8 is a strange mixture of slick, original design -- and a surprising disregard for key usability, not to mention the lacker of some key user experience features such as customization options, pervasive notifications, or quick access to key settings...Windows Phone 8 is not very competitive in terms of overall user experience."

So there you have it. When it comes to productivity, this report says, iOS 7 rules the roost, while Windows Phone 8 doesn't even rise to the level of an also-ran.

If you'd like to read the full report yourself, get it for free here.

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