Windows Phone 8 vs BlackBerry 10: The battle for third

WP8_vs_BB10To say that Android and iOS are popular mobile platforms is something of an understatement. According to IDC research Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android accounted for 87.6 percent of all the smartphones shipped worldwide in 2012. That figure may be growing, but not everyone wants to commit to the dominant duo, and there’s a third place spot up for grabs. So, assuming you’ve rejected Android and you don’t fancy Apple’s wares, what should you choose?

We’re pitting Windows Phone 8 against BlackBerry 10 in a battle to the death. We’ll kick off by looking at their major features, and then see how they stack up in terms of handsets and apps.

Making a case for WP8

Microsoft’s latest attempt to conquer mobile was Windows Phone 8, which came out at the end of October last year. The early signs are that it hasn’t made much of a splash, but that won’t stop Microsoft continuing to try and improve on it. The platform focusses on people and provides you with lots of customization options and social media integration. There are tie-ins with Microsoft’s entertainment offerings, Sky Drive cloud storage, and software like Office so you can edit documents.

There are also some nifty built-in tools, like Kid’s Corner, which is essentially a set of parental controls so you can dictate what your kids have access to and let them play with your phone without worrying. There’s also a wide range of live tiles with real-time info for your home screen, a data monitoring tool, and a host of camera “lenses” for capturing great photos.

Why not give BB10 a go?

RIM was so determined to reboot that it ditched the old RIM name and rebranded the company as BlackBerry to coincide with the release of the new platform, BlackBerry 10, in January. The old enterprise security credentials are still valid and BlackBerry Balance allows users to switch between work and personal profiles, so they can use their BlackBerry handset for work and pleasure. The platform also features a unified inbox that gives you a single place to check for all of your incoming messages – emails, texts, and even social media.

There’s a lot to like about BB10, from the gestures for quick navigation, to the multitasking, which even allows you to peek at your inbox without leaving the app you’re in. BBM has been updated with video chat and screen sharing. Even the touchscreen predictive keyboard is pretty good and there’s a physical keyboard on the way.

Who has the best handsets?

There’s a pretty clear division here because, so far at least, Microsoft hasn’t made any handsets itself, whereas BlackBerry manufactures its own.

We’ve had Windows Phone 8 devices from HTC, Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei so far. The top three to date are the Nokia Lumia 920, the Samsung Ativ S, and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. We’ll pick the Nokia Lumia 920 to compare. We’re talking 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 4.5-inch display, and an 8.7MP camera.

BlackBerry has only unveiled the Z10 and the Q10 so far. The Q10 should be out this month. It’s like an older, traditional BlackBerry with a physical QWERTY keyboard. The first release, the Z10, is a touchscreen only phone with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 4.2-inch display, and an 8MP camera.

The handsets are actually very similar and both received positive reviews.

What about the apps?

It looks like Android will reach 1 million apps sometime this summer and iOS is not far behind. There are around 150,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. There are over 100,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10 via BlackBerry World. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. The vast majority of all the apps out there are not worth a look. Most people only care about a small group of quality apps that tie into the services they use and a handful of the very best games.

The truth is that a number of high profile apps and games are missing from the WP8 and BB10 platforms. There is also a discrepancy when it comes to pricing. Microsoft seems to charge a premium for a lot of games and you’ll frequently find that they are lower priced on other platforms. BB10 may have an advantage in the long term because it is relatively easy to port Android apps and games to the BB10 platform. The quality is not as high when an app hasn’t been designed specifically for a platform, but it has certainly helped the numbers of BB10 apps swell quickly and it will likely continue to do so.

WP8 has the edge right now, but BB10 will probably overtake it soon.

Are there any drawbacks?

We’ve looked at the pros, what about the cons? Neither platform is close to being perfect. They will be updated and improved over time, but right now these are issues to consider.

BlackBerry 10 offers a solid core experience, but the navigation, multimedia support, and camera features are sparse and basic. BB10 has a lot of small bugs, as you might expect in a first release.

Windows Phone 8 has problems with navigation too (nothing can compete with Google Maps on Android or iOS right now). Internet Explorer is not great either and the notification system is way behind the competition. There’s also no escaping the fact that Windows Phone 8 has suffered from some high profile bugs, even after updates, including random reboots and freezes and on some handsets.

…and the winner is

It depends on what you want. WP8 has plenty going for it and, with multiple manufacturers involved, there will be a greater choice of smartphones. BB10 just needs to get the big apps on board and it could be flying. If fence sitting isn’t allowed then BB10 gets the recommendation.

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About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in games development. He has been covering the world of mobile technology for several years now and writes for a variety of popular websites.