A mobile phone Operating System (OS) is a type of software that performs the basic operations required by a modern phone. The operating system, for example, is essential for basic functions such as text messages, phone calls and accessing the Internet. It also is used for running additional applications, commonly referred to as apps, and interpreting user input. Examples of a mobile phone OS include the Google Android™, the Apple® iOS® and the Microsoft® Windows® Phone OS.
Modern mobile phones are similar in design and function to computers, which is why the devices need sophisticated operating systems. An OS provides the basic functions for the electronic device, such as recognizing input and displaying the user interface on the screen. The operating system also affects how fast the system runs and its reliability.
A mobile phone operating system is essential for a device to perform tasks, such as making phone calls, sending text messages and accessing emails. Advanced operating systems also can run additional programs, commonly known as apps. The type of app that will run on a particular mobile phone is limited by the operating system used on the phone, because most apps are designed specifically for a certain OS.
Aside from performing standard tasks, a mobile phone OS also must be capable of recognizing the various types of input. Operating systems on touch-screen phones, for example, need to be able to recognize and interpret when the user touches the screen. Other examples of input devices include trackballs, full keyboards and even voice input.
Mobile phone operating systems once were designed specifically for a certain model or range of phone. In the late 2000s, however, there are a number of operating systems that are used on many different phones and are able to adapt to the various requirements of mobile devices. The Google Android™ operating system, for example, is thought to power around one-third of mobile phones in 2011 from a variety of brands. This standardization means apps designed for one OS can run on a wide range of phones.
There are a number of other types of mobile phone operating system, but only a few are used on a large number of phones. Symbian OS™, for example, is commonly used on Nokia® phones. Other operating systems include the Microsoft® Windows® Phone OS and the Apple® iOS®, which is only found on Apple® devices.