Android 4.1, iOS 6, Windows Phone 8 All Focusing on Location-Based Services

A review of three new mobile operating systems recently introduced by Apple, Microsoft and Google indicates that all are seeking to deliver better location-based apps and services, as well as a better overall user experience, to their users.

No doubt you€™ve heard the adage that the three most important things in real estate are €œlocation, location, location.€ It also appears that location times three is also the prevailing theme in the release of three leading mobile operating systems from Apple, Microsoft and Google.

At three developers conferences, all held in June in San Francisco, first Apple, then Microsoft and now Google previewed coming new versions of their mobile operating systems, and all three of them showed attention to delivering a personalized and customized experience to users, often based on their location.

The latest, Google€™s Android 4.1 operating system, nicknamed Jelly Bean, adds a feature called Google Now that delivers relevant information to the user based on their preferences, their current situation and their location. As demonstrated at the Google I/O conference June 27, Google Now knows from your search history that you€™re a fan of the San Francisco Giants and pops up with a reminder that the Giants-LA Dodgers game is about to get underway at AT&T Park.

If you walk down to a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform at a certain time, Google Now can tell you when the next train is coming and its destination. If you have an appointment, the feature can tell how long it will take you to get there whether you€™re walking, driving or taking a bus.

€œGoogle Now gets you just the right information at just the right time and all of it happens automatically,€ said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management at Google.

Likewise, Windows Phone 8 will incorporate new location-based services in future smartphone models from Nokia, Microsoft€™s handset manufacturing partner. At the Windows Phone Summit on June 20 in San Francisco, Kevin Shields, senior vice president of the Lumia smartphone product and program management team at Nokia, demonstrated advanced mapping capabilities, including a navigation app that detects traffic tie ups and suggests an alternate route, similar to a feature of Android 4.1. Like Android, Windows Phone offers apps with information on mass transit services.

Apple did a complete rip and replace change in Apple iOS 6, replacing Google Maps with its own Apple Maps, one of 200 new changes to the OS from the current version, iOS 5. Undaunted by the snub, the Google Maps people unveiled a number of new Maps features June 6, including 3-D renderings of city streets from above, a feature matched by Apple in iOS 6.

€œWith each of these platforms, they€™re looking to surround the user with experiences that each platform thinks the user wants,€ said Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst at IDC. €œI just think that€™s going to be the natural step in the evolution of mobility.€

When smartphones first became popular, users were impressed with the amount of information available to them via email, applications and on the Internet, Llamas said. But over time, they grew frustrated trying to move into and out of applications to get what they needed. Recognizing that frustration, Jelly Bean is going to have an improved notifications application in which users can respond to various notices in the notification app without having to go to the app involved. For instance, if the user misses a phone call, they can click on the notification and immediately call the person back. If a meeting notice appears from their calendar, they can click on that item and tell the person they€™re meeting with if they are running late.

€œWhat it all comes down to is the user and the best way to map down your user other than sticking a wire into his or her brain,€ Llamas said.

The voice-activated features of Android 4.1., which include email composition and Web searches, earns praise from Ovum research analyst Jan Dawson.

€œAndroid includes some good improvements including a competitor to Apple€™s Siri and an innovative new service called Google Now, which uses artificial intelligence to serve up information relevant to the user€™s context proactively,€ she wrote in an email. Microsoft also demonstrated a Siri-like voice-recognition service with the working title of €œAudible€ for Windows Phone 8 devices.

Both Dawson and Llamas noted Google€™s plans to not only offer a software development kit (SDK) for creating Jelly Bean apps, but a platform development kit (PDK) for device manufactures to design devices to optimize the features of Android 4.1. Llamas says end users often blame the application when it runs too slowly or fails to open quickly enough when it may actually be the device if, for instance, the processors are too slow.