Mobile operating systems – what you need to know

Set of touchscreen smartphones.

Set of touchscreen smartphones.

Published Aug 12, 2022


User experience has become an essential pillar in the decision-making leading to the purchase of a smartphone.

With a range of models and varieties of smartphones to choose from, users are spoilt for choice.

Despite all the high-end specs to choose from, your experience as a user doesn’t need to suffer for the sake of embellishing your smartphone with a 100MP camera.

Today, scores of smartphones are fitted with more operating systems than in previous years, which essentially determines the user experience of a smartphone.

A decade ago, users could only choose between the still-emerging iOS and Android operating systems, which today have become the widest used OSs, amid noteworthy new rivals from new smartphone makers, dominating markets in some regions.

In South Africa, Google’s Android operating system has dominated for years. It accounts for a healthy 83.67% of the mobile operating system market in the country as of March 2022, according to statistics platform Statista.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS owns 16% of the country’s OS market.

Quick maths reveals a sliver of operating systems which belong to neither Google nor Apple, normally classified under “Other”. While this portion, comprising various lesser-known operating systems, may not threaten the top two contenders in the coming years, the segment is growing and could provide better user experience.

On the other hand, some smartphone makers have tried without success to have their own operating systems, such as BlackBerry’s OS, which was excluded from devices since 2013. Meanwhile, in the future we could see new operating systems gain popularity, such as like Huawei’s Harmony OS.

A brief analysis of the top manufacturers and biggest selling mobile brands in South Africa reveals that many operating systems have been underrated in the user experience they offer and, coupled with powerful technologies, could become the formidable revivals of top contenders.

Let’s take a peek at mobile operating systems available right now:

Huawei Android EMUI with HMS

One such underrated operating system is Huawei’s version of Android with its EMUI overlay and HMS. After the US trade ban, which saw Huawei lose Google Services to the version of the Android operating system it initially installed in its devices, the Chinese manufacturer resolved hindrances in the form of AOSP (Android Open Source Project), an open-source version of Android coupled with Huawei Mobile Services, in place of Google’s. The company’s EMUI Android layering has also been enhanced to cater to the needs of consumers.

Huawei’s version of Android with EMUI makes for a beautifully designed operating system. While it might be unfair to compare its aesthetic against Apple’s iOS, iPhone users will certainly not be disappointed by the layout of Huawei’s take on Android.

Huawei’s new smartphones launched with the new operating system could have easily dominated the market with devices like the P50 Pro and the company's latest foldable, the P50 Pocket. However, the company was pipped out of higher ranking by the connotation that it lacked “Google”, which led consumers to believe there is no Google search, Gmail, YouTube or Play Store, meaning no apps

However, very few have come to understand that Huawei’s phones still run Android, and therefore can access these services, it’s just not pre-installed as default. HMS on Huawei has become a formidable alternative to traditional Android, encompassing the country’s biggest apps in its store, alongside a solution to many Google hindrances. Huawei’s EMUI overlay also includes super device functionality, enabling powerful cross-device collaboration and productivity features, bringing the experience closer to Apple’s iOS ecosystem.

PS: Huawei smartwatches and its companion health APP are one of the very few Android wearables supported on iPhones.


Many long-time smartphone users, especially those using the Android operating system, can attest that a vanilla form of Android is one of the easiest operating systems to use.

Android is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and open-source software, which is how it managed to make its way to devices from almost every manufacturer on the planet – aside from Apple.

Android OS is one of the most powerful mobile operating systems without too many tweaks. Back in the day when Google-branded smartphones, in collaboration with companies like Motorola, made their way to South Africa, users of the OS had very few complaints about its user-friendliness.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers who kit their smartphones out of Android accompany it with a layering of their own, which then takes out from the Android user experience and often makes the software buggy, leading to the continuous need to update the device.

Despite this, Android will always be a favourite in years to come and might make for a fluid experience when connected, and automated homes become more popular.


Fans have dubbed Apple the best smartphone manufacturer for years. While it’s worth reserving judgement for iPhone lovers over Apple’s use of competitor components and dated “innovations” previously launched by other manufacturers, the truth is Apple does something right.

The US-based smartphone giant has done one thing right to make their devices and the user experiences accompanying them more attractive – their software and hardware work very well in conjunction with one another.

Other Apple products also attest to this – Apple’s range of MacBooks, powered by their M1 or M2 chip, runs the most strenuous applications such as video editor, Final Cut Pro X, easily.

The iOS layout has always been user-friendly with a clean layout and rapid response to user commands.

IOL Tech