As a technology journalist, I tend to attract a fair few questions from friends and family about which device they should invest in next. I also have an interest in mobiles, which means I get a lot of "I'm due an upgrade, what phone should I buy?" questions.
Typically, I resist the urge to say, "It depends" and start asking about what kinds of things they use the handset for. While the design of a smartphone is important, it's a reasonably safe bet that a lot of people want a touchscreen, so how well the core software fits their needs becomes the main point of difference to concentrate on.
In the past, before the touchscreen revolution, people used to choose their phones based on hardware criteria. At first it was, how long does the battery last? Does it have a colour screen? Does it have a camera? Can it play music? Can you load WAP sites? Can it send and receive MMS messages? You get the picture. Or you did if you got the right phone.
These questions are now all-but-redundant. We take all these features, and more, for granted. Any self-respecting smartphone comes with at least Wi-Fi, GPS and a raft of other features without breaking a sweat.
And it's a trend that is prevailing, as recent reports from sales and analysis organisations have shown that more people are making the transition from 'dumb' or 'feature' phones to fully fledged smartphones. An Ofcom report in August confirmed what an early-morning commute on public transport suggests: the UK is a nation addicted to smartphones.
Now every phone has a half-decent camera, Bluetooth and multiple connectivity options. Even the most basic of phones, like the Vodafone 555 — certainly not a smartphone — has a rudimentary web browser that will load a mobile-optimised version of 'the real web', rather than those WAP sites of the past. Most operating systems have baked-in social networking in some form or another too, so we can share our thoughts and pictures with the click of a button.
For me, this means that when it comes to choosing my next phone I do the same as I do with a PC: decide which operating system I want to use and start whittling down the corresponding hardware.
So if you're weighing up which phone to get next, or about to take the plunge with your very first smartphone, check out this gallery, where I take a quick look at the mobile operating systems and look at a couple of places where they are doing it right or doing it wrong.