A mobile operating system (OS) is a software platform that serves as the foundation for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. It manages hardware resources, provides a user interface (UI), and enables communication between software and a device’s hardware components.

Mobile OSs are designed to be lightweight, efficient, and optimized for battery-powered devices with limited resources.

Read More about a Mobile Operating System

Smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices will only work if they have a mobile OS. You’ll find out why by looking at its functions.

What Should a Mobile Operating System Do?

Every mobile OS has to have these key features and functions.

  • User interface (UI): The mobile OS provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that lets users interact with their devices through touchscreens, buttons, and other input methods. This UI includes the home screen, app launcher, notifications, settings, and other visual elements.
  • App management: Mobile OSs manage an app’s installation, launching, and termination. They provide app stores or marketplaces where users can download and install new apps and manage updates and removals.
  • Hardware abstraction: The OS abstracts the underlying hardware components, such as the processor, memory, storage, camera, sensors, and more. This abstraction lets app developers write code without knowing the intricate details of a device’s hardware.
  • Security: Mobile OSs implement security measures to safeguard data, prevent unauthorized access, and safeguard against malware infections. They include features like app sandboxing, encryption, secure boot, and permission systems that allow users to control app access to sensitive data and device features.
  • Connectivity: The OS enables various types of wireless and cellular connectivity, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Global Positioning System (GPS), Near Field Communication (NFC), and mobile data networks (3G, 4G, and 5G). These features let devices communicate with each other and access the Internet.
  • Multitasking: Mobile OSs support multitasking, allowing users to switch between multiple apps seamlessly. Some also offer split-screen or multiwindow functionality to run multiple apps simultaneously.
  • Notifications: The OS manages notifications from various apps, displaying them on the lock screen or in a notifications center. Users can interact with notifications to perform actions directly from the notification area.
  • Updates: Mobile OSs receive regular updates from their developers to introduce new features, fix bugs, and enhance security. Users can download and install these updates to keep their devices current.
Functions and Features of a Mobile OS

What Are the Most Popular Mobile Operating Systems Today?

We named some of today’s most popularly used mobile OSs.

  • Android: Developed by Google, Android is an open-source OS that powers various devices made by different manufacturers.
  • iOS: Developed by Apple, iOS exclusively powers Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices.
  • Windows 10 Mobile: Although less prominent, Microsoft’s mobile OS was designed for Windows-based smartphones.
  • KaiOS: This lightweight mobile OS is designed for feature phones and low-end smartphones often marketed in emerging markets.
  • Tizen: Developed by a consortium led by Samsung, Tizen is used in some Samsung smartphones and other devices.

These mobile OSs vary in design philosophy, features, and app and service ecosystems.

What Are Some Mobile Operating System Security Best Practices?

As with desktops and laptops, mobile OS security is crucial to protect user data, privacy, and a device’s overall integrity. Here are some best practices to enhance your mobile OS’s security.

  • Keep your OS updated: Regularly update your mobile OS to the latest version. OS updates often include security patches that address known vulnerabilities and improve overall system security.
  • Download apps from trusted sources: Limit your downloads to official app stores, such as Apple’s App Store for iOS devices or Google Play for Android devices. Avoid third-party app sources, as they may host malicious apps.
  • Check app permissions: Review the permissions apps request when they’re installed. Grant only the necessary permissions relevant to an app’s functionality. Be cautious if an app requests unnecessary or sensitive permissions.
  • Use strong authentication: Enable robust authentication methods, such as fingerprint or facial recognition and personal identification number (PIN) codes, to lock your device. These methods improve security beyond just using a simple password.
  • Encrypt device data: Enable device encryption to protect the data stored on your device. That prevents unauthorized access to your data even if your device gets lost or stolen.
  • Install security software: Consider installing reputable mobile security apps from trusted vendors. These apps can protect against malware, phishing, and other threats.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions: Public Wi-Fi networks can be insecure and prone to eavesdropping. Avoid using them for sensitive tasks like online banking or entering personal credentials.
  • Enable the find device feature: Many mobile OSs have this feature that helps you locate and remotely wipe your device should it get lost or stolen. Make sure to enable it.
  • Backup your data: Regularly back up your data to a secure location, such as the cloud or your computer. That ensures your data is safe even if your device gets compromised or lost.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA): If possible, enable 2FA for online accounts for better security by requiring a second verification step beyond your password.

Following security best practices enhances your mobile OS’s performance and minimizes risks associated with using mobile devices.

Key Takeaways

  • A mobile OS serves as the foundation for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. It manages hardware resources, provides a UI, and enables communication between software and a device’s hardware components.
  • Mobile OSs should have a UI, manage apps, abstract hardware components, be secure, allow for connectivity, enable multitasking, give off notifications, and receive regular updates.
  • Android and iOS are the top 2 mobile OSs today.
  • Like your computer OS, mobile OSs need security, too.