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Four smartphone OSs fighting for survival

Howard Wen | Sept. 3, 2014
The smartphone operating system market is dominated by Android and iOS, but you can never count out Microsoft, so let's say that Windows Phone, despite lagging in market share, rounds out the Big Three.

Mozilla announced on June 10 the launch of a Firefox phone that might cost only $25. We're nonplussed: The true expense of a phone lies in its hardware, not operating system. Obviously, to achieve this low price, the phone will have fewer features and with less performance power compared to most entry-level smartphones nowadays. And the plan is to sell this cheap phone in India and Indonesia first. (Prior Firefox phones have been available in Europe and Latin America.)

As for the U.S., Mozilla admitted last November the region is not their main focus for selling Firefox phones. Meanwhile, ZTE's Open was followed by the Open C, which was released in May and is also only sold on eBay.(

3. Tizen: Don't go Russian out to buy one

Like Firefox OS, this mobile OS is open-source, but has had a long and convoluted history. All you need to know is its lineage is traced back to four separate OSs supported by multiple companies, but they eventually converged under the new name Tizen. Today, Intel and Samsung are its main backers. Samsung is using Tizen for its smart TVs and smartwatches. In fact, the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which originally came with Android, had a software update issued at the end of May which entirely replaces this OS with Tizen.

Samsung also announced on June 3 the Samsung Z, their first smartphone to run Tizen. The company plans to release it during the third quarter of this year — but first in Russia.

It's unlikely the company will ditch Android anytime soon from its future mobile devices, though. It is pretty much the top Android device seller in the world. The company will still sell smartwatches that use the new version of Android designed for wearable devices, Android Wear.

To be frank, it looks like a big reason why Samsung is developing and improving Tizen is so they can use it as leverage against Google when negotiating business matters over the Android platform.

4. Ubuntu Touch: Crowdfunding flop takes the Edge off

Last July, Canonical tried crowdfunding for the Ubuntu Edge, a smartphone that could also be used as a desktop PC when docked. They asked the public to pledge $32 million to put it into production, but raised only $12.8 million. It was speculated that the whole effort had really been a publicity stunt to draw attention to Canonical's general goal to bring their Ubuntu OS to smartphones and tablets.

Since the Edge's failure (or PR success), Canonical has managed to get two device companies on board to use the mobile version of their OS, Ubuntu Touch. In February, the company announced partnerships with Chinese phone maker Meizu and a Spanish one, bq; both will release Ubuntu phones for presumably Europe and Asia sometime later this year.

 

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