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Newcomer Cyanogen looks to disrupt Android and iOS

Matt Hamblen | July 31, 2015
Several versions of the Android OS for smartphones have appeared on the global stage in recent years. One version, Cyanogen OS, has gathered publicity as well as prominent investors --including Twitter, Qualcomm and Foxconn -- that could give it some staying power.

cyanogen screenshot
The Yureka Plus smartphone goes on sale Aug. 6 for about $156 and features a 5.5-in. full HD display. It's powered by Cyanogen OS 12. Credit: Yu

Several versions of the Android OS for smartphones have appeared on the global stage in recent years. One version, Cyanogen OS, has gathered publicity as well as prominent investors --including Twitter, Qualcomm and Foxconn -- that could give it some staying power.

In a July report, IDC analyst William Stofega, asserted, "Cyanogen has the potential to meaningfully disrupt the current duopoly of Android and iOS, creating a richer experience for end users."

Doing so would be a tall order for the Cyanogen OS, given that Apple and various Android phone makers control more than 95 percent of the smartphone market.

An estimated 50 million users have loaded the open source Cyanogen OS on their smartphones since 2009 after stripping off the existing OS. In the past year, several new phones have arrived that are pre-loaded with the OS from newer phone manufacturers.

Cyanogen's market potential

There are about 2.5 billion smartphones in use. In 2014, Android phones had reached 1.6 billion users, while iOS smartphones reached nearly 400 million, according to research firm Statista and others.

Expected growth in smartphones is where Cyanogen will make its mark. Something like six billion smartphones could be in use by 2020, according to various analysts, leaving plenty of room for Cyanogen and other operating systems.

The largest portion of the smartphone growth will be among low-cost devices sold into populous countries like India and China. Low-cost smartphone makers like Xioami, Coolpad, Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE -- all based in China -- and others are seeing this opportunity.

Meet Cyanogen Inc., based in California

Much of the fate of the Cyanogen OS rests in the hands of Cyanogen Inc., based in Palo Alto, Calif. The company's primary business is the commercial distribution of the Cyanogen OS, built on Android. The company reportedly has just 100 employees, but boasts having 9,000 open source contributors. The OS offers "revolutionary personalization features, intuitive interface, improved battery life, and enhanced security," according to the company website.

In a sign of its growing ambitions, Cyanogen reported on July 8 that it had hired top Amazon Engineer Stephen Lawler as its senior vice president of engineering and Qualcomm's Android Engineering Head Karthick Iyer as Cyanogen's vice president of global systems.

A few smartphones have launched this year with the Cyanogen OS running natively. Also, version 12 of the OS will run on the Yureka Plus smartphone, which will be sold by India-based YU Televentures, a joint venture formed last December between Cyanogen Inc. and Micromax Informatics. The phone, which is set to launch Aug. 6, will sell for 9,999 rupees, or about $156. It features a 5.5-in. full high-definition display with a 13-megapixel camera.

 

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