A look away from the world's Androids, iOSes and Windows Phones...
Despite the availability of all kinds of smartphone operating systems, the most popular ones are still iOS, Android and Windows Phone. We have devices like the iPhones, the Galaxies, the Ones and the Z10s. To challenge the triumvirate, a bunch of smaller developers have taken up arms to create their own smartphone operating systems. Some of them might be here to stay, and some of them might fade away into obscurity. Let’s take a look at some of the upcoming ones.
Ubuntu mobile carries forward the same general look-and-feel that can be seen in the desktop version of the OS. Interestingly, it opts for a completely button-less interface, with most, if not all, actions being based on gestures. A swipe to the right will show you the launcher (Unity, the same as the desktop version), while a swipe to the left will open a previously-opened app.
App development on Ubuntu mobile is based on HTML5 and QML. HTML5 will be a simple way to port desktop web apps to Ubuntu mobile. The QML toolkit will allow developers to make more powerful native apps for the operating system.
Interestingly enough, since both Ubuntu and (to some extent) Android are based on Linux, early test builds have been released for 2011’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone. This heavily hints towards the idea that users will be able to install the OS on any Android-based smartphone as long as the hardware’s architecture isn’t too radically different. Canonical has straight out told OEMs that this is possible, but whether its possible for regular consumers is currently unknown.
Canonical just recently kicked off a crowdfunding campaign for a smartphone, dubbed the Ubuntu Edge. The smartphone will be able to dual-boot on both Android as well as the open-source Ubuntu Mobile operating system. The handset is quite powerful, judging by the predicted specifications. Especially worth nothing is the "at least" 4GB of RAM and the "fastest available multi-core processor" that will power the handset.
Currently, there are quite a few carriers that are supporting Ubuntu mobile, all of which are part of the Carrier Advisory Group for the OS. These carriers include Deutsche Telekom, China Unicom, SK Telecom, Verizon and SK Telecom, among others.
Jolla's OS is creating a lot of buzz. (photo credit:meegoexperts)
Sailfish OS comes from ex-developers of the cult-favourite Meego operating system. The ex-developers formed their own company, dubbed Jolla, after being laid off from Nokia. A few months later, we had our first look at what they've been working on behind the scenes.
The design of the UI is best explained by the developers. It isn't about single views. The UI, as the developers describe, is all about verticality. The OS will be able to seamlessly switch between "screens" by using gestures. These gestures can be cancelled to simply get a look at the homescreen while continuing using whatever app you were using in the first place. Again, Jolla has opted for a gesture-based interface instead of having on-screen buttons like Android.
Sailfish OS will have a multitasking implementation similar to what we've seen in BlackBerry 10. The currently-running apps will be shown in a grid-styled interface that shows the whole window of the running app.
The OS will have a bunch of different features, one of which is compatibility with Android apps thanks to the built-in Alien Dalvik layer from Myriad Group, better known for running Android apps on the Nokia N9. The Sailfish OS will also have API-level compatibility with Ubuntu.
The first Sailfish OS smartphone, dubbed the Jolla, was earlier available for pre-order on Jolla’s website. However, it has since been out of stock. The phone will be available to the rest of the world once the first production run is complete.
It will have a 4.5-inch Estrade display, a dual-core chip with LTE capabilities, 16GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, a user-replaceable battery and a back panel, dubbed the Other Half. The phone is slated to start shipping by the end of 2013.
Geeksphone's Firefox OS offerings: Peak on the left and Keon on the right
Mozilla is quick to point out that despite being a smartphone, it shouldn't be compared to devices like the Nexus 4 or the iPhone 5. The OS has been specifically designed to run smoothly on low-end and low-cost hardware, so as to improve smartphone usage numbers in emerging markets like South America.
The interface itself should be quite familiar to Android and iOS users. It has typical rows and columns of icons with a dock on the bottom of the screen having four of your most-used apps. It also has a notification centre.
Since the OS will be launched in emerging markets where people pay for their data plans by the megabyte, the apps being based on HTML5 means the overall app sizes will be much lower than usual.
Currently, companies like ZTE, Geeksphone and Alcatel are developing and, in some cases, selling smartphones based on Firefox OS.
Two phones running on Firefox OS have actually been available for quite some time now—Keon and Peak by Geeksphone. However, it seems to have been aimed towards developers more than consumers. It also doesn't help that ever since the Geeksphone devices actually went up for sale, they have been out of stock.
Even Indian companies seem to want a piece of the Firefox OS pie. Indian phone maker Lava International has told the media that it has been working on a smartphone that runs Firefox OS. Lava is hoping to price the handset below the Rs 3,000 mark.
Screenshots of the Tizen OS (image credit: SamMobile)
Tizen is the product of Intel and Samsung joining hands to create an open-source operating system. It has a lot of things in common with pre-existing operating systems, such as the pages of apps and the pull-down notification centre. Samsung’s hand is quite evident even by simply looking at the interface. The camera app looks almost identical to the one found in Samsung’s Androids.
If the reference device Samsung has given out to developers is any indication, Tizen devices will only have one hardware navigation button—the home screen. However, it looks like different actions like long-pressing the button will give access to shortcuts. The OS has support for both native as well as web apps.
Sadly enough, not too much is known about Tizen, and we’ll presumably learn more once the first Tizen smartphones are actually in stores, but nobody knows when that’ll actually happen.
Tizen has faced a ton of delays so far, and many are going as far as proclaiming the OS dead before it even hit shelves. Samsung's devices, dubbed Melius and Redwood, were rumoured to be released in August. While there's no confirmation for it, sources have suggested that the phones have been delayed by a couple of months.
Which one of these do you think will actually see any success? Let us know!