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August 26, 2015

5 alternative operating systems for mobile

Learn all about Sailfish, Firefox OS, BlackBerry 10, Ubuntu Touch and Tizen.

By Alexander Sword

Although the big players hold an intimidatingly large market share, there are other options out there. CBR rounds up 5 alternatives to Android, iOS and Windows Phone.


1. Sailfish

This Linux-based operating system, developed by the Helsinki-headquartered Jolla, is used in the company’s smartphones and tablets.

Its origins lie with Nokia; the ailing smartphone maker built a new OS called Maemo, which merged with Intel’s Moblin OS. In 2011, members of the MeeGo team left and formed Jolla, supported by funding from Nokia’s Bridge programme.

The key to the OS is the gesture-based interface, which removes the need for physical buttons. As it is open source it can support many different devices.


2. Firefox OS

The non-profit Mozilla is best known for the Firefox web browser, which is available on desktop and as a smartphones.

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The browser approach is central to the Firefox OS, also based on the Linux kernel, which appears on some phones by ZTE and LG. All applications are delivered as a web app, requiring fewer resources to run and hence lower-spec handsets.

Key features include a single scroll replacing multiple home screens, an easy search bar at the top of the screen and the ability to swipe between apps.


3. BlackBerry 10

The original star of the business phone market brought out its Unix-based operating system for its own hardware in early 2013 in a market already dominated by Android and iOS.

True to its roots, the OS is designed for the business market. It includes enterprise mobility management features such as BlackBerry Balance, which separates work and personal data.

Other features include BlackBerry Hub, which acts as a notification centre for email and social media accounts. In a throwback to the glory days, it also features a virtual keyboard.


4. Ubuntu Touch

Ubuntu Touch, also known as Ubuntu Mobile, is a smartphone version of the Debian-based Linux operating system.

Key to the Ubuntu user interface are ‘scopes’, which aim to reinvent the idea of home screens. Essentially each scope is a bar on the screen presenting a different type of content for easy access.

Ubuntu Touch is featured on, in ascending price order, the BQ Aquaris E4.5, BQ Aquaris E5 HD and the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition.


5. Tizen

Tizen is the result of a partnership involving huge mobility players including Samsung, Intel, Huawei, Fujitsu, Orange, Panasonic and Vodafone. It is open source and Linux-based.

It is HTML-5 based, which will allow shorter development cycles, and crucially, is designed to work with other devices; it is not just set up for smartphones but also tablets, wearables and smart televisions.

It appears on the Samsung Z1, with the Z2 already slated for release. It also features on Galaxy Gear devices.

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