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Four alternatives to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone

Michael Homnick | March 27, 2013
Phones running Tizen, Ubuntu, Firefox, and Sailfish are coming soon. Here's what you need to know about each one.

Today Android and iOS dominate the smartphone market, combining to provide the operating systems for more than 95 percent of smartphones. Still, not everyone is a fan of the Apple-Google mobile universe.

If you're wary of Android's security shortcomings, tired of iOS's overly aggressive auto-correct, or interested in tapping out of the Apple vs. Google mobile war, however, you'll be pleased to know that a number of new open-source mobile OSs are slated to debut in the next year or so.

From Canonical's Ubuntu to Firefox to Samsung, several big-name corporations and organizations will release their own open-source smartphone platforms this year. So grab your Tux the Linux Penguin gear and read on.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu, Canonical's popular desktop OS, is finally making the jump to mobile. Not to be confused with Ubuntu for Android (which launches a full version of Ubuntu when your phone is docked to a PC), the touch version of the organization's popular open-source operating system is available now as a developer preview.

Canonical has said repeatedly that it wants to create something unique with the touch version of Ubuntu, and the developer preview release of the OS holds true to that mission. Most notable is the absence of a lock screen--instead, you get a "welcome screen" featuring an animated circle that displays custom info about your phone's status, such as missed calls or received messages and tweets.

The OS relies on touch gestures, and Ubuntu gave every edge of the screen a purpose: Swiping left brings up a list of apps; swiping to the right switches to a previously opened app; gesture toward the bottom brings up in-app navigation controls, and swiping up controls the phone's status icons without leaving the app.

The OS's heavy reliance on these gestures means that you can access any app or function on the phone without having to go back to the home screen.

The home screen does serve a purpose, however, and Ubuntu says you'll be able to customize it with info from hundreds of sources, including Wikipedia, music, video, and online stores.

Though Canonical originally projected that hardware running the touch version of Ubuntu would be available later this year, the organization now expects them to hit the market in early 2014.

Firefox OS

Mozilla took a page out of Chrome OS's book with Firefox OS, the organization's all-HTML5 mobile operating system.

Like Google's browser-based desktop OS, Firefox OS is built entirely on a foundation of open Web standards, and every element--down to the phone's dialer--runs as an HTML5 application.

As a result, "apps" in Firefox OS aren't apps in the traditional sense; they're glorified links to Web apps that the OS permits to access features and data on your phone.

 

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