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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.

People in North America or Europe who find Firefox OS's open-source orientation appealing may have trouble getting hold of a handset running the operating system any time soon, however.

Since HTML5 apps depend relatively little on on a phone's hardware, Mozilla thinks that its OS could match best with low-end phones that are prone to performance problems. For this reason, the organization has set its sights on developing countries, and plans to make South America its initial market. The first wave of Firefox OS devices will also be available in Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, and Spain later this year, Mozilla says.

Tizen

You won't find many bigger names in the tech industry than Samsung and Intel, so their partnership in developing the Tizen mobile OS has naturally turned some heads.

Tizen is an open-source, Linux-based mobile platform that has a lot in common with Android in terms of look and feel. But whereas Android relies on Google services for many of its functions, Tizen will be easy to modify to support non-Google services.

This adaptability is especially important in Asia, since Google's services are largely blocked in China, and Google lags behind companies like Baidu and Yahoo Japan in regional popularity.

Samsung has achieved its powerful position in the smartphone market thanks to Android-based products. The Korean company's decision to invest in Tizen indicates a willingness to lessen its dependence on Google.

Just a few hours after its bizarre, Broadway-style Galaxy S4 announcement on March 14, Samsung confirmed its plans to release a Tizen smartphone later this year. Not surprisingly the first mobile carrier will be Asian: NTT DoCoMo, the largest phone carrier in Japan.

Samsung says that it has no intention of cutting ties with Google, but the company clearly has no desire to keep all its eggs in an Android basket.

Jolla Sailfish

Finnish startup Jolla's Sailfish OS is a reincarnation of MeeGo, a Linux-based mobile OS developed by a group of ex-Nokia employees.

Though Sailfish is still in the alpha stage of development, Jolla released the operating system's software development kit last month as a free download for Linux users.

Details about the new OS are sparse, but it appears to have a clean interface and to emphasize gestures for multitasking. Some observers have drawn parallels between the platform's home-screen icons and the live tiles in Windows Phone 8.

Sailfish is set to debut sometime this year.

Open source is a common theme

It definitely remains to be seen what kind of an impact Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, Tizen, and Sailfish will have on the smartphone market, and how Google and Apple respond to the influx of new mobile platforms.

 

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