2013 – The Year of Alternative Mobile OS

February 8, 2013

Technology Media and Telecommunications Trends


It’s a battle of ecosystems” said the CEO of Nokia Stephen Elop two years ago. The three big ones are naturally iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It is quite clear that these three dominate the markets during 2013 but from UX designers’ (and consumers’) point of view this year is going to be quite interesting. There are ambitious challengers entering the markets with their modernized interaction models and promises for truly open sourced environments.

Here are the five new ( +one old) challengers.

BB10, BlackBerry formerly known as Research In Motion

Last week RIM changed its official name to BlackBerry and officially released their new guiding star, The BB10 operating system and two devices running on it. The birth of this new success-or-bust platform hasn’t been easy and its release has been postponed several times. Basically the survival of the company hangs on this release. The UI of BB10 seems solid which is no surprise for the people who followed up with the workings and designs of Swedish TAT which was bought by RIM about two years ago.

Sailfish, Jolla

Few months after Nokia sealed the deal to use Window Phone 7 (and 8) in their smart phones they released the N9. That device and its MeeGo based operating system and Swipe UI was reviewed with appraise but as it was a platform without future it never caught wind or sales. The developers and designers of that platform left Nokia and started their own company Jolla to continue the development of this Linux based platform. Fruit of their labor is the Sailfish OS.

Firefox OS, Mozilla

HTML5 is a magical technology that makes everything work. One example of this is the Mozilla’s creation Firefox OS which in theory allows people with web development experience to use the same skills for creating apps and even customizing the whole UI of this new platform. Just short while ago Mozilla announced that the first Firefox OS running devices for developers will be manufactured by Spanish company Geeksphone. The simulator has been available since late last year and it runs conveniently on your desktop Firefox browser.

Tizen, Samsung & others

At the same time as Samsung was creating their first Android devices they started to develop their own platform Bada. There were few devices based on it but it was the Android powered Galaxy Series which really made Samsung the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer. But betting it all on one horse is never a wise choice and Samsung’s side bet is the Tizen platform which gained a strong ally from Intel last year.

Ubuntu Mobile, Canonical

Linux has proven to be really flexible platform and I’m pretty sure the original mastermind of it, Linus Torvalds, never saw how widely his platform stretches out. In addition to the already established Android, short-lived MeeGo, upcoming Sailfish and Samsung’s Tizen, Canonical introduced their take on Mobile Linux. Like BB10 and Sailfish the Ubuntu UI relies heavily on swipe-from-edge gestures for platform functionalities and multitasking.

Bubbling under: Series 40 / Asha, Nokia

When our industry discusses mobile platforms we always seem to focus on the high-end flagships. This actually makes us look past one pretty big platform which is the Asha line from Nokia. According to the latest sales figures released by Nokia it is outselling their Lumia line 2:1. It might be worth while to check it out.

Harri Lehmuskallio,
Lead UX Designer
Idean – Palo Alto