As the dominant mobile operating system, Android has competition from two very well-resourced, formidable competitors in the form of iOS and Windows. Given the strength of these established players, competing in the mobile OS market is theoretically an almost-impossible task for any insurgent.
Despite the apparent obstacles, the likes of Canonical and Mozilla are continuing to push ahead with their own mobiles OSes. The former’s Firefox OS is now available on an increased number of devices, whilst Ubuntu Touch is looking to capture the attention of Canonical’s desktop fans.
Sailfish OS has also been refreshed. The platform is being developed by Finnish company Jolla, an organisation that emerged out of the failed Meego OS project, which had been backed by Nokia and Intel.
Firefox OS on premium smartphones
One of the most interesting products that Mozilla had on display at this year’s Mobile World Congress trade show was a reasonably high-end smartphone from a Japanese manufacturer. The KDDI Fx0 is an LTE device that was launched in Japan during December, 2014.
Firefox OS had previously been targeted primarily at entry-level consumers in emerging markets. Although as long ago as February, 2014, at Mobile World Congress, Mozilla had publicly identified an alternative plan for its mobile OS.
“Carriers can easily and deeply customise the interface and develop localised services that match the unique needs of their customer base,” Mozilla said in a press release, at MWC 2014.
The strategy of allowing partners to customise an OS – in ways not permitted for those who want to use Google services in Android – has gained even further prominence in recent weeks. Cyanogen has made it clear that it hopes to attract manufacturers by allowing them to customise Cyanogen OS around non-Google services.
In addition to the KDDI Fx0, Firefox OS will continue to be targeted at emerging markets. The new €35 (£25/$40) Orange Klif, made by ALCATEL ONETOUCH, will be released in a number of African and Middle Eastern markets, including Kenya, Cameroon, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Madagascar, Niger, Botswana, Mali, The Ivory Coast, Jordan, Vanuatu and Mauritius.
The Ubuntu Touch contenders
In February, Canonical launched the bq Aquaries E4.5 – the first consumer smartphone to run Ubuntu Touch. The bq Aquaries E4.5 was already available as an Android device.
Like the Android edition, the Ubuntu Touch version of the bq Aquaries E4.5 is priced at €169.90. The specs are fairly basic, with the bq Aquaries E4.5 offering a 4.5-inch 540 x 960 pixel display, 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek processor and 8GB internal storage.
At MWC, Canonical has been able to show off the Meizu MX4, which in terms of hardware is far more impressive than the bq Aquaries E4.5.
Meizu is a Chinese manufacturer, and as with the bq Aquaries E4.5, the Meizu MX4 is already available running Android. The two smartphones are very different in terms of specs, however.
The Meizu MX4 has a 5.36-inch 1152 x 1920 pixel display, 2.2GHz quad-core MediaTek processor, and includes a version with 64GB of internal storage.