Smartphones in 2013: Tizen, Firefox OS, Sailfish to compete with Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Android and iOS pretty much dominate the smartphone space these days, although there are still an awful lot of BlackBerry handsets in the wild, and Microsoft is pushing its Windows Phone 8 platform pretty hard.

But in 2013 we’ll see a few new players enter the market. It’s not clear whether they’ll make much of a dent in the market, but they’ll present some interesting alternatives to the software that makes phones smart today.

Tizen 2.0 Alpha

Tizen

A group of companies including Samsung and Intel have been backing an open source project called Tizen which is designed to run on phones, tablets, netbooks, and other devices.

Tizen rose out of the ashes of the MeeGo Linux operating system, with the primary backers of that project moving on to a new OS that places a heavy emphasis on HTML5 and other web technologies, which means developers can write apps for the platform using the same tools they’d use for creating web apps.

Samsung is the world’s top phone maker at the moment, largely due to success of the company’s Android devices. But that means Samsung relies pretty heavily on Google right now — and the company has been working for years to develop a smartphone OS that it has more control over.

Samsung’s Bada OS actually has more market share than you’d expect… in some regions. But investing in the Tizen platform makes a lot of sense, since it has the potential to become a bit more of a standard — and its emphasis on web technologies could make it an attractive target for app developers.

Earlier this year Samsung started providing Tizen developer phones to potential developers. Now the company is reportedly working with NTT DoCoMo on a phone which could launch in Japan in 2013.

Update: Samsung has confirmed to Bloomberg that it will release several Tizen devices in 2013. 

… more coverage of Tizen

Sailfish

If Tizen is the operating system that came after MeeGo, Sailfish is the OS that aims to keep MeeGo alive.

Intel’s biggest partner in the MeeGo was Nokia, but the Finnish phone maker pretty much pulled the plug on the project when Nokia instead partnered with Microsoft to release new phones running Windows Phone software.

Some former Nokia folks weren’t happy to see MeeGo die though, and they formed Jolla, a company that’s picking up where Intel and Nokia left off and developing a MeeGo-based smartphone operating system called Sailfish.

The new operating system has a custom user interface which seems to take some of the best elements of Android (such as widgets and multi-tasking, but which adds an entirely new gesture-based navigation,  and many customization options.

Engadget recently got a chance to check out a pre-release version of Sailfish, which you can check out in this video:

We should see the first full version of Sailfish in early 2013.

One thing that could help Sailfish gain traction is that it will support some Google Android apps… which should make up for a problem many new operating systems face at launch: limited availability of software that actually runs on the platform.

… more coverage of Sailfish

Firefox OS

Mozilla has been offering a mobile version of its Firefox web browser for Android phones and tablets for a while. But the developers are also working on a smartphone operating system based on Firefox.

Firefox OS

It’s called Firefox OS, and the first handsets running the software are expected to launch in Brazil, and possibly other countries as well in early 2013.

Like Tizen, Firefox OS places an emphasis on web technologies. In fact, pretty much every app designed for the operating system will be a web app — even the dialer and other basic features are pretty much just web pages.

You can even test-drive a pre-release version of Firefox OS simply by installing a browser extension in the Firefox web browser on your desktop or notebook computer.

Under the hood, Firefox OS is based on Android, but unlike Sailfish, you won’t be able to run Android apps on Firefox phones. Instead, you’ll be able to install web apps from the Firefox Marketplace.

…more coverage of Firefox OS

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001056924701 Sidney Atta-Ekanan

    Wait, apps base on web browser, so it is connectivity dependent? If it is then that would suck just like clouds!!

    • CyberGusa

      Not as much, remember these will be on phones that will be always connected and not just WiFi devices!

      While, like Google Chrome OS, they’ll likely have or later add a fair bit of off-line functionality.

      Besides, a lot of what runs on iOS and Android is also connection dependent… Like Apple’s Siri actually runs on Apple servers and not so much on the device itself… Android widgets mostly stream data from the Internet, etc.

    • http://rct.me.ht/ crashsuit

      I’d be surprised if the web apps weren’t stored locally on the phone itself.

    • andreas_1988

      it’s not necessary to be connectivity dependent. These aren’t “web apps”, but rather apps that are built using web-based technology, such as html 5 and javascript (or at least I think javascript). These apps can be stored on the phone, and work in exactly the same way as they would if they were loaded from the net, only faster and smoother as they wouldn’t have to be downloaded each time! It’s the same way in which you can save a web-page to your computer and just use it in offline mode. Sure, you won’t be able to “update it” unless you’re connected to the net, but you can’t do that with native-code applications either so there’s absolutely no disadvantage in that respect. The only downside is the features that html 5 apps can have compared to native-code apps. However, if I’m correct, mozilla is planning a native code API for more advanced applications. This is really quite great, as most applications you use on smartphones don’t need these advanced features at all, so A LOT of applications will be written for this platform by the hoards of web-developers out there that already know everything they need to know about developing such apps for this platform. There are more web-developers out there than iphone app developers and android developers out there, guaranteed. There is no need for these developers to learn any new code, unless they want to implement advanced features. The only downside for mozilla here is that they may not have the marketing prowess that samsung might have, but they do also have another trick under their sleeve. That’s the firefox web browser. SO MANY people use this, that an integration of the calendar and e-mail apps, and even the firefox OS market place directly into the web-browser, will be enough marketing in itself. I would love it if firefox OS beat samsung to the niche position in the market, but I’m concerned. Fingers crossed they’ll manage it but I won’t hold my breath, as samsung holds such a name with consumers, that (silly) consumers might be more inclined to buy samsung with tizen preinstalled.

  • renw0rp

    “Intel’s biggest partner in the MeeGo was Nokia, but the Swedish phone
    maker pretty much pulled the plug on the project when Nokia instead
    partnered with Microsoft to release new phones running Windows Phone
    software.”

    Nokia is not Swedish, it’s Finnish!

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Whoops, you’re right! I fixed the post.

  • http://goarticles.com/article/The-High-Popularity-of-the-Blackberry-Has-Paved-the-Way-for-the-Increase-in-Blackberry-Application-Development/7272531/ Lamar Fernandez

    Its emphasis on web technologies could make it an attractive target for app developers.