The-Friday-Debate aa Image: Evan Forester/Flickr

We are all mobile geeks, here at Android Authority. We love everything with a power button. We like to comment the latest news and endlessly argue over which phone is better. On the Friday Debate, we pick a hot issue and proceed to discuss it. Join us!

At MWC and in the following days, we’ve witnessed a fascinating thing. Carriers and manufacturers seem very interested in new operating systems, like Tizen, Jolla, Ubuntu Phone, and Firefox OS. Are they hedging their bets? Are they sick of the duopoly of Android and iOS? Regardless of their reasons, upstart mobile operating systems appear to be here to stay.

On this week’s Friday Debate the question is – Which new operating system has the best chance of catching on?

Read our arguments, vote in our poll, join the debate in the comments section!

Gary Sims (G+): It’s all about branding

If success is based on branding, then Jolla has little chance, as it is unknown. Whereas Firefox and Ubuntu have brand potential. Tizen has Samsung (and other big names) behind it which means even if the Tizen name isn’t well known, its sponsors have the money to push it hard. However, that leads to the conflict of interest problem. Will Samsung,  Huawei, and Intel want to heavily invest in an OS which competes with Android?

The winning OS will be the one with the best known brand and the first to get a big handset manufacturer behind it (and 3rd party developers). That could be Tizen, but likely Ubuntu, as its Linux market share coupled with the fact that it will release firmware for Nexus devices means it could become a popular choice among developers.

smartphone-web-traffic-by-os-2009-2013 Pingdom

Joe Hindy (G+): Firefox will take over cheap phones

The biggest hurdle for Ubuntu and Tizen is the market they are attempting to enter. It’s a market that’s been dominated by Android and Apple for half a decade. Their fans know where they stand. OEMs know what kind of phone to make and carriers know what kind of phones to sell to make decent profits.

For Ubuntu, it’s much like their current attempts to penetrate the desktop market while competing against Apple and Windows. For Tizen, as it is not very much known, it may be a little easier, since they have the backing of Samsung and Intel. Even so, they’ll have to convince consumers that it’s better than Android or iOS, which no mobile OS has been able to do in the last 5 years. My esteemed colleague Gary Sims brought up a good point about the OS having a good OEM partner, but we all remember that Windows Phone 8 had Nokia and HTC as hardware partners and still haven’t managed to pick up a lot of market share.

Firefox, on the other hand, is going into a much less competitive market and targeting a wholly different audience. There aren’t many people attached to their feature phones. If it can text and make phone calls, most are happy. So making that feature phone experience that much better will be putting Firefox in a league of their own without much competition. This could be highly beneficial to them and I believe, if deployed properly, Firefox has the potential to displace feature phones with Firefox phones, which would give them a decent sized chunk of the market share.

Firefox OS First Look

Tanay Sood (G+): Firefox is limited, Ubuntu FTW

If I had to pick one winner out of what we know right now, I would bet on Ubuntu. So far, I haven’t seen how Firefox is supposed to run like at peak performance; the only phones they have launched on so far have severely stunted performance. Will people be willing to move from feature phones that run without any performance issues to a smartphone that refuses to execute simple tasks without lag? Only time will tell, but I’m guessing not. Also, their app solution (not offering a single unified app store) seems to be a step backwards from the current offerings out there.

The only thing going for Tizen is that it is backed by Intel and  more importantly, Samsung. I do not see them putting all their eggs in the Tizen basket anytime soon, and as long as they continue to produce Android phones I do not see any reason why people will switch to Tizen. Most of the OS has been taken from Android in the first place, and the market is too ruthless to let copycats survive. Ubuntu certainly brings something new to the table (a new interface for starters) and like Gary said it should become popular with the developers and tinkerers amongst us. Hopefully the carriers will price the phones sensibly and allow Ubuntu to showcase its features effectively.


Ankit Banerjee (G+): Ubuntu looks best

I agree with what Joseph Hindy and Gary Sims said, so I’m not going to reiterate those points. What I want to point out is it may not be about the best OS comparatively, but what sells more. Basically, any of them can do to Android, what Android did to iOS. Because Android caters to the entire price spectrum, it has run away with market share numbers, but not so much when it comes to profits.

In a market like India, “smartphones” are available at incredibly low prices but are still running Android 2.3, so the people buying such phones aren’t really fans of the OS as such, but are just looking at the cost of the device. They’re still using the device as something to make calls from, and not for what Android has to offer. This is why Bada OS phones are still popular, Nokia’s Asha series is doing great, and Samsung has cheap Samsung Galaxy S3 look-alikes to compete in this segment of the market.

If Ubuntu, Firefox, and Tizen (which will of course be supported by Samsung) target this sector of the market, it’s going to cut into the market share of Android, and not iOS.

If I had to pick a winner between the above choices, it’ll definitely be Ubuntu, not only from a developer point of view, but just because it looks really cool :P A friend, another keen tech-enthusiast, sent me a message about half an hour in during the Ubuntu OS launch saying “looks like the next big thing is here,” and that could well be the case.

ubuntu touch credit: ubuntu

Bogdan Petrovan (G+): Tizen, because Samsung, that’s why

I’d say Tizen has the best chance of catching on. With Samsung and Intel behind it, and closely aligned to the interests of carriers (the real power brokers), Tizen is much better placed than Firefox or Ubuntu. Carriers especially will love having a say on what goes on the devices they sell, and they’ll go the extra mile to push it over Android.

Plus, have you seen how Tizen looks like? You could confuse it for Android TouchWiz. That could be a major advantage, because many people will simply buy Tizen because the phone looks like the Galaxy S4. As some of my colleagues said, for most “normal” people, the OS is not that important.

And there’s a little factor called Samsung, the largest phone maker in the world. If Samsung decides to really push Tizen, I can see it catching on.

Tizen Handset CNET

Vote in our poll and join the discussion!

[poll id=”234″]

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • noneofthem

    Ubuntu will kick everyone’s arse for sure. Some will argue that timing could have been better but if you consider the requirements for the docking features, timing couldn’t be better. Ubuntu will not only harm iOS and Android. I think Ubuntu will also touch some more Windows market share. This will probably take a while after release but if Canonical deliver what they have promised us, this can only be a winner.

    • The promise is certainly exciting, but still a long way to go don’t you think?

    • Roberto Tomás

      I think they might as well have said Windows instead of Ubuntu. Over the next couple of years windows should converge on Windows 9 — and be a unified operating system across all platforms. Ubuntu is starting earlier but has to wait longer for hardware support. Just my opinion: Both suck because they are old, x86-ish systems where no new development is taking place. I’m thinking Tizen, and Firefox OS will be counted as one (as a Tizen-like OS) within 5 years.

  • jery star

    no love for wp

    • Well, WP isn’t a new OS, and they had plenty of time to catch on…

      • Lowry Brooks

        Do you think the reason WP hasn’t caught on is because it isn’t open? Do you think all we will see succeed from this point and forward are open operating systems since android has caught on so well?

        • I don’t think so. I believe the main reason is it’s interface which is so alien to the regular user, who is used to the old icon and desktop metaphor.
          Also, MS and Nokia could be blamed for some of the strategic decisions they made, like rebooting for WP8.

          • So long term do you think it will catch on?

          • I doubt it, honestly.

          • Lowry Brooks

            Another MS failure?

          • The particular decision to make WP8 with absolutely no upgrade path for any WP7 phones, especially higher end models, released relatively shortly before the arrival of WP8 (e.g., Lumia 900 or HTC Titan II) was total lunacy in my opinion. This put a very negative light on WP7 as an abandoned OS, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in any successive OS.
            Also the inability of WP7 to run any WP8 apps just adds to this. By comparison Gingerbread Android still runs most apps without trouble, and similarly iOS 4 is the requirement for the vast majority of apps for the iPhone.

        • firenz

          reason why WP fail are
          1. lack of Games.
          2. too locked down.

          Games are important. That’s what make DOS & Windows platform so successful.
          Foolishly, MS forget about that. Current WP only support DirectX, no OpenGL support, even when hardware SoC support them.
          That makes game developer reluctant to build games on WP.
          Almost ALL mobile platform out there support OpenGL ES, except WP, that is.

          And WP try to adopt iOS style of development. you have to pay $99 for developer account, to test app on device. You cannot test easily just like Android or BB10. That’s discouraging.

          • Lowry Brooks

            Not to mention, you cannot dev on mac or linux and the ide costs 500 dollars and a 99 dollar fee per year.

    • alved

      yep, that’s what I realized when looking at graph (and poll) :)

    • alved

      yep, that’s what I realized when looking at graph (and poll) :)

  • Andrew Mezzi

    I think that this depends on the number of apps. All of these are appealing to developers. Tizen and Firefox apps are written in HTML. This is a language almost every developer knows. I’m guessing Mozilla will let any apps into the market, similar to how Android works, but Samsung will police the market, similar to how iOS works. Because of this, Firefox will end up filling up with low quality apps that people hack together in a few hours, while Tizen will end up with a smaller number of good apps.

    Ubuntu and Jolla apps will both be written in QML. This language has a steeper learning curve, but is still easy to use. Because of this, both of these platforms will get better apps from actual developers, rather than people who learn basic HTML in a few days. Since these will have similar (and probably many of the same) apps, this will depend on which one has a better ui. Ubuntu’s ui is cool, but the edge swipes might take some time for people to learn. The same goes for Jolla. I don’t know which one will do better.

    • cauldron

      ubuntu UI should be customizable like android, both are linux tho.

      no need to learn new UI if you can customizing them to your suit. it’s the OS that has to adapt to your preference, not the other way around. we’re not using iOS here :)

      good thing is ubuntu didn’t have that resource-hogging Virtual Machine like in android. I really have high hope on ubuntu.

    • Mike

      But HTML isn’t a programming language, it’s just for the visual side… no app is completely written in HTML.

      • Andrew Mezzi

        According to the Tizen developer website: “The application model supports standard HTML5, which provides a rich set of JavaScript extensions as well as native extensions. These extensions can be integrated with the Tizen device to support features, such as email, SMS, PIM (Personal Information Management), and device information access.”

        By HTML, I meant HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

  • MasterMuffin

    I like Jolla the most (maybe after Ubuntu), but it’s the one that has the least probability to success :(

  • Ivan Myring

    I think tizen has the best chance but I prefer Ubuntu. I think Ubuntu ports will become commonplace on CDA, and will find popularity as a ROM

    • Tanay Sood

      Again, it really does come down to marketing. If Samsung does decide to invest in the success of Tizen, I feel that will stand a much better chance against Ubuntu. Equal amounts of attention however, should see Ubuntu come out on top purely on merit.

  • adamstallard

    The company is Jolla, the OS is Sailfish.

  • Tizen. They have Samsung which I think will give them the greatest chance to succeed. Who really knows though?