The Friday Debate: Which new mobile OS has the best chance of catching on?

March 8, 2013
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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.

ubuntu-phone

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

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