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Ubuntu, Firefox line up to take on iOS, Android in 2013

Ian Paul | Jan. 4, 2013
Android and iOS may be at the top of the heap in the smartphone world, but that hasn't stopped competitors, new and old, from trying to grab a piece of the pie.

BlackBerry 10

Another contender for third place behind Android and iOS is Research In Motion's upcoming BlackBerry 10, set to make its final debut on January 30. At that time, RIM will announce pricing and availability for the first two BlackBerry 10 devices. The new version of RIM's smartphone platform features a touch-centric, card interface that has echoes of Hewlett-Packard's WebOS.

Firefox OS

Targeted mainly at emerging markets, the Mozilla Foundation in partnership with Spain-based telecom Telefónica will launch the first round of Firefox OS devices in Brazil in 2013. In the U.S., Sprint has pledged to support Firefox OS, but it's not clear when a Firefox OS device would land on U.S. shores. The unique aspect of Firefox OS is it relies entirely on Web-based technologies such as HTML 5 and JavaScript for all of its software applications including the phone dialer. The claim is that Firefox OS can offer a modern smartphone experience using under-powered hardware since its reliance on Web technologies do not require pricey processors or loads of RAM. Firefox OS sounds like an interesting idea, but even with Sprint's support the chances of Firefox OS becoming popular in the U.S. feels like a long shot due to the popularity of established alternatives such as Android and iOS.

Ubuntu phone

The final contender for the next smartphone showdown is Canonical's new Ubuntu for smartphones. The new smartphone OS requires no physical buttons and relies entirely on swiping gestures for controlling the phone. Ubuntu for smartphones uses all four edges of a device to reveal different functionality. Swipe from the left, for example, and you get Ubuntu's launcher with your favorite apps available. Swiping from the right when the phone is unlocked and you get your most recent applications in the reverse order you opened them. Canonical in the coming weeks plans to roll out a version of the Ubuntu phone OS for the Galaxy Nexus, and the first round of Ubuntu phone hardware is slated for late 2013 to early 2014.

Beyond these six big names there are also some other dark horse candidates, including HP's Open WebOs, the open source version of WebOS, and Tizen, another open source mobile alternative.

There appears to be more smartphone choices headed your way, but whether there's room for more than two mobile operating systems given the popularity of Android and iOS will be one of the big questions for 2013.


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