Firefox OS vs. Ubuntu Phone OS: Which One Will Succeed?

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Though Android and iOS are currently ruling the roost as far as mobile operating systems are concerned, new players are emerging and disappearing each month in a feeble attempt to overthrow the giants. Being a third wheel to these top contenders is Microsoft's own Windows Phone OS with an elegantly designed Metro interface. Such is the strength of iOS and Android though some people say that Windows Phone OS is better than Android feature-wise and performance-wise. That said, the market share that this new OS garnered leaves a lot to be desired and serves as a testimony to the fact that both Google and Apple are behemoths of the mobile world.

In such a tough and competitive market, two new players have set their eyes on the promise land. With BlackBerry revamping itself and Microsoft pushing hard for a new phone OS, chances of these new entrants seem slimmer than ever. Having said that, what separates these smartphone neophytes from Windows, BlackBerry, or even iOS, for that matter, is that they are both open-source and are being developed by two biggest giants in the FOSS world.

Ubuntu Phone OS from Canonical and Firefox OS from Mozilla are both trying to reach a market that is ruled by another open-source biggie, that is Android. Both will try to target different segments of the mobile market with Ubuntu aiming chiefly for the enterprise customers while Firefox OS will aim mainly at low-end devices. But overall, you'll see them being compared head-to-head, as there are people who are looking for alternatives to the staple Android and iOS offering. As to who will win the race is a tough question, but for now, we'll make do with a few comparisons and predictions.

Where Firefox OS Wins

* Targets the huge low-end market

Ubuntu Phone OS will require a smartphone equipped with a dual-core processor. Though in 2014, this will become a commonality, one would still find many customers using single core or more low-end devices. This is where Firefox OS has a chance to win the market over. With its swift HTML5 apps and a lightweight interface, it has the potential to reach a lot of low-end markets especially in third world countries. If implemented correctly, Firefox OS will give many people who couldn't afford a smartphone a chance to buy one.

* It brings the web to your mobile

Most of us use our smartphones chiefly for checking news, status updates, and uploading photos. What Firefox OS does is that it seamlessly bridges the gap between smartphones and the World Wide Web.

To look at it from another angle, Firefox OS is like a Chrome OS for smartphones. 

Where Ubuntu Phone OS Wins

* Targets the enterprise and high-end market.

The enterprise market is in need of a good Linux-based phone. Also, many customers who are tired of Android and iOS but want a high performing smartphone will give Ubuntu phones a try.

* Has an amazing interface

Another big advantage of Ubuntu Phone OS is that it has an appealing and intuitive interface that is much better than what Android or iOS offers at this moment. Even if you compare it to the more swipe-like interface that BlackBerry offers, Ubuntu OS still looks fresher and more intuitive. 

Where Ubuntu Phone OS Loses

* Lack of good apps

Ubuntu OS, if it wants to target high-end customers, it has to have a good collection of apps to boast of. Even if 1000 apps are developed by the end of next year, it won't be a match for what Android, iOS, or even Windows devices offer.

* Dual-core requirement

The dual core requirement for Ubuntu Phones makes it inaccessible for low-end devices. For example, I won't be able to run this OS on my single-core Nexus S even though it is not a very low-end smartphone.

Where Firefox OS Loses 

* Too web-oriented

For many people who love to have a native experience, this might just disappoint. Written chiefly in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the operating system is too web-oriented. A lot of people who love native apps might not choose this operating system. Moreover, if you own a high-end smartphone, you'll always be wanting for something more feature-laden like Android.

So, which one will succeed?

It's hard to tell at this moment, but there are chances of Ubuntu Phone OS outshining the Mozilla phone simply because of its sheer amount of features and its simplicity. If, however, Ubuntu doesn't appeal to high-end seeking customers, we might see Mozilla's Firefox OS stealing the show.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

1 comment

  1. you forgot to add Jolla/Sailfish OS, which may have an even better chance than Ubuntu and Firefox OS. In any case, they all share a lot of common ground, and for example Qt/QML is used both in Ubuntu and Sailfish. So actually to a large extent the success of one benefits the two others as well.