Operating Systems for Smart Phones

I would say that Symbian was the first widely used Operating System (OS) for smart phones. But often iPhone with iOS is seen as the fist smart phone. 

Market situation

Today the worldwide market is extremely dominated by Android (by Google) and iOS (by Apple).

Many OS have been discontinued, or are close to become discontinued. Wikepedia has a good overview

Windows Mobile - what happened?

Some years ago, Windows launched its Windows Mobile OS for e.g. smart mobile phones. I remember I thought it was a really interesting and a smart move by Microsoft. Their Windows for e.g. computers was (and still is) very successful and widely used both in business as at home. When Microsoft also was going to have the Windows for mobiles, they would have a complete portfolio like Apple. Nokia was the major brand going for Windows Mobile, while basically everybody else was going to Android from Google. Beside Apple which continued to use their own iOS. BlackBerry existed but was losing its innovative status and basically disappeared from the market. Microsoft acquired Nokia, hence also became a manufacturer of mobile devices. For some reason - I am sure there are many articles about it - Windows Mobile did not become a success and is now almost gone from the market. Despite it was launched by a big company as Microsoft.

Alternatives

There also are some alternatives, existing and in development. Some of the more interesting are:

Many of above are OpenSource, and many are based on Linux.

Is there any more important or promising I have not listed?

Conditions for changing to one of the alternatives

Personally, I am interested to change over to an OpenSource based phone with good security and privacy, not at least if it also is Linux based. But to be really interesting, it must not only be phones available with the OS (or possible to install myself). The needed applications must also be there. And not only the "global" apps like web browsers, note pads, podcaster, camera, but also the more local ones. Local, for me that is Swedish. Two examples of local apps I indeed consider very important to have on my mobile: SJ (national rail) and BankID (identification and login to many public and commercial services in Sweden). If I cannot get the local apps, the interest of that mobile or mobile OS will drop significantly. I monitor the market, and I hope there will be an OpenSource solution which is secure with a good privacy.

A new upcoming alternative? HarmonyOS

A new OS was announced 9 August 2019: HarmonyOS, by Huawei. Press release: https://consumer.huawei.com/en/press/news/2019/huawei-launches-harmonyos

The announcement was done at the Huawei Developer Conference. Currently there is a trade conflict ongoing between USA and China, and the possibilities for Huawei to continue to use Android on their phones (etc) is very uncertain. Market has talked about that Huawei has been preparing for such situation for a long time. Although the announcement does not talk about the trade conflict, I cannot stop relating to it.

The word "Harmony" is not chosen by random, I am certain. It is a political statement. Anyone who follow China politics, knows harmony is a slogan word from the Chinese political world.

However, it is not clear if HarmonyOS is intended for mobile phones and other advanced OS products. They write about a seamless experience across devices. "It will first be used for smart devices like smart watches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems, and smart speakers." It appears as HarmonyOS 1.0 will be for limited number of products categories, with intention to add more categories later.

HarmonyOS is its own OS, based on nothing else. It means it has no need to consider any legacy support of existing hardware or software. But I really cannot comment the technical description of HarmonyOS, that is far beyond my competence.

It will be released as open-source. I think that is necessary, if no other reason to give trust and confidence in it, in particular outside China. China is a dictatorship and a closed OS from China would not be trusted. 

Are they aiming for Harmony OS to be used by competitors? Depending on which type of devices that will run on HarmonyOS, how many developers worldwide will develop apps for it? What market penetration will it get? Huawei has a huge domestic market to start with.

If Huawei cannot use Android in the future due to trade restrictions - is it HarmonyOS that is the replacement or is it another OS they will consider for such devices? Will HarmonyOS become and alternative for mobiles and tablets? Or will it fail like Windows Mobile?

It will be interesting to read what more competent people with write about HarmonyOS. And learn more about it when more details are available.

Henrik Hemrin

10 August 2019

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