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A mobile operating system, also referred to as mobile OS, is the operating system that operates a smartphone, tablet, PDA, or other digital mobile devices. Modern mobile operating systems combine the features of a personal computer operating system with a touchscreen, cellular, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS mobile navigation, camera, video camera, speech recognition, voice recorder, music player, Near field communication, Infrared Blaster, and other features.
Mobile operating system milestones mirror the development of mobile phones and smartphones:
- 1979–1992 Mobile phones have embedded systems to control operation.
- 1993 The first smartphone, the IBM Simon, has a touchscreen, email and PDA features.
- 1996 Palm Pilot 1000 personal digital assistant is introduced with the Palm OS mobile operating system.
- 1996 First Windows CE Handheld PC devices are introduced.
- 1999 Nokia S40 OS is officially introduced with the launch of the Nokia 7110
- 2000 Symbian becomes the first modern mobile OS on a smartphone with the launch of the Ericsson R380.
- 2001 The Kyocera 6035 is the first smartphone with Palm OS.
- 2002 Microsoft's first Windows CE (Pocket PC) smartphones are introduced.
- 2002 BlackBerry releases its first smartphone.
- 2005 Nokia introduces Maemo OS on the first internet tablet N770.
- 2007 Apple iPhone with iOS is introduced as an iPhone, "mobile phone" and "internet communicator."
- 2007 Open Handset Alliance (OHA) formed by Google, HTC, Sony, Dell, Intel, Motorola, Samsung, LG, etc.
- 2008 OHA releases Android 1.0 with the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) as the first Android phone.
- 2009 Palm introduces webOS with the Palm Pre. By 2012 webOS devices were no longer sold.
- 2009 Samsung announces the Bada OS with the introduction of the Samsung S8500.
- 2010 Windows Phone OS phones are released but are not compatible with the previous Windows Mobile OS.
- 2011 MeeGo the first mobile Linux, combined Maemo and Moblin, is introduced with Nokia N9 in effect of cooperation of Nokia, Intel and Linux Foundation
- In September 2011 Samsung, Intel and the Linux Foundation announced that their efforts will shift from Bada, MeeGo to Tizen during 2011 and 2012.
- In October 2011 the Mer project was announced, centered around an ultra-portable Linux + HTML5/QML/JS Core for building products with, derived from the MeeGo codebase.
- 2012 Mozilla announced in July 2012 that the project previously known as "Boot to Gecko" was now Firefox OS and had several handset OEMs on board with the project.
- 2013 Ubuntu announced Ubuntu Touch, a version of the Linux distribution expressly designed for smartphones. The OS is built on the Android Linux kernel, using Android drivers, but does not use any of the Java-like code of Android.
- 2013 BlackBerry releases their new operating system for smartphones and tablets, BlackBerry 10.
Common software platforms 
The most common mobile operating systems are:
- Android from Google Inc. (free and open source)
- Android was developed by a small startup company (Android Inc.) that was purchased by Google Inc. in 2005. Android is a Linux-derived OS backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, Samsung, Motorola and eBay, to name a few), that forms the Open Handset Alliance. Released on November 5th 2007, the OS was well received from a number of developers upon its introduction. Android's releases prior to 2.0 (1.0, 1.5, 1.6) were used exclusively on mobile phones. Most Android phones, and some Android tablets, now use a 2.x release. Android 3.0 was a tablet-oriented release and does not officially run on mobile phones. The current Android version is 4.2.2. Android's releases are nicknamed after sweets or dessert items like Cupcake (1.5), Frozen Yogurt (2.2), Honeycomb (3.0), Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Jelly Bean (4.1). Most major mobile service providers carry an Android device. Since HTC Dream was introduced, there has been an explosion in the number of devices that carry Android OS. From Q2 of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010, Android's worldwide market share rose 850% from 1.8% to 17.2%. On November 15, 2011, Android reached 52.5% of the global smartphone market share.
- BlackBerry 10 from BlackBerry (closed source, proprietary)
- BlackBerry 10 (previously BlackBerry BBX) the next generation platform for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. In other words, there will be only one OS for both Blackberry smartphones and tablets going forward.
- iOS from Apple Inc. (closed source, proprietary, on top of open source Darwin core OS)
- The Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and second-generation Apple TV all use an operating system called iOS, which is derived from Mac OS X. Native third party applications were not officially supported until the release of iOS 2.0 on July 11, 2008. Before this, "jailbreaking" allowed third party applications to be installed, and this method is still available. Currently all iOS devices are developed by Apple and manufactured by Foxconn or another of Apple's partners.
- S40 (Series40) from Nokia (closed source, proprietary)
- Nokia uses S40 OS in their low end phones (aka feature phones). Over the years, more than 150 phone models have been developed running S40 OS. Since the introduction of S40 OS it has evolved from monochrome low resolution UI to full touch 256k color UI.
- Sailfish OS from Jolla (open source, GPL)
- After Nokia failed in 2011 with MeeGo project most of MeeGo team have left Nokia, and established Jolla as a company to use MeeGo and MER business opportunities. In 2012 Linux Sailfish OS based on MeeGo and using MER core distribution has been launched for public use. The first device, Jolla (mobile phone) has been unveiled on 20th May 2013.
- Windows Phone from Microsoft (closed source, proprietary)
- On February 15th, 2010, Microsoft unveiled its next-generation mobile OS, Windows Phone. The new mobile OS includes a completely new over-hauled UI inspired by Microsoft's "Metro Design Language". It includes full integration of Microsoft services such as Microsoft SkyDrive and Office, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, Xbox Live games and Bing, but also integrates with many other non-Microsoft services such as Facebook and Google accounts. The new software platform has received some positive reception from the technology press.
- Windows RT from Microsoft (closed source, proprietary)
- Microsoft announced Windows RT is an OS design for tablets only and only runs on ARM processors. This version also resembles Windows 8. Windows RT cannot run x86 programs. Apps can be only downloaded from the Windows Store. This OS has Microsoft Office 2013 pre-installed.
Other software platforms 
- bada from Samsung Electronics (closed source, proprietary)
- This is a mobile operating system being developed by Samsung Electronics. Samsung claims that bada will rapidly replace its proprietary feature phone platform, converting feature phones to smartphones.The name 'bada' is derived from 바다, the Korean word for ocean or sea. The first device to run bada is called 'Wave',which has a full touchscreen, was unveiled to the public at Mobile World Congress 2010. With the phone, Samsung also released an app store, called Samsung Apps, to the public. It has close to 3000 mobile applications.
- Samsung has said that they don't see Bada as a smartphone operating system, but as an OS with a kernel configurable architecture, which allows the use of either a proprietary real-time operating system, or the Linux kernel. On 25 February 2013, Samsung announced that it will stop developing Bada, moving development to Tizen instead.
- BlackBerry OS from BlackBerry (closed source, proprietary)
- This OS is focused on easy operation and was originally designed for business. Recently it has seen a surge in third-party applications and has been improved to offer full multimedia support. Currently Blackberry's App World has over 50,000 downloadable applications. Blackberry's future strategy will focus on the newly acquired QNX, having already launched the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet running a version of QNX and expecting the first QNX smartphones in early 2012.
- BlackBerry Tablet OS from QNX Software System/BlackBerry (closed source, proprietary)
- BlackBerry Tablet OS is based on QNX. QNX is a commercial Unix-like real-time operating system, aimed primarily at the embedded systems market. The product was originally developed by Canadian company, QNX Software Systems, which was later acquired by BlackBerry, formerly known as RIM. This OS is primary for BlackBerry Playbook (tablet).
- GridOS from Fusion Garage
- GridOS was built using open source code from the Android kernel. It is used as the operating system of the Grid 4 mobile phone and Grid 10 tablet.
- Linux based operating system (open source, GPL)
- Linux is strongest in China where it is used by Motorola, and in Japan, used by DoCoMo. Rather than being an OS in its own right, Linux is used as a basis for a number of different operating systems developed by several vendors, including Android, GridOS, Boot to Gecko, LiMo, Maemo, MeeGo, Openmoko and Qt Extended, which are mostly incompatible. PalmSource (now Access) is moving towards an interface running on Linux. Another software platform based on Linux is being developed by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung and Vodafone.
- Mer project (community-driven)
- Mer is an open, mobile-optimised, core distribution aimed at device manufacturers; powered by Qt/QML and HTML5 – openly developed, inclusive and meritocratically governed.
- Brew from Qualcomm
- Brew is used by some mobile phone manufacturers and mobile networks, however most often the end-user does not know this since mobile phones running Brew most often lack any Brew branding. Brew runs in the background with the custom "skins" of the mobile phone manufacturer or operator on-top. Brew is used by Sprint Nextel, metroPCS, U.S. Cellular and Verizon in the US and by the Three network in much of Europe, the UK and Australia on many mobile phones produced especially for their network. Manufacturers such as LG CDMA, Huawei, INQ Mobile, Amoi and Samsung Mobile amongst others use Brew in some of their mobile phones and it is featured in Three UK phones such as the 3 Skypephone, INQ1 and Huawei u7510 (3 Touch). Two of HTC's mobile phones use Brew's successor Brew MP.
- SHR (community-driven)
- SHR is a GNU/Linux based operating system for smartphones and similar mobile devices. It integrates various Free and Open Source Software projects into a versatile platform – flexible enough to run on a vast selection of mobile hardware such as the Openmoko Neo Freerunner, Nokia N900, Palm Pre and variants, T-Mobile G1, HTC HD2, iPhone 3Gs and more. The SHR build system is based on OpenEmbedded – well known from the Yocto project. For telephony, networking, etc. freesmartphone.org framework is used. On top of that an easy to use graphical interface centered around Enlightenment libraries is used to provide phone calls, messaging and pim. A growing amount of available applications offers SHR users with everything expected on a smartphone. But also numerous classical programs well known from other Linux distros can be made available easily.
- SHR is 100% community driven and based on Free and Open Source Software. This empowers everybody to realize their innovations or add support for new hardware – without needing to ask some CEO or strategy manager first.
- Symbian OS from Nokia and Accenture (open public license)
- Symbian has the largest smartphone share in most markets worldwide, but lags behind other companies in the relatively small but highly visible North American market. This matches the success of Nokia in all markets except Japan. In Japan Symbian is strong due to a relationship with NTT DoCoMo, with only one of the 44 Symbian handsets released in Japan coming from Nokia. It has been used by many major handset manufacturers, including BenQ, Fujitsu, LG, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony Ericsson. Current Symbian-based devices are being made by Fujitsu, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony Ericsson. Prior to 2009 Symbian supported multiple user interfaces, i.e. UIQ from UIQ Technologies, S60 from Nokia and MOAP from NTT DOCOMO. As part of the formation of the Symbian OS in 2009 these three UIs were merged into a single OS which is now fully open source. Recently, though shipments of Symbian devices have increased, the operating system's worldwide market share has declined from over 50% to just over 40% from 2009 to 2010. Nokia handed the development of Symbian to Accenture, which will continue to support the OS until 2016.
- webOS from HP (certain parts open sourced)
- webOS is a proprietary mobile operating system running on the Linux kernel, initially developed by Palm, which launched with the Palm Pre. After being acquired by HP, two phones (the Veer and the Pre 3) and a tablet (the TouchPad) running webOS were introduced in 2011. On August 18th, 2011, HP announced that webOS hardware is discontinued but HP will continue to support and update webOS software and develop the webOS ecosystem. HP has released webOS as open source under the name Open webOS, and plans to update it with additional features.
- Tizen from a Technical Steering Group composed of Intel and Samsung.
- Tizen is an operating system for devices including smartphones, tablets, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices, and smart TVs. It is an open source system that aims to offer a consistent user experience across devices. Tizen's main components are the Linux kernel and the WebKit runtime.
Historical software platforms 
- DangerOS from Danger, Inc. (closed source, proprietary)
- DangerOS was a largely Java-based operating system for the Danger Hiptop line of smartphones produced by Danger Incorporated from 2002 to 2010, also sold as the T-Mobile Sidekick. In 2008, Danger, Inc. was acquired by Microsoft. Former Danger, Inc. employees were tasked to work on the Microsoft Kin line of phones, and in 2010 DangerOS was discontinued as a smartphone platform after the Kin phones were released. In 2011 T-Mobile introduced a new smartphone using the Sidekick branding based on Google's Android platform, with no relation to the previous Danger Hiptop phones.
- LiMo 4 from LiMo Foundation
- LiMo Foundation launched LiMo 4 on February 14, 2011, the latest release of the LiMo Platform. LiMo 4 delivers complete middleware and base application functionality, including a flexible user interface, extended widget libraries, 3D window effects, advanced multimedia, social networking and location based service frameworks, sensor frameworks, multi-tasking and multi-touch capabilities. In addition, support for scalable screen resolution and consistent APIs means that the platform can deliver a consistent user experience across a broad range of device types and form factors
- Maemo from Nokia (open source, GPL)
- Maemo is a software platform developed by Nokia for smartphones and Internet tablets. Maemo is based on Debian GNU/Linux and draws much of its GUI, frameworks and libraries from the GNOME project. It uses the Matchbox window manager and the GTK-based Hildon as its GUI and application framework.
- MeeGo from non-profit organization The Linux Foundation (open source, GPL)
- At the 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia and Intel both unveiled 'MeeGo' a brand new mobile operating system which would combine the best of Moblin and the best of Maemo to create a truly open-sourced experience for users across all devices. As of 2011, Nokia has announced that it will no longer be pursuing MeeGo and will instead adopt Windows Phone as its primary mobile OS. Nokia announced the Nokia N9 on June 21, 2011 at the Nokia Connection event in Singapore. The phone is presumed to become available to the public in September 2011. LG announced its support for the platform.
- Nucleus from Mentor Graphics (closed source)
- Nucleus OS is a real-time operating system (RTOS) and toolset created by the Embedded Systems Division of Mentor Graphics for various central processing unit (CPU) platforms. The Nucleus RTOS is designed for embedded systems applications including consumer electronics, set-top boxes, cellular phones and other portable and handheld devices. For limited memory systems Nucleus RTOS can be scaled down to a memory footprint as small as 13 KB for both code and data. Manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, LG, Siemens/Benq, Sagem, Pantech and NEC use Nucleus in some of their mobile phones. The last devices released that used Nucleus OS are LG Encore (GT550), LG Prime (GS390) and Pantech Pursuit (P9020).
- Palm OS/Garnet OS from Access Co. (closed source, proprietary)
- webOS was introduced by Palm in January 2009 as the successor to Palm OS with Web 2.0 technologies, open architecture and multitasking capabilities.
- Windows Mobile from Microsoft (closed source, proprietary)
- The Windows CE operating system and Windows Mobile middleware are widely spread in Asia. The two improved variants of this operating system, Windows Mobile 6 Professional (for touch screen devices) and Windows Mobile 6 Standard, were unveiled in February 2007. It has been criticized for having a user interface which is not optimized for touch input by fingers; instead, it is more usable with a stylus. However, unlike iOS, it does support both touch screen and physical keyboard configurations.
- Windows Mobile's market share has sharply declined in recent years to just 5% in Q2 of 2010. Microsoft is phasing out the Windows Mobile OS to specialized markets and is instead focusing on its new operating system and software platform, Windows Phone.
Upcoming software platforms 
- Aliyun OS from Alibaba/AliCloud (cloud based)
- AliCloud's operating system revolves around the idea of bringing cloud functionality to the mobile platform. According to the company, Aliyun will feature cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates and GPS navigation tools. In addition, the operating system will synchronize and store call data, text messages and photos, in the cloud for access across other devices, including PCs. Alibaba says it will offer customers 100GB of storage at launch. the operating system would allow users to access applications from the Web, rather than download apps to their devices.
- Firefox OS from non-profit organization Mozilla Foundation (open source, GPL)
- According to Ars Technica, "Mozilla says that B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems."
- Sailfish OS
- Sailfish is a Linux-based mobile operating system developed by Jolla for use in its upcoming smartphones and can be used for any of mobile devices.
- Tizen from non-profit organization The Linux Foundation (open source, GPL)
- Tizen is an open source project hosted by the Linux Foundation, with Intel and Samsung leading its development steering group, and support from the LiMo Foundation. According to Intel, Tizen “combines the best of LiMo and MeeGo." HTML5 apps will be emphasized for the new OS, with the MeeGo project encouraging its members to transition to Tizen, stating that the "future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5." Tizen will be targeted at a variety of platforms such as handsets, tablets, smart TVs and in-vehicle entertainment. The initial release of Tizen is targeted for Q1 2012, with the first devices using the OS planned to reach the market in mid-2012.
- Ubuntu Touch OS from Canonical Ltd. (open source, GPL)
Customer satisfaction 
According to a Readers' Choice Awards survey conducted by PC Magazine in 2012, iOS and Windows Phone customers gave their phones a rating of 8.7 on a 0 (extremely dissatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied) scale, an improvement of 0.3 and 0.6 points respectively. Android received a 7.9 (the same rating it received in 2011), followed by webOS (7.7), Symbian (7.4) and Blackberry OS (6.8).
The biggest reasons given by readers when asked why they chose their mobile phones are as follow: operating system (51%) and 4G capability (51%) for Android, quality of email experience (46%) for Blackberry, availability of apps (63%) for iOS and operating system (78%) for Windows Phone.
In 2006, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Bada did not yet exist and just 64 million smartphones were sold. Today, nearly 10 times as many smartphones are sold and the top mobile operating systems marketed as "smartphones" by market share are Android, Symbian, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, MeeGo, Windows Phone and Bada. Note that these statistics only include operating systems marketed as "smartphones" (e.g., they don't include Nokia's S40 operating system, which according to Nokia's announcement on 25 January 2012, has sold over 1.5 billion S40 devices.).
See table below for source data
See table below for source data
See table below for source data
Gartner: World-Wide Smartphone Sales (Thousands of Units)
|2013 Q1 
|2012 Q4 
|2012 Q3 
|2012 Q2 
|2012 Q1 
|2011 Q4 
|2011 Q3 
|2011 Q2 
|2011 Q1 
|2010 Q4 
|2010 Q3 
|2010 Q2 
|2010 Q1 
|2009 Q4 
|2009 Q3 
|2009 Q2 
|2009 Q1 
|2008 Q4 
|2008 Q3 
|2008 Q2 
|2008 Q1 
|2007 Q4 
|2007 Q3 
|2007 Q2 
|2007 Q1 
Gartner: World-Wide Smartphone Sales (% of Smartphones / % of All phones)
||5.1% / 2.0%
||4.2% / 1.6%
||19.1% / 7.4%
||66.2% / 25.7%
||2.3% / 0.9%
||2.5% / 1.0%
||0.5% / 0.2%
||100.0% / 38.8%
||0.2% / 0.1%
||10.9% / 2.9%
||18.7% / 5.0%
||18.9% / 5.0%
||46.5% / 12.4%
||2.0% / 0.5%
||1.7% / 0.4%
||1.0% / 0.3%
||100.0% / 26.6%
||4.1% / 0.8%
||16.6% / 3.1%
||37.3% / 7.0%
||15.6% / 2.9%
||22.5% / 4.2%
||1.2% / 0.2%
||0.0% / 0.0%
||2.6% / 0.5%
||100.0% / 18.7%
||8.7% / 1.2%
||19.9% / 2.8%
||46.9% / 6.7%
||14.4% / 2.1%
||3.9% / 0.6%
||6.1% / 0.9%
||100.0% / 14.2%
||11.8% / 1.3%
||16.6% / 1.9%
||52.4% / 6.0%
||8.2% / 0.9%
||0.0% / 0.0%
||11.0% / 1.3%
||100.0% / 11.4%
||12.0% / 1.3%
||9.6% / 1.0%
||63.5% / 6.7%
||2.7% / 0.3%
||12.2% / 1.3%
||100.0% / 10.6%
IDC: World-Wide Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)
IDC predicted that Android gets high market share at the expense of other platforms in year 2012, but also predicts that from year 2013 to 2016, iOS and Android will stop gaining market share, while Windows Phone will rise to third place behind iOS. A similar trend is also predicted by DigiTimes Research.
As of March 2013, mobile data usage shows 61% of mobile data traffic to be from iOS, 25% from Android, 8% from Java ME (Nokia S40), 2% from Symbian, 2% from Windows Phone and 1% from BlackBerry. Windows Phone Internet Explorer Mobile can be switched to “Desktop view” by users, which identifies devices as Internet Explorer 9.0 on Windows 7, in this case mobile usage of Windows Phone is not included in this statistics.
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External links