A mobile operating system, also known as a mobile OS, a mobile platform, or a handheld operating system, is the operating system that controls a mobile device or information appliance—similar in principle to an operating system such as Windows, Mac OS, or Linux that controls a desktop computer or laptop. However, they are currently somewhat simpler, and deal more with the wireless versions of broadband and local connectivity, mobile multimedia formats, and different input methods.
Typical examples of devices running a mobile operating system are smartphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablet computers and information appliances, or what are sometimes referred to as smart devices, which may also include embedded systems, or other mobile devices and wireless devices.
|Table showing most of the current mobile operating systems for smartphones, PDAs and netbooks in 2010|
The increasing importance of mobile devices has triggered intense competition among technology giants, like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia in a bid to capture the bigger market share pre-emptively. Palm, Research In Motion and Ericsson are also significant firms in the mobile platform sector. In November 2007, Google formed a Linux-based open source alliance to make inroads into this mobile platform market, raising consumer awareness of the growing mobile platform frenzy.
Mobile platforms are in the nascent stage, and any projection regarding the market growth is hard to make at the present time. It is noteworthy that Intel is taking the initiative to focus on portable devices other than mobile phones. They are Mobile Internet Devices (MID) and Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC). Meantime, Palm abandoned its plan to develop Foleo, which was to be a companion device for a smartphone.
Canalys has estimated that in 2009 the installed base of smartphones with integrated GPS was 163 million units worldwide, of which Nokia accounted for more than half (51%) having shipped cumulatively 83 million GPS devices. On January 22, 2010, Nokia released a free version of Ovi Maps which is expected to double user amount.
Smartphone operating systems
Table showing most of the current mobile operating systems for
smartphones, PDAs and netbooks in 2010,
smartphones, PDAs and netbooks in 2010,
Share of 2010 Q3 smartphone sales to end users by operating system, according to Gartner.
Operating systems that can be found on smartphones like Nokia's Symbian OS, Apple's iOS, RIM's BlackBerry OS, Microsoft's Windows Phone OS, Linux, Palm WebOS, Google's Android, Samsung's Bada (operating system) and Nokia's Maemo. Android, Bada, WebOS and Maemo are in turn built on top of Linux, and the iPhone OS is derived from the BSD and NeXTSTEP operating systems, which all are related to Unix.
The most common operating systems (OS) used in smartphones by Q3 2010 sales are:
The Symbian OS and its successor Symbian platform from the Symbian Foundation (36.6% Market Share Sales Q3 2010) (open public license)
Symbian has the largest 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 its largest shareholder and customer, 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 platform in 2009 these three UIs were merged into a single platform 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.
Android from Google Inc. (25.5% Market Share Sales Q3 2010) (open source, Apache)
Android was developed by a small startup company that was purchased by Google Inc., and Google continues to update the software. Android is an open source, Linux-derived platform backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, Samsung, Motorola and eBay, to name a few), that form the Open Handset Alliance. Release on November 5th 2007, the OS has a following among programmers. There have been six releases of Android- Android 1.0, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2. All are nicknamed after a dessert item like Cupcake (1.5) or Frozen Yogurt (2.2). Most major mobile service providers carry an Android device.
The Apple iPad tablet computer uses a version of iOS.
Since the HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1) 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%.
iOS from Apple Inc. (16.7% Market Share Sales Q3 2010) (closed source, proprietary)
The Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all use an operating system called iOS, which is derived from Mac OS X. Third party applications were not officially supported until the release of iOS 2.0 on July 11th 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.
RIM BlackBerry OS (14.8% Market Share Sales Q3 2010) (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 10,000 downloadable applications.
Windows Mobile from Microsoft (2.8% Market Share Sales Q3 2010) (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 iPhone OS, 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 it's new platform, Windows Phone.
Windows Phone from Microsoft (negligible Market Share Sales in October 2010)(closed source, proprietary)
On February 15th, 2010 Microsoft unveiled its next-generation mobile OS, Windows Phone 7. 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 Windows Live, Zune, Xbox Live and Bing, but also integrates with many other non-Microsoft services such as Facebook and Google accounts. The new OS platform has received some positive reception from the technology press. As Windows Phone 7 is a new platform, there is no backwards compatibility with Windows Mobile applications and some power-user features that were in Windows Mobile will not be present until near-future updates.
The Palm Pre running HP (formerly Palm) webOS. HP purchased Palm in 2010.
Linux operating system (open source, GPL) (2.1% Market Share Sales Q3 2010, non-Android Linux-based OS's only)
Linux is strongest in China where it is used by Motorola, and in Japan, used by DoCoMo. Rather than being a platform in its own right, Linux is used as a basis for a number of different platforms developed by several vendors, including Android, LiMo, Maemo, Openmoko and Qt Extended, which are mostly incompatible. PalmSource (now Access) is moving towards an interface running on Linux. Another platform based on Linux is being developed by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone.
Palm webOS from HP (certain parts open sourced) and Palm OS/Garnet OS from Access Co. (closed source, proprietary)
Palm webOS is Palm's next generation operating system. PalmSource traditionally used its own platform developed by Palm Inc. Access Linux Platform (ALP) is an improvement that was planned to be launched in the first half of 2007. It will use technical specifications from the Linux Phone Standards Forum. The Access Linux Platform will include an emulation layer to support applications developed for Palm-based devices.
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' and was unveiled to the public at Mobile World Congress 2010. The Wave is a fully touchscreen phone running the new mobile operating system. 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 platform, but as a platform with a kernel configurable architecture, which allows the use of either proprietary Real-time operating system (RTOS) kernel, or the Linux kernel. Though Samsung plans to install bada on many phones, the company still has a large lineup of Android phones.
MeeGo from Nokia and Intel (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.
Maemo from Nokia (open source, GPL)
Maemo is a software platform developed by Nokia for smartphones and Internet Tablets. It is based on the Debian operating system.
Maemo is mostly based on open source code, and has been developed by Maemo Devices within Nokia in collaboration with many open source projects such as the Linux kernel, Debian and GNOME.
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.
Worldwide smartphone operating system market shares
Source Date Symbian OS BlackBerry OS Android iOS (Apple) Windows Mobile Others references
Gartner 2010 3Q 36.6% 14.8% 25.5% 16.7% 2.8% 1.5%
Smartphone operating systems feature comparison
Only the latest versions are shown in this table, even though old versions may still be marketed.
Feature iOS Android webOS Windows Mobile Windows Phone 7 BlackBerry OS Symbian Maemo MeeGo Bada
Company Apple Open Handset Alliance(Google) HP/Palm, Inc Microsoft Microsoft RIM Symbian Foundation Nokia Linux Foundation Samsung
Current Version 4.2.1 2.2 1.4.5 6.5.3 7.0.7004.0 6.0.0 9.5 5.0 1.1 1.2
OS Family Mac OS X/Unix-like Linux Linux Windows CE 5.2 Windows CE 7 Mobile OS Mobile OS Linux Linux Linux
Supported CPU Architecture ARM ARM, MIPS, Power Architecture, x86 ARM ARM ARM ARM ARM, x86 ARM ARM, x86 ARM
Programmed in C, C++, Objective-C C, C++, Java C C++ C++ Java C++ C/C++ C++ C++
License Proprietary EULA except for open source components Free and open source except closed source components Free and open source except closed source modules Proprietary Proprietary Proprietary Eclipse Public License Free and open source except closed source components Free and open source Proprietary
Package manager iTunes ? Preware (3rd party homebrew) Windows Mobile Device Center/ActiveSync Zune PC software ? ? dpkg+apt-get rpm+yum+zypper ?
Default Web Browser/Engine Webkit Webkit Webkit Internet Explorer Mobile 6.0 (Trident) Internet Explorer Mobile 7.0 (Trident) Webkit Webkit Gecko Webkit Webkit
3rd Party Application Store App Store Android Market App Catalog Windows Marketplace for Mobile Windows Phone Marketplace App World Symbian Horizon maemo.org, Ovi store Samsung App
Email Sync protocols supported POP3, IMAP, MAPI POP3, IMAP, MAPI POP3, IMAP, MAPI POP3, IMAP, MAPI POP3, IMAP, MAPI BES, BIS, Push e-mail POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP POP3, IMAP
Push Notifications Example Example Yes Example Example Yes Yes
Voice Recognition Example Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tethering Bluetooth, USB (carrier dependent), Wifi (with 3rd party software and "jail break") Wifi, USB, Bluetooth Mobile Hotspot (officially Verizon Wireless only) USB, Bluetooth, Wifi (with 3rd party software) USB, Bluetooth, Wifi USB, Bluetooth, Wifi (with 3rd party software microUSB, Bluetooth, Wifi microUSB, Bluetooth 3.0, Wifi
Text/Document Support text files, PDF, HTML
Audio Playback AAC (8 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), HE-AAC, MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV AAC LC/LTP 3GPP, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (enhanced AAC+), AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MP3 (Mono/Stereo 8-320 kbit/s constant or variable bit-rate, MIDI (MIDI Type 0 and 1. DLS Version 1 and 2., Ogg Vorbis, PCM/WAVE (8- and 16-bit linear PCM (rates up to limit of hardware), WAVE MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, QCELP, WAV MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WAV, WMA pro, AMR-NB, MIDI MP3, WAVE, WMA, AAC+, MIDI, AMR, eAAC+, FlAC, OGG All (some require optional debian packages) Most
Video Playback H.264 AVC, MPEG-4, M-JPEG H.263, H.264 AVC, MPEG-4 SP MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 H.263, H.264, WMV, MPEG4, MPEG4@ HD 720p 30fps, DivX, XviD MP4, WMV, H.263, H.264, DivX, WMV, XviD, 3gp All (some require optional debian packages) Many
Turn-by-turn GPS 3rd Party software Google Maps Navigation or 3rd Party software Carrier software, 3rd Party Software 3rd Party Software Bing Maps 3rd Party Software 3rd Party Software, manufacturers software free global Nokia Ovi Maps Samsung LBS (Route 66))
Video out VGA, up to 576p,480p 720p on select devices No None Device depending Nokia AV Out (PAL/NTSC) DLNA
Multitasking limited, iOS4 only Yes Yes Yes Yes (limited) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Desktop interactive widgets No Yes ? Yes Yes (through "live tiles") ? ? Yes Yes Yes
Support for hardware keyboard Yes (Bluetooth) Yes ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Videoconference front video camera Yes (Currently iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4 Only) Yes (Hardware Currently Available on Some Models) No No ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can share images via Bluetooth with all mobile No Yes No ? ? Yes Yes Yes Yes ?
Skype Yes Yes No ? ? Yes Yes Yes Yes ?
Facebook IM chat Yes ? 3rd party patch ? Yes Yes ? Yes Yes ?
ssh Jailbreaking Required and OpenSSH Installed (free from Cydia Application) Yes ? ? ? Yes ? Yes Yes ?
OpenVPN ? ? ? ? ? Yes ? Yes Yes ?
Remote Frame Buffer ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Yes Yes ?
Official SDK platform(s) Mac OS X Multiplatform Multiplatform Windows Windows Windows Windows GNU/Linux GNU/Linux Windows
Feature iOS Android webOS Windows Mobile Windows Phone 7 BlackBerry OS Symbian Maemo MeeGo Bada
Feature phone operating systems
Common operating systems for feature phones include Nokia OS with user interfaces S30 or S40. S40 offers APIs for Java ME.