6 Linux-based mobile operating systems

Android, yes. But also, Sailfish, Ubuntu, Tizen, and more.

Linux phone
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya
Linux phones

Linux pretty much owns modern computing. Everything from mighty supercomputers to puny routers run on Linux -- in many cases users aren't even aware they're using Linux.

One area where Linux clearly dominates the consumer space is smartphones.

Here we have picked some popular, promising and new mobile operating systems powered by Linux and open source technologies

Android 1
Android

Google's Android is clearly the king of mobile operating systems. After a humble beginning, it has overtaken Apple's iOS in terms of functionality, features and openness.

Thanks to its open source model, anyone can take Android code and create their own customized operating system. That's what Amazon has done for its Fire tablets, mobile phones and other devices.

Cyanogen also took Android code and created its own Cyanogen OS. Unfortunately, they went a step further and said they will take Android away from Google. That goes against the spirit of open source -- you can’t take 'open source' away from anyone.

Firefox OS
Firefox OS

Initially called Boot to Gecko (or B2G), Mozilla's Firefox OS is a Linux-based open source mobile operating system that adheres to open standards and offers HTML5 applications.

The company has signed deals with carriers and hardware vendors such as LG, ZTE, Panasonic, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, etc to sell the devices in select markets.

Firefox OS has gone beyond smartphones; Panasonic recently offered a smart TV powered by Firefox OS.

Sailfish OS
Sailfish OS

Sailfish OS was created by team of Nokia developers who came together to create a company called Jolla after ex-Microsoft executive Stephen Elop joined the company as a CEO. Elop shut down all open source projects at Nokia, including its own mobile operating system MeeGo.

Jolla developed Sailfish OS from the ashes of MeeGo. The only downside of Sailfish OS is that it does have many proprietary components, most notably the UI. Sailfish runs on top of open source Mer and is technically capable of running apps written for the traditional Linux desktop.

Ubuntu Phone
Ubuntu Touch

Canonical has been working on going beyond its desktop business for a while now. The company is also trying to create a convergence story where the same code base would run across devices.

The company announced its mobile OS Ubuntu Touch a while back and enjoyed the released of the first device running Ubuntu Phone this year -- though it was a repurposed Android device.

Plasma Mobile
Credit: KDE Community
Plasma Mobile

Plasma Mobile is the newest member to the family of Linux-based operating systems. The OS was announces during a KDE event called Akademy. The KDE community released a prototype of the OS running on Google's Nexus 5 device.

It runs on Kubuntu and uses the much talked about Wayland display services.

Unlike other operating systems, Plasma is trying to be more inclusive and can run apps written for Ubuntu phones as well as Android.

Looking at the reputation of the KDE community to stick to open standards, this could be, along with Firefox OS, the most 'open' mobile operating system.

Tizen
Tizen

Tizen is more or less is an Intel project that has died and been resurrected time and again -- from Mobiln to Maemo to Meego, to LiMO and now Tizen.

After Elop shut every door on open source at Nokia, Intel and Samsung came together to create Tizen, a mobile operating system that can run not only on mobile phones and tablets but also on smartwatches.

The good news about Tizen is that it's hosted by the Linux Foundation and we have started to see some Tizen devices from Samsung. The bad news: It seems only Samsung is interested in Tizen so far.