2013 was an interesting year – in theory. What I mean by that is 2013 saw a lot of activity in the theoretical mobile market. Theoretical because not many of the newcomers who stood up to be recognized actually had any kind of hardware that people could, you know, hold and use. But now that 2014 has rolled around, many of these emerging mobile platforms have actually started coming up with some promising looking stuff and we thought, with the dawn of the new year, we’d give them a look and see what we might expect.
Many of the new kids on the block can be categorized into one of two areas – has beens, or never was’s. Some of these companies are trying to rebuild themselves into something they once were. Others are looking at what has been accomplished thus far by other successful OEMs and looking to duplicate the success by doing something completely different. What could possibly go wrong with that? So who’s looking to add another tab to Pocketnow’s web site? Let’s have a look.
Blackberry actually already has a tab on Pocketnow. It’s not one that many people take seriously, but it has a tab. Blackberry has managed to survive in the mobile space against all odds and despite predictions by every editor and reporter who has ever tapped key on keyboard in the pursuit of technology news entertainment. In 2013, Blackberry brought us some fairly decent hardware with a couple of neat value adds, but interest in the once dominant platform had waned over the previous two years of nothing. Which isn’t surprising considering once you take two years off, it’s awfully hard to get back to anything, let alone work. So Blackberry goes down in the annals as the Wally Pipp of the mobile industry.
Our next candidate actually qualifies as both as has been and a never was. Jolla is the group that split off from Nokia in order to strike out on its own after Nokia decided to slip in between the sheets and spoon with Microsoft. Sailfish OS is a gesture based operating system that is a little on the non-intuitive side, and the Sailfish phone that came out in 2013 wasn’t very US-friendly. It’s not as if the land of the free and home of the brave is mandatory turf for a smart phone, but it sure as heck helps. Sailfish has a few questions to answer, not the least of which is app development, but we were relatively impressed in our initial impressions of this up and comer.
Firefox OS is another one of those new kids on the block that isn’t so new. Indeed ZTE has a Firefox OS phone available on the open market for a pretty low price. Our limited experience with the OS has certainly left something to be desired – indeed, we were so thoroughly unimpressed, we haven’t talked about it – like at all. But the model of HTML5 built apps is not so far away from our own webOS affections and an intriguing business model. If only they’d put the OS on hardware that doesn’t suck.
A much more intriguing possibility is the upcoming Ubuntu phone. Ubuntu Touch interesting on multiple levels including a record-setting kickstarter campaign that failed to meet its goal. The Ubuntu Edge phone had a lot going for it, including top tier specs and a fun value add of being able to convert into a desktop computer with the addition of a monitor mouse and keyboard.
It followed the same general user interface as it’s Desktop-based cousin and had a fairly large installed user base who already uses the Desktop version of the software. Ubuntu Touch’s other value add was and seems to still be the ability to boot alongside Android, which means that you can support the platform, but not sacrifice apps in a crunch. Not that dual-booting anything is ever a solution in my book, but hey, what do I know? Anyway, Ubuntu and Canonical have already announced that there will be hardware this year, so of our various contenders, my money is on this one.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention CyanogenMod. CyMo has already released a phone, of a sort. Manufacturer Oppo released its Oppo N1 phone with CyanogenMod pre-installed in a special box, and even some stickers for the kiddies! The phone as some pretty beefy specs on it, but a release and announcement on Christmas Eve probably wasn’t the best marketing strategy on the planet – although it’s nothing compared to Easter Sunday, eh Michael Fisher? But seeing what CyMod will bring in 2014 will be interesting, though why anyone would buy a phone with CM on it when it’s not that hard to install it on your own, I don’t know. Seems to be two differing strategies here. “Let’s make it so easy to install everyone installs it” and “Let’s put it on a phone so people don’t have to install it themselves.” Well, if it’s so easy….nevermind.
So there’s a bit of a rundown of some of the up and comers we see on the horizon, charging the castle that iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are safely ensconced in. Do any of these contenders ring your bell? Perhaps there’s another platform you’re watching – any Smartisian fans out there? Sound off in the comments below and let us know who you’ve got your money on.