Gone are the days when mobile phones were just a device to make phone calls and send occasional texts. Modern smartphones are closer to handheld computers that enable us to send emails, play games, watch the news and make video calls to loved ones. And much more besides.

Any idea what makes you able to close programs in your Android phone by simply swiping them away? Or allowing you to tap on the screen to open a program, pinch your fingers together to minimize or enlarge an image, or swipe your finger across the screen to change pages in an iPhone? Or the tile-based interface – dubbed Metro – in a Windows Phone? All this is possible because of the “Mobile Operating System”!

A mobile operating system, also called a mobile OS, is an operating system that is specifically designed to run on mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, PDAs, tablet computers and other handheld devices. Just like Desktop OS, Mobile OS helps manage hardware and software resources and provides common services for application programs. Let’s have a look at some of the common Mobile Operating Systems

Apple iOS

Who hasn’t heard about an iPhone? Created and developed by Apple Inc. and distributed exclusively for Apple hardware, iOS is the operating system that presently powers many of the company’s mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. A special version of the software is what powers the Apple Watch too. It comes with the Safari web browser for internet use, an iPod application for playing music and Apple’s Mail for managing your emails. It is the second most popular mobile operating system platform in the world by sales, after Android.

Introduced on 29th June 2007 when the first iPhone was developed, iOS has under gone many upgrades and currently the latest one is the iOS 9.3 public beta 2 – with enhanced performance, battery life and security.

Google Android

Currently developed by Google, based on the Linux kernel and designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices – Android OS was initially developed by Android Inc., which Google bought in 2005. Android was unveiled in 2007, along with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance – a consortium of hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.

September 20th, 2008 was the date when Google released the first Android OS by the name of ‘Astro’. After sometime next upgraded versions ‘Bender’ and ‘Cupcake’ were also released. Google then adopted the trend of naming Android versions after any dessert or a sweet in alphabetical order. The other releases are Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Marshmallow (Android 6.0) is so far the latest Android version from Google.

Android is an open source operating system which allows developers to access unlocked hardware and develop new programs as they wish. This means unlimited access to anyone who wants to develop apps for the phone and places very little restriction on its licensing, so users benefit from masses of free content.

Android is currently the dominant smartphone platform due to its tremendous traction with a wide spectrum of users. The success of Android has made it a target for patent litigation as part of the so-called “smartphone wars” between technology companies.

Microsoft ‘Windows Phone’

Developed by Microsoft as the replacement successor to Windows Mobile and Zune, Microsoft released a hugely revamped version of its Windows platform for mobiles in October 2010 ‘Windows Phone’, after its software fell behind iOS and Android. Windows Phone features a new user interface derived from Metro design language. Windows Phone 8.1 was the last public release of the operating system, released to manufacturing in April 2014.

Nokia Lumia series is completely windows based.

Blackberry OS

A proprietary mobile operating system first released in 1999 by BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research in Motion Limited (RIM), Blackberry OS provides multitasking and supports specialized input devices that have been adopted by BlackBerry Ltd. for use in its handhelds, particularly the trackwheel, trackball, and most recently, the trackpad and touchscreen. RIM has developed this operating system for its Blackberry line of smartphones. Like Apple, Blackberry OS is a close source OS and is not available for any other manufacturer.

BlackBerry OS was discontinued after the release of BlackBerry 10, but BlackBerry will continue support for the BlackBerry OS. BlackBerry 10 is based on QNX, a Unix-like operating system that was originally developed by QNX Software Systems until the company was acquired by BlackBerry in April 2010. By early 2013, when the company’s QNX embedded Unix-based BlackBerry 10 OS finally arrived it was too little, too late.


LG’s WebOS, also known as Open WebOS, HP WebOS, or Palm WebOS, (stylized as WebOS) is a Linux kernel-based multitask operating system for smart devices like TVs, and smartwatches; and was formerly a mobile operating system. Initially developed by Palm, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard, HP made the platform open source, and it became Open WebOS. The operating system was later sold to LG Electronics. HP still had plenty of patents related to WebOS. In 2014, Qualcomm has announced that it has acquired technology patents from HP, which includes the WebOS patents.

Ubuntu Touch

Ubuntu Touch (also known as Ubuntu Phone) is a mobile version of the Ubuntu operating system developed by Canonical UK Ltd and the Ubuntu community. It is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

Ubuntu Touch was released to manufacturers on 16 September 2014. BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, the world’s first Ubuntu-based smartphone went on sale in Europe on 9 February 2015. In May 2015 the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition went on sale in China, becoming the second Ubuntu phone.


An open-source platform developed by the now defunct Symbian Foundation in 2009, as the successor of the original Symbian OS, Symbian was used by many major mobile phone brands, like Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and above all by Nokia.

It was briefly the most popular smartphone OS on a worldwide average until the end of 2010 – at a time when smartphones were in limited use, when it was overtaken by Android. On 11 February 2011, Nokia announced that it would use Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS as its primary smartphone platform, whilst Symbian would be gradually wound down. In January 2014 Nokia stopped accepting new or changed Symbian software from developers, effectively terminating its support of the operating system.

Samsung BADA

Like others, Samsung also owns an operating system that is known as BADA. It is designed for mid-range and high-end smartphones. Bada is a quiet user-friendly and efficient operating system, much like Android, but unfortunately Samsung did not use Bada on a large scale for unknown reasons.

Samsung announced in June 2012 intentions to merge Bada into the Tizen project. On 25 February 2013, Samsung announced that it will stop developing Bada, moving development to Tizen instead.

All Bada-powered devices were branded under the Wave name.


Based on the Linux kernel and the GNU C Library implementing the Linux API, Tizen (The OS of Everything) targets a very wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices, smart TVs, PCs, smart cameras, wearable computing (such as smartwatches), Blu-ray players, printers and smart home appliances. Its purpose is to offer a consistent user experience across devices. Tizen is a project within the Linux Foundation and is governed by a Technical Steering Group (TSG) composed of Samsung and Intel among others.

The Tizen Association was formed to guide the industry role of Tizen, including requirements gathering, identifying and facilitating service models, and overall industry marketing and education.

Samsung released the Tizen-based Samsung Z1 smartphone to the Indian market in January 2015.

Palm OS

Palm OS was developed by Palm Inc. in 1996 especially for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistance). Palm OS was designed to work on touchscreen GUI. Some Years later it was upgraded and was able to support smartphones. Unfortunately, it could not make a mark on the market and currently is not being used in any of the latest top devices.

Firefox OS

Firefox OS is an open-source operating system made for smartphones, tablet computers and smart TVs -designed by Mozilla and external contributors, based on the rendering engine of their Firefox web browser and the Linux kernel.

On December 8, 2015, Mozilla announced that it will stop sales of Firefox OS smart phones through carriers.

These are / were the most popular ‘Mobile Operating Systems‘. If you have any other to add, please feel free to comment below…