Gone but not forgotten: a brief history of failed smartphone operating systems

We’ve taken some time to compile a short list of the most notable unsuccessful mobile platforms to celebrate the things they did right, despite their ultimate failure...
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69 Comments

4. Felix_Gatto

Posts: 942; Member since: Jul 03, 2013

Also Ubuntu Touch and Bada.

8. Bankz

Posts: 2548; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Symbian *bow*

10. krystian

Posts: 423; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

MS has been waiting for better tech to run full windows 10 on smartphones. They have also been creating tools to convert win32 apps to UWP and even provide easy ways to change the UI in order to make it touch friendly. Snap dragon 835 seems like the first chip able to handle full windows. Windows mobile was a transition os but the mobile shell will be integrated into the new cshell which will adapt based on how the device is being used. Part of why they retrenched to begin with because they have a lot of work to do. But that still doesn't mean it will catch on. They do have some pretty big plans though. I think Cellular 2-in-1's will come before any phone.

13. rocker91

Posts: 88; Member since: Dec 09, 2016

Yep I'm waiting for the cshell windows device hope it could run android apps I just hate the way android and ios looks and it's sad that there's no alternative

11. palmguy

Posts: 982; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

webOS. :'(

12. der_damo

Posts: 213; Member since: Sep 16, 2014

Some day, you can add Ubuntu Touch on that list. It's sad, I really like the approach :(

14. rocker91

Posts: 88; Member since: Dec 09, 2016

That sad moment when you realise most of these os has far more potential than android and ios particularly the meego which was ahead of its time

18. peace247 unregistered

Lol...keep dreaming

15. tokuzumi

Posts: 1907; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

WebOS was so awesome, but was destroyed by the crappy hardware. If WebOS would have been successful, makes me wonder how Android would have fared? Duarte, who came from Palm, was the major force behind the improvements in Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich.

22. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

The market isn't forgiving on 3rd OSes. That's why it's hard to penetrate market share between Android and iOS

62. tokuzumi

Posts: 1907; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

In 2009, Android wasn't that popular. iOS was still an AT&T exclusive. It was anyone's game at that point. I was super excited for the Palm Pre, until I saw the one my friend purchased. I hated the look and feel of the device. The poor design of the Pre was the sole reason I went with the HTC Hero on Sprint.

42. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Our esteemed author forgot to mention wireless charging (Touchstone) and tap-to-share as webOS firsts. I agree 100% about the crappy hardware though.

21. mahima

Posts: 731; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

Meego, how i wish nokia continues with that one wp was great but Microsoft was too slow in maintaining and giving features to wp

25. karll1

Posts: 23; Member since: Jun 12, 2013

You forgot Ubuntu Touch

27. mikehunta727 unregistered

Man I loved WebOS and Palm Pre Plus at the time... I had actually bricked it a long time ago because I had a hefty overclock on the CPU lol(went from like 600 mhz to about 1.0 GHZ)

28. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Android is successful f**kup. Goddamn Google Play Services...

31. newuser1

Posts: 276; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

windows 10 mobile is not dead yet, still get updated every week.

32. mr.gonse80

Posts: 10; Member since: Feb 05, 2015

I really hoped that WebOS would have gotten further than they did. It's a shame, IMO. I felt they would have been up there with Android and iOS. And to see Blackberry go down slowly in flames is something I thought I'd never live to see. I remember having Blackberries with the "Cream Spinach" screens and even the first Sidekick by Danger. Oh well.

35. monoke

Posts: 1162; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Failed but doesn't mean less capable. They were primarily victims of poor marketing, behind on apps dev and support, distribution etc. Hell, my N900 back then still multitasks better than nougat and latest ios for pete's sake! No reloads, ever. lol.

40. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You were ok until you tried to compare it with Android. That's where you went wrong. Liking how a phone performs a task doesn't mean it does it the best. Comparing a phone that had minimal tasks then to a phone that multi-tasks like your desktop is just plain dumb. Would you compare the gas mileage of a 67 Chevy to a Chevy today?

41. meanestgenius

Posts: 22107; Member since: May 28, 2014

So I take it that you've used an N900 to actually know what it's multitasking capabilities are? Or are you just speaking from ignorance?

45. monoke

Posts: 1162; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Dude Maemo/Meego was intrinsically built to multitask. There wasn't a frozen/restore state, no additional service to code in by app devs. No system decided closing due to ram allocation. Any and every app was actually running until u close it. Ex. youtube will run when u go to homescreen or it's audio playing when u lock screen. U open 10 apps one day, same 10 apps still running next day, no reloads what so ever. Who knows, maybe android does have more processes running in background or its battery conservation priorities which made android decide it's tasks running operation and random closures. What I do know is Meego was really efficient and uncomparable when it comes to multitasking. Even with its laughable ram amount when compared to today's phone, it still runs circles around any phone os i've seen to date.

49. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Android's multi-tasking in 2017 is vastly inferior to webOS from 2011. Your Chevy analogy is flawed on so many levels it's not worth arguing. Just so you know, today's engines are engineered for improved emissions while engines from the 60s and early 70s (pre-1972) were engineered for performance and featured higher mechanical efficiency per cubic inch than most of today's multi-cam, multi-valve buzzboxes.

36. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

What went wrong with Windows Phone, is not what you said PA. What went wrong with Windows Phone was first, Microsoft tried to make Windows Mobile a more consumer oriented platform, instead of sticking with the Windows Mobile features that many Enterprises had standardized on with Windows Mobile. Windows Phone dropped nearly all the legacy features and benefits Windows Mobile had. Even not having the ability to sync Outlook to Exchange was a big screw up. When people see Microsoft on a device that expect Enterprise compatibility and seamless integration with Exchange and other Microosft Windows/Office Enterprise related service. But Microsoft baseically abandon their core business in the Enterprise and tried to identifiy with consumers. This is never how Office or Windows was every marketed. Both were marketed to the Enterprise and business clients, and there users simply chose it because their work need a mobile device tightly integrated with the in-house platform. Bascially if your employer uses Windows, it was best you did too to ensure compatibility. The next thing that ruin Windows Phone was the fact, Microsoft rushed it as they were already 2 years behind. The OS was unfinished and was basically a new skin on top of Windows Mobile 6.5. The UI was totally screwed in that, it has a new UI on top, but then when you opened other included apps, you could see the old Windows CE/Mobile UI. Windows Mobile never had a lot of apps, but apps were made available ot it by 3rd party stores. When Microsoft tried to go the Microsoft App store route, they basically took away the best benefit of Windows, which was a platform anyone could make apps for and sell. The MS app store was bogged down by stupid guidelines and devs who normally made app for Windows on the desktop, simply didn't get into the mobile platform and MS has its own self to blame. The last issue with Windows Phone was Baller/ They were simply to late in the game. Like Apple is doing now, Microsoft rested on its laurels in that the Enterprise had standardized on Windows Mobile, due to its tight integration with Exchange and other Windows services. By the time Windows Phone 7 came, Enterprise had already start allowing users to bring their own phones and they simply set them up to work with Exchange. iOS and Android both licensed the use of Exchange plugins to insure those devices could pull email and other services offered by Exchange which is something Windows Phone was delayed in having.

37. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Nokia screwed up because they should have simply chose Android from the beginning. The main reason is Nokia had the world of cheap phones that basically were the Asian markets due to its cheap price. Android would have allow Nokia to keep the cheap pricing structure, and the Android UI would have been an easier transition from Symbian. But instead they signed a deal with the Devil whose intent was to drive them out of the game and hope all those people move to Windows Phone. It didn't work because those people simply bought Android devices from other brands. Blackberry screwed up the same way MS did. But not changing with time, not having an operating system evolution to move forward with their own offered services, and Blackberry also tried to be more consumer oriented instead of evolving its BBS services to the next decade of usage. They simply tried to evolve to slow. WebOS was simply a good idea poorly executed and having a device exclusive on Verizon is simply dumb! Meego I can't say much because I never followed it. Firefox OS was simply an experiment that never saw the light of day. I saw one demo of it and it looked like a browser on a mobile device, that had Meego icons. It had no future for several reasons. As far as apps making or breaking a platform. Its simply not entirely true. Palm OS, Blackberry OS, Symbian and Windows Mobile, none of them had apps stores or an abundance of apps. They simply had available what people need. What changed with Apple and Google, was the uptick of social media and how the devs jumped on those platforms to bring social media quickly. Apple didn't even have an app store. Apple got one after Cydia jailbroke the IOS platform to allow sideloading of apps, and Apple simply stole the app idea from them and closed it off and charges dev to make apps basically by taking a cut of sales. Which was something no other platform ever did. If Microsoft took a 30% cut for all the apps made for Windows, they would have more money than all combine governemnts. Because blog sites made such a big deal of iOS apps, the apps because a defacto standard by which a platform was made or broken. I was surprise Microsoft didn't get the same support on mobile as it did on the desktop. But again, when they tried to become consumer based and abandoning their business community which was 65% of their income, they messed up. What they should have did was make Windows Phone 7 Enterprise and Windows Phone 7 Consumer and made the Enterprise have all the support Windows Mobile had and the consumer version would have had more socialized approach to get consumers on board. But they abandon one group to try to get one they've never had. BAD MOVE!

38. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

cont'd...But based on what we've seen since 2010, most people basically download the same apps every year. Even though most app options offer millions of apps, only the most common are downloaded regularly. Theer are literally thousands of great apps on iOS and Android and even Windows Phone that are very well done and full of features. But because they are made by devs with less money who can't push their product to the top past the well known names, they get left out. Much like we see in the smartphone market. Other brands make good devices, but the money from names like Apple, Samsung and Sony for example, take top position on sites like these and the other companies never get any play or advertisement.

39. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

I wouldnt say WP Is DEAD yet.. Its possible given its unique OS to rise from the ashes as Win10 has gained popularity. So the UI Is accepted. It really will come down to surface phone. Will it be a WIN10 computer in a form factor or the repeat of WindowsRT ( Forgot to mention that failure ). As a 950XL user that STILL prefers WP over Android or iPhone.. I think there is a chance. But they have to make it be both a phone and a PC with contimum. If surface phone is just a good looking WP and there is no major change. It will die. The one thing though that is being forgotten as well is WindowsCE AND Win10 on ARM are doing a LOT of business in the backend as a goto OS for the IoT. Also unlike all the other dead OSs, MS is making money off android and as long as they want to support WP for vanity reasons they can and there are enough followers to keep it alive if only barely.

43. ojz0r

Posts: 22; Member since: Dec 30, 2013

Ironically, Microsoft killed two of these; WP/WM, ofcourse, but also Meego thanks to the insider from MS. I was extreamly disapointed and sad when nokia stopped developing Meego. That would have been my choice of device after my nokia N8. Even bigger disapointment was the merging of Maemo and Moblin. Maemo had such potential! Running Linux straight up with a phone UI with the full support for real Linux desktop applications. Its a shame that c*nt Elop f*cked it up.

44. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

I think one of the issues with WebOS is that it launched on such tiny phones (even back then). The big one had a 3.1" diagonal display, the small just 2.6". They seemed to be obsessed with SMALL. Can you imagine a screen that is basically ¼th the size of an upcoming Galaxy S8?

54. nghtwng68

Posts: 108; Member since: Nov 26, 2009

GREAT ARTICLE! What a great summary and story of mobile OS platforms of the recent past. From a creative gem (WebOS), the great concept (Meego), innovative interface (Windows OS), security stronghold (Blackberry) to a diamond in the rough (Firefox OS), each OS was unique in its own way. Would be nice if there was another mobile OS to compete with iOS and Android, but they too well too polish to compete against right now. Thanks Phone Arena on a well done article.
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