With Samsung Electronics expected to unveil its first smartphone embedded with the Tizen operating system next month, a new competitor is set to join Android and Apple in the mobile OS market.
Industry watchers said small OS players such as Tizen, Firefox and Windows will increase their presence as demand for low-end smartphones increases, especially in developing countries.
Samsung's Tizen smartphones will reportedly roll out first in emerging countries including Russia and India, in an apparent move to avoid head-on competition with handsets running on premium operating systems ― Google's Android and Apple's iOS ― generally targeted to advanced markets.
Its first-generation smart watch Galaxy Gear and smart glasses Gear Blink will also reportedly sport the Tizen OS, an open-source platform developed in part by Samsung.
"The company's ultimate goal is to deploy its operating system in all of its wearable devices, smart electronics and home appliances," a Samsung source said.
Mozilla's Firefox, known for its open-source browser, has also expanded its mobile OS clout through its smartphone partners such as ZTE, Alcatel, Huawei and LG Electronics.
"Strictly speaking, Android is not completely open or free. Handset makers pay small fees and go through a somewhat complicated process to use Android and Google Play Store," said Huh Jun-sok, a senior researcher at the Korea Information Society Development Institute.
"This makes Firefox attractive for low-end handset makers in China and Taiwan. Firefox is more open and simple to use than Android."
Microsoft's Windows Phone also plans to extend its platform's reach into emerging markets with low-end smartphones, apart from the continued support from its Nokia unit.
The company secured deals with nine new partners including Lenovo, LG and ZTE at the Mobile World Congress in February.
There has also been speculation of Windows Phone going open-source. If so, it would be the more attractive OS to developers and users, industry watchers said.
The research firm ICD forecast that the Android platform would maintain the top spot in 2018 with a 76 per cent market share, down from 78.9 per cent this year.
Apple's iOS will drop to 14.4 per cent from 14.9 per cent.
Windows Phone will see its share rise to 7 per cent from 3.9 per cent. Other platforms such as Tizen and Firefox will see a minor increase, the research firm said.