We are down to just two operating systems for mobile phones (tablets too) Android and iOS.

Android is controlled by Google, no OEM phone maker that wants to do business globally will defy Google and try and fork it.  Android and a lot of the most popular apps tells Google everything it can about you and your every move.  In otherwords it leaks your privacy out like a sieve.

iOS is proprietary from Apple.  It’s a walled garden.  You do it Apple’s way or STFU.  It is probably more private than Android.  And it works.

That’s it. No other choices.

Long term the only other chances for a mobile OS come from Linux and here are the ones I’m aware of.

Sailfish – spun off from Nokia’s flirtation with Linux, this one does not seem to be gaining traction.  And it seems like the US is always being left out of release plans.  No OEM has adopted it. You can download it and try and install it on a couple of old model compatible phones.

KDE Plasma Mobile – it’s hard to tell how far along this Linux based OS is.  The screen shots are nice. (See notes for Librem 5 below.)

UBports Ubuntu Touch – This community effort seems to be making big strides.  When Ubuntu gave up on Ubuntu Mobile they turned it over to a volunteer community UBports who have been working away ever since.  It comes with a couple hundred apps and web apps, plus anything that the browser can handle.  If I were a phone OEM, I’d have my eye on this.  You can download this now and install it on several old model phones.  Some have an installation wizard.  (See notes for Librem 5 below.)

Puri.sm Librem 5 – this is actually a real phone hardware not just an OS.  The OS is Linux adapted to mobile.  The last I heard, the plan is that the Librem 5 will come with Purism’s mobile OS installed by default, but it will be fully compatible with UBports Touch and Plasma Mobile.  No word on how easy it will be to install any one of these.  Launch has been delayed from January 2019 to April 2019.  I’m hoping this is the point of the spear and proves very successful so that other OEM’s become interested in Linux phones.

Linux needs to get into mobile where all the growth is.  It can’t just stay on the desktop.  There may be others but these seem to be the furthest along.

The number of Linux distributions available just keeps getting bigger. In fact, in the time it took me to write this sentence, another one may have appeared on the market. Many Linux flavors have trouble standing out in this crowd, and some are just a different combination of puzzle pieces joined to form something new: An Ubuntu base with a KDE desktop environment.

Source: Robolinux Lets You Easily Run Linux and Windows Without Dual Booting | Linux.com | The source for Linux information

If you’ve heard about Linux, then you know about the most popular version for desktop users: Ubuntu. But which flavor of Ubuntu is right for you?

Source: 8 Ubuntu Flavors Compared: Kubuntu vs. Lubuntu vs. Xubuntu vs. MATE vs. Budgie vs. Studio vs. Kylin

In 2017 Linux computer maker System76 introduced their own flavor of Linux called Pop!_OS and started offering it as an option alongside Ubuntu as the pre-installed OS on their computers.  I have been using Pop!_OS (that is a pain in the ass to type) for a few weeks and finally got the opportunity to compare it to the newest Ubuntu version side by side.  Here is what I think.

Pop OS – System76 markets this for professional creators.  By that I think they mean people who use Linux professionally every day, know what software they will use and don’t want a lot of distractions.  And the Pop OS pretty much does this.  You don’t have to uninstall a bunch of programs you will never use.  The software store is a bit spartan, and does not offer as wide a range of choices in software as  Ubuntu.  The core Gnome desktop software is there along with some other programs.  Program descriptions are pretty sketchy in many instances but you can get by.

Take System76 at their word.  Pop OS is for the pros.  It is rock solid and workmanlike and a mainstream user can get by (especially if they Duckduck third party Linux how to articles).  In other words it does not suck.  People switching from Windows or macOS should use Ubuntu.

Ubuntu – One noticeable thing: right out of the box and unlike Pop OS, Ubuntu has proper Minimize, Maximize, Close buttons on the top right of each program window.  No horsing around, Ubuntu is ready to be a desktop OS and a replacement for Windows or macOS.  The Ubuntu software store (repository) has a lot more choices in software available, better icons and better more complete descriptions. Pros won’t care but mainstream users will appreciate the extra choices.  Even better Ubuntu has gone back to the Gnome 3 UI and dumped that awful Unity UI.  Win!

If you are a mainstream computer user or are moving to Linux from Windows or macOS, of the two, get Ubuntu. You will be happier.

All that said, I don’t regret my purchase of Pop OS.  It is perfectly competent and serves my needs.  It is rock solid like Linux is supposed to be.  While I don’t put myself in the creator class, once I find a program I like and does the job I pretty much stick with it. Which is what Pop OS was aiming for.  Either way, I am happy with my System76 hardware it is good quality and they have good support.

Added 4 September 2018

I’m downgrading my opinion of Pop_OS.  I am now encountering my 3rd problem with it that is going to require contacting Support.  System 76 support is excellent BTW.  But one problem locked down the whole computer and took nearly a week of back and forth command line stuff to fix.  4 days later a new problem cropped up with stuck system updates.

When this computer’s warranty runs out I will overwrite and install Ubuntu.

I really like System 76 hardware and support. I highly recommend it.  For now I only recommend you get Ubuntu installed as the OS.