Meet Alibaba YunOS: Third Most Popular Mobile Operating System


YunOS, also called Aliyun OS is a Linux distribution designed for smartphones and other devices based on the Android Open Source Project. In Chinese, the word ‘Yun’ means Cloud. It is developed by AliCloud, a subsidiary of Chinese company Alibaba Group.

According to research by ZenithOptimedia, YunOS is the third most popular mobile system, which comes after Android and iOS. YunOS was introduced in China on July 28, 2011. YunOS 5 ATOM is the latest version from the company!

Why YunOS Matters:

Alibaba-PassportYunOS revolves around the idea of bringing cloud functionality to mobile devices. YunOS features a cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates, and GPS navigation tools.

With unified accounts, the cloud services are available everywhere. One gets a cloud storage space which can be used for backup and sync personal data. YunOS supports backing up system settings that can be accessed online from any other platform. It also allows users to access applications from the Web, rather than download apps to their devices.

Through smart Cloud recognition and resource scheduling technologies, the devices running YunOS can accurately identify unwanted background programs/applications, set them low on priority and increase running speed of current applications by 30%, thereby giving users a smoother experience.

Alibaba YunOS - Aliyun OS

YunOS also has a built in system security app which includes – SMS payment protection, anti-phishing URL library, intelligent recognition in phone calls and text messaging, anti-virus application, ad blocker, etc.

YunOS System Security App

For a simpler UX for elders, YunOS also brings in a neat Senior mode which not only increases the fonts and icon sizes, but does a lot more stuff.

Alibaba YunOS Senior Mode

The AppStore on the YunOS is neat as well. You have apps in various categories, including ranks to choose from. Some of the Android applications crashed on load; not sure, what the real problem was. I will update, when I figure out a solution.

The YunOS is simple and content-centric.

How does Alibaba YunOS Work?

While there is a common myth that YunOS is a custom skin over Android, its different. It is a Linux platform based on the cloud running applications online. It synchronises multiple user devices and provides a good amount of cloud storage as well. The supporting contents and platform is pretty much aimed at attracting customers into the ecosystem of one company, Alibaba. 

A skin is an overlay that runs on top of the Android Operating System. It sometimes brings in more software enhancements, UI customisations and uniqueness to a brand. If you want more to know more, we reviewed Meizu Flyme few days ago.  

Cloud Services YunOSYunOS synchronises and stores call data, text messages, and photos in the cloud which can be accessed across other devices and computers.

Here is a simple illustration that shows the difference between the YunOS and Android.

The underlying most important part of the system is the kernel. This is completely open source. Many use this kernel to build the operating systems. To name a few, Android, Ubuntu, Firefox OS and YunOS.

The Board Support Package (BSP) helps connecting hardware and the system, similar to what BIOS does in the PC. The YunOS has 2 BSPs, one is for Android compatibility and the other is for its own system.

The virtual machine which runs the applications of each OS is entirely different. While Android runs on a Dalvik VM, the YunOS has a Ali Cloud VM implementation. Its reported that, Ali Cloud virtual machine offers around a 11% increase in performance when compared to the Dalvik VM.

Alibaba YunOS vs Android

YunOS has a app framework to run native apps and has an additional compatibility Framework to support running of Android apps. Furthermore, YunOS has its own cloud server framework which functions similar to Google Mobile Services (GMS) in Android. They work on their own with no support from any other Android apps.

On YunOS open platform – Ali accounts, payments, cloud storage system API, data services are all open for partners.

Top Features of the latest version of YunOS 5 Atom:

With Alibaba’s huge investments in Big Data technologies –  one can easily identify pictures and articles to get related digital contents. While surfing, you can easily jump to Taobao to buy among the million products available there.

YunOS 5 introduces a new interface with colour support, allowing users to customise the colours all through the system applications as well.

Colorful Screen YunOS 5 Atom

The Camera software has a Beauty mode which comes with real-time functionality. As crazy it sounds, with the operating intelligent assist in the search image by content and use, you can directly buy Beauty Supplies from Taobao.

The OS also supports facial recognition for device unlocks. It also introduces a Built-in intelligent assistant, that can detect motion data and operating habits of users and provide personalised advice.

The latest version also brings in the Qeexo’s gesture recognition technology – FingerSense, which can identify fingers, fingernails and knuckle’s touch responses. This is the same company which powers Huawei devices as well.

With this integration, developers and device OEMs have multiple options for customisations, including launching a shortcut menu to favourite or featured apps with a simple knuckle tap, Drawing letters to launch third-party apps from any screen. Knock to save a full screenshot or simply circle a section of the screen to crop, save, and share that section.

Qeexo also plans to include FingerAngle, that adds 3D touch capabilities to the mobile screen, and EarSense, which replaces physical proximity sensors for better performance and design. These new features will be available to YunOS developers through simple software updates.

Summing up:

There are a few devices that are available in China which runs this out of box. The company has also made the ROMs available for other devices as well; you can check the list of devices here. International readers, there is an installation package for Google’s Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 as well.

Understandably, most of the content is still in Chinese. Hopefully as the company prepares its expansion for other markets, we should start seeing International versions of the OS.

Alibaba YunOS running on a Xiaomi Mi4
I flashed the ROM for the Xiaomi Mi4. It was quite straight forward to do that. You just had to download the file and then flash it using TWRP.

YunOS integrates Alibaba Group’s Big Data, Cloud services and technological intelligent device operating systems which can be mounted on a smart phone, smart set-top boxes, Internet TV, smart home, smart car, smart wearable and other intelligent terminals.

The OS had around 40M active users around the end of last year and it aims to have 100M users by end of this year. The company is challenging the Android market in China and is also slowly looking to expand into Western markets.

Considering the fact that Google services isn’t available in China, Alibaba YunOS has obvious advantages over Android there. Along with running Android Apps, it also brings Ali’s e-commerce, Internet services, Cloud Storage and Content benefits for Chinese users.