Mozilla’s New Firefox OS For Phones Interestingly May Have A Chance In Long-Run

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Mozilla’s New Firefox OS For Phones Interestingly May Have A Chance In Long-Run

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Back in July when Mozilla released its first phone running its new Firefox OS, joining leading mobile operating systems Android and iOS, as well as Windows and Blackberry, tech experts around the world considered it a late move. Now the company is trying to catch up.

New Mozilla Firefox OS which came on ZTE Open and Alcatel OneTouch Fire, are very basic phones with 3.5-inch screens, entry-level specs and appealingly low price tags.

TechCrunch has had a chance to review both the phones and their First Impressions of Firefox OS suggests that it still needs some polish around many edges.

But its good to see that the new Firefox OS focuses on web apps, it’s pretty straightforward to use Facebook and Twitter, manage your email and text messages or to listen to music or the radio (and, of course, make phone calls).

“The phone is meant to fill what Mozilla believes is a ‘massive gap in the mobile space.’ Right now, the organization rightly argues, mobile connectivity to the web is only for ‘the rich people in the modern world.’ Android and iOS devices aren’t even available in many parts of the world, and the fact that you often need a credit card to fully use them puts them out of reach for a large number of potential users, especially in developing countries. The ZTE Open (and Firefox OS itself) then is targeted at a market that is not covered by other phones” Christian Heilmann, Mozilla’s Principal Developer Evangelist told TechCrunch.

firefox os screens

On Firefox OS, developers get two options for distributing their apps: they can do so from their own website or — as so-called “privileged apps” — through Mozilla’s marketplace. For security reasons, apps that are distributed outside of Mozilla’s store, however, don’t get full access to all of the device’s hardware features (geolocation, gyros, etc.).

If you are a developer who wants to port existing mobile web apps to Firefox OS, the whole procedure is extremely easy and doesn’t involve much more than writing a manifesto to package it for Firefox OS.

Apps that want to use the platform to its full potential, of course, take a bit more work, but even there, the focus on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript opens the platform up to a wide range of developers who wouldn’t previously have considered writing apps for smartphones (similar to what Microsoft is doing with HTML5 on its Windows platform).

firefox os

App discovery is one of the cooler features of Firefox OS. Just swipe all the way to the left-most screen and you get a search bar. Type in something like “photography” and the screen will show you apps you already have installed on your device and a list of related service. For photography, this list includes the likes of Flickr, Picasa, Pinterest and Tumblr, for example. Type in “music” and you get links to SoundCloud, YouTube, Metro Lyrics, MTV, and many others. Click on any of these, and you’re taken right to these service’s web apps. If you like them, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to pin them to your home screen.

Overall then, the ZTE Open with Firefox is an interesting first look at the potential of Firefox OS. The operating system definitely has a chance to be successful in the long run.

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Hitesh Arora
Hitesh Arora