By Fawad Hassan
Before explaining anything about Firefox OS, I want to discuss few limitations of Android and iOS platforms.
What Happened to Android and iOS?
You maybe wondering why a new mobile OS? Isn’t Android and iOS enough to meet our needs? The reality is there’s always room for improvement and innovation even in saturated markets like mobile operating system. There are many problems that are needed to be fixed in both operating systems. Following are few of the problems:
- Both Android and iOS are resource hungry. To have best experience with them, you need high end phone.
- High end phones are not affordable by everyone. So you can say they are designed for rich people.
- Resource hungry also means consuming more battery. They don’t have good battery life.
- Your phone is not upgradable to every new release of Android or iOS. Just because with every new release, you need a higher specs device to run it smoothly. So after few releases you are out of scene!
- Left behind on older versions means you can’t run new version of apps because they require you to upgrade to particular version of the OS.
- You are forced to download apps only from their marketplaces. Only Apple and Google are making money from this. What about network operators? What if someone like us want to build their own marketplace?
What’s Firefox OS
Firefox OS is 100% open source HTML5 based mobile OS developed by Mozilla Foundation (non-profit organization). The idea behind it is to make web as the native platform for mobile. Every app in it is developed using HTML5 including the Home Screen, Phone Dialer, SMS, Contacts, everything you see on the screen is developed using HTML5.
In Firefox OS, only browser engine runs above the kernel and device drivers and all apps are executed by that browser engine. Think this way. You have an OS which runs only a browser engine and that browser engine runs all the apps.
Problems that Firefox OS Solves?
Because of this architectural design, Firefox OS consume very less resources. Consuming less resources means many things.
- It can run smoothly on low-end devices.
- Of course low and mid range phones are less expensive than the high-end phones. So you can say Firefox OS hardware will be much cheaper than Android and iOS. Everyone can afford it easily.
- Firefox OS devices will have much longer battery life because of less resource consumption.
Few other problems that Firefox OS solves.
- Your phone never gets obsolete because web is the native platform. New version of apps will run easily even on your older hardware
- You are not forced to download apps from Mozilla’s market place. You can add any web app on the internet as native app if the developer has added a small manifest file in the root dir of that app. You can even create your own market place.
- Imagine a word in your mind and try searching it in App Discovery interface of Firefox OS, it will give you high quality chosen apps from all over the internet. This truly unlocks the power of web on mobile.
Many of you will argue that Android and iOS are superior because of the ecosystem and the magnitude and quality of apps they offer. Well, I do agree that Firefox isn’t anywhere in the radar yet. But look at the openness of the platform and the potential apps for Firefox platform. It may take some time but ultimately Firefox will be placed best to beat the competition.
Not to forget Linux, which always struggled with Windows in terms of applications – but it is still one of the top competitors of Microsoft’s Windows.
Can I Buy Firefox OS Phone?
Firefox OS will see the light of the day in summer this year and Mozilla’s initial target is to launch the OS for low-end devices in developing countries, specifically the Latin America and few European countries. The only devices that are available now are Keon and Peak. Both of these devices are developer preview phones and manufactured by Spanish startup Geeksphone and the good news is that they are shipping them worldwide.
Keon is priced at 91 Euro (12,000 PKR) and Peak at 149 Euro (20,000 PKR). Just to mention that entire stock of these devices was sold out in just few hours after the launch. But Geeksphone promised to bring them back as soon as possible on there online store.
Other brands who will manufacture Firefox phones are Alcatel, Huawei, LG, Sony, and ZTE. Few months ago, Sony released Firefox OS experimental ROM for Xperia E. Alcatel and ZTE are targeting extremely low-end phones. You can check the demo of Firefox OS running on ZTE Open. ZTE Open has 256MB of RAM and 1GHz single core processor but still you can see from the demo how smooth it’s running on such low spec phone.
You maybe wondering why Samsung is not manufacturing Firefox OS phones. Actually they are developing their own OS called Tizen. Maybe at the end of this year or next year, you will see Tizen devices in market from Samsung too.
Why Support Mozilla?
Mozilla is non-profit and I fully support their philosophy of Open Web. About 50% of their source code is written by volunteers. Not only there products are open but also every single web page of there products is open. They have always promoted open technologies and never did anything bad to create monopoly.
Mozilla also won the Most Trusted Internet Company in Privacy award. Do you really believe in Google, Apple, Facebook or Microsoft in same way? I don’t!
Thanks to Mozilla and all the volunteers who worked hard to keep the mobile platform open and promoting use of open technologies to develop mobile apps.