Why and How Firefox OS is Better than Android and iOS?

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.

  1. It can run smoothly on low-end devices.
  2. 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.
  3. Firefox OS devices will have much longer battery life because of less resource consumption.

Few other problems that Firefox OS solves.

  1. Your phone never gets obsolete because web is the native platform. New version of apps will run easily even on your older hardware
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Firefox Apps:

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.

About the Author: Fawad Hassan believes in open software and he’s avid fan of Ubuntu and Firefox OS. He’s a JavaScripter who loves to work with both JavaScript based front-end (web and mobile) and back-end (Node.js). He writes mostly about JavaScript on his blog iFadey.

  • Personally, I do not think that Firefox OS poses any real threat to Android or iOS, at least not in near-future, that is. These giants have worked hard for years to maintain their supremacy and it will be long before any new technology like that of FOS can over-take them. Personal opinion!

    • but who knew android will be a success , it came with a blast , and one of the reasons was that it was an open source OS , now this FOS is giving more felxibility than android so i think it is going to reach high scales very soon, also rich to poor ratio is probably 1:3 and since FOS is “poor” friendly it ll reach to ppl more than iOS or android

      • Do you really think Android got popular because it’s open source ? How many android users do you think know ( or even care ) if it’s open source or not ?

        I belive the success of Android is because it was cheaper than iOS devices, while delivering good performance.

    • I agree with Shameel here. Every new product is always criticized and people think it will not succeed because major players are already in market.

      But your analysis is also correct. It will not immediately put a dent on iOS or Android market. As I have written in the post, that they will launch with low-end devices so initially it will kill featured phones (like Nokia Asha series) because Firefox OS based smartphone will be affordable by everyone. Secondly it will kill low-end Android phones because this where Android really sucks! To have great experience with Android, you will definitely need phones like S3, S4, Xperia Z, HTC One, etc…

      Then starting from next year (2014), they will definitely high-end market.

      I can’t say anything about iOS because Apple is a tough player in this market and the people who buy Apple are there die hard fans.

    • HA ha ha ha You are so funny.

      Look, Firefox OS isn’t competing with Android and iOS, just like Chromebooks are not competing with Dell Ultrabooks and Mac Airs.

      • you are all right…
        however market is open for all…
        if some thing like this comes for normal + high end users… it would be welcomed in future if it meets the expectations of people.. Android and iOS and near to perfect but not perfect…. that’s why there is a chance of change in future…

  • True. But, with Android you can use other app stores too. And you can install apps from other sources (it’s a check in settings). iOS don’t (if not jailbreaked).

    • Thanks for that information. I didn’t knew about it :) I will definitely take a look at it.

  • One company which really needs an operating system like Firefox OS is Nokia. With Asha line of phones starting to disappoint and smart-phone exports beating feature-phone ones, there is a time coming when even the lowest-end phone will need some kind of smart-phone technology. With a smaller footprint than the rest, Firefox OS has a lot to gain and Nokia has not much to lose. And, if I am not wrong, Android is open-sourcish too. So, we may see apps porting-in very quickly or a dedicated ‘Android App Player’.

    • Nokia signed their “END DOCUMENT” when they decided to go for crappy Windows Phone OS. Combine Nokia hardware with Android and you have got a winner!

      Fact is, Nokia’s got no one else to blame themselves for countless stupid and non-sense decisions that’s put Nokia behind their competition. Apple and Android earned their places. It was Nokia’s game to lose and they did.

  • HTML5 has certain limits and shortcoming , Apps written on HTML5 suck that’s why tech giants like Facebook,LinkedIn have abondoned it and moved to native apps for faster and smooth approach. The implementation of HTML5 isn’t uniform. It varies browser to browser. So considering Mozllla OS a threat to iOS and Android isn’t a worthy idea.

  • +1 for the article. I have HTC Explorer which is a low end phone and low end phones like this really need a lighter OS. I had been waiting to see Firefox OS coming to my phone too and I am glad that developers are on their way to port Firefox OS to low end phones. These are some screenshots of initial build of Firefox OS for HTC Explorer.

      • I recommend not to do so because Firefox OS is not stable yet for daily use. Mozilla is working hard to release first stable version in summer (maybe at the end of July or after that). Wait for the final release so you can fully enjoy using FOS without any issues :)

  • actually whenever a new OS is released, it introduces lot of feature but with the passage of time, we come to know what are the pros or cons of this. i think its too early to compare firefox OS with android and iOS.

  • Will it be possible for us to uninstall android from HTC and install FOS in future? I thing now cell phone should be sold with default OS and its should be left to user to install Android,FOS or iOS.
    What you guys think?

  • dnt cmpare andriod with ios cz ios is much better. ios support older devices n hardware u can evn upgrade iphone 3gs to ios 6. and andriod dnt support thr older devices.

  • Very Nicely written Topic…

    Bro you are very right up to the extent, but do believe me it is not the requirement of the OS to consume more memory, But the apps which user will be going to install on them. and Phone manufacturer have to put more memory for apps to be developed for the phone.

    WP8, iOS are the major OS up till now which works absolutely fine on 512 MB of ram with normal applications. Even Iphone 5 the latest one comes with 1GB of RAM and so the Lumia 920. But Android ones have too much of hardware resources for a smartphone. like SIII have 2GB of RAM and what purpose it is its a big question for me too?

    For Android there are limitations for RAM for the newer versions, as the OS require more RAM and CPU utilization. However, the point comes, Resource optimization. app developed for the Android are not properly optimized because of its non standardizing of app submission to the marketplace. (e.g if i develop an app and it consumes 512MB of ram and don;t free up when closed) may result in memory saturation will be published on market easily.

    as far as i know, any iPhone can be upgraded to latest version of iOS iPhone 3GS can be upgraded to latest iOS 6.1.3.

    Besides iPhone 2 cannot be, and if you say it should then bro Technology cannot be stopped. one have to upgrade to the new Phone after 5 Years :P

    for Windows Phone 8, its new and time will be required to settle it up with market situations. between i have used it and i am really fan of it as well, Great Effort by M$.

    Now About FOS, as far as current market situation of Pakistan, FOS cannot beat iOS and Andriod not even windows phone can, just not because FOS are mid range cheap phones But becasue it is Pakistani awam. ya election ma vote apne soch sa naee data tu phone kaya dakh kar lain ga :P

    • Also, for me freeware is more attractive then open source, just because there should be someone to held accountable for vulnerabilities.

      • I disagree with you here. About more than 80% of world class software is open source. Even Apple uses some pieces of open source software in iOS and OS X. Don’t believe me? Check license agreement in your Apple devices. Safari’s browser engine (webkit) is also open source. Android, Firefox OS, Ubuntu, Gimp, Inkscape, Blender, Filezilla, Firefox browser, VLC Media Player, jQuery, Node.js/Express.js, Backbone.js, Eclipse IDE, …

        It will take days to write the complete list. Open source doesn’t mean someone is not looking at it. There are individuals/companies who are working day n night for open software. I highly recommend you watch this video:

        • first of all you do not need to disagree with me it was all my view not a generalized one. Secondly,who you held accountable for leaving vulnerabilities in Android 2.3.1 or some early version of S/w you have mentioned… and people using the device do not have enough money to upgrade..??? and if you go to the Manufacturer they ask you to upgrade for the Fix. and this happens in World Class software which are open source and developed by Google, IBM, Oracle, up to some extent MS as well.

        • ok lets stay on the topic and see how FOS performs in Brazil. and we will be more happy if it out performs market leading M-OS.

    • High Speed RAM and Doual/Quard Cores in phones are basically marketing tool for companies. Still there are least apps that work on Quard Core phones but people want Quard Cores now…reason is only superiority in buyer mind.

      Correction please: iPHONE 5 RAM is almost 1.6 GB as per all main analysts, not 1 GB. I am using it so did research before buying it. Thanks.

  • Dudes, keep in mind that FIREFOX OS works only with internet. your phone is of no use if there is no internet. As far Android is concerned, Chrome OS is brining much better feel of Android on web too. So Google is not sitting idle.

    Writer is quite wrong in saying that iOS can not update. Its the only OS that is still updating on old iPhone devices. Also we need to be realistic that people dont upgrade phones for the sake of updated OS. They do it to upgrade hardware and design of the phone. In my eyes, a phone life is maximum 2 years and most of the time we gets tired of using same phone after 2 years so companies focus on life time of the phone mostly too. Technology is moving so fast that every year you need more features and hardware updates.

    Mr. Writer, be fair in your writing and tell readers both ups and downs of web based OS. Did you ever used CHROME BOOK? Use it and then give me your feedback. I used it and literally it is of no use without internet. Same is the case with Firefox OS. A country like Pakistan can not depend all the time on availability of fast internet speed. Still we are struggling to roll out 3G netwrok…on other thand world has already moved to LTE.

    • 100% agreed.. the point i wanted to touch but did not because of long reply :P

    • I am 100% honest and fair what I wrote about. I highly recommend you to do some research before posting such comments.

      Firefox OS is not like Chrome OS. You don’t need internet connection at all to use it. You are seriously misguiding the readers. HTML5 doesn’t mean at all it will require internet connection. Google’s idea was to develop an OS which is based on cloud. But Firefox OS is not dependent on cloud. You can use it offline just like any other phone. You can call, sms, listen music, videos, and many other tasks all offline. You only need internet connection when you want to check your email, chat, facebook, twitter, etc…

      I know you haven’t used Firefox OS not even once and I was amazed how you made such comment by your self assumption?

      By not upgradable, I mean this: http://addr.pk/ade2
      Now I hope you got my point.

      Phone life depends on how you use it. This is not universal law that its life is 2 years. My point here was with Firefox OS, even after 2 years you will not be left behind. You can use new apps just because it’s all HTML5.

  • People are already getting fed up with Android

    same interface , power hungry and battery problems, Fire Fox OS should Blast Android as now a days there should be who opposes Google…

  • 100% open source means no need to root and no bricked devices :) Cheers to FOS.

  • Good article, but there are some factual inaccuracies. On Android you can download .apks from sites you trust, use
    F-Droid, or Amazon’s Android marketplace. You aren’t locked into just
    Google’s app store.

  • Hi, Fadaw:
    Thanks for your great review. I’m spanish and I have a Firefox OS phone, and that´s why I have first hand opinions ;).
    Your article is by far the best that I have readen about this wonderful OS. I completely agree with. Nowday’s smartphone war is becoming really insane. Do we really need 4 GB RAM, eight core processor and 600 $ devices. They are phones! We need them for calling, text messaging and taking an eventual pictures. A current high-end smartphone is more expensive than a good desktop computer, or even laptop. And that’s crazy.

    I’m very happy with my very limited ZTE Open. It doesn´t takes the best pictures and the doesn´t have the best display or the latest applications. But it small, comfortable, tough and cheap (80 $ unlocked). For the basic use it´s more than enough.

    Yes, Firefox OS has some roughe edges, but we are talking about a recent born OS. No doubts about it will be improve. As far as I know neither Android neither iOS are about the common wellfare. Mozilla is trying to open the smartphone world so you don´t need to be attached to a certain OS that demands more resource and money, and that are only affordable if your rich or your chained to a carrrier. The Mozilla project is about improve communication in world, not about consumerism.

    May be I´m a idealistic, but I think that all we see the ethical aspects of technology have to support this project as we must support linux in computing.

    And let me say to all people that think that android is open that, in my opinion they are wrong. I think that even Apple is more open than Google, at least they don´t try to lie anybody. Google says again and again “we are your friends, we are open”, but afterwards they give our data to NSA, and Android is not Linux, it´s based in Linux Kernel, and I know for sure that Linux Community is very angry with Google because they have use the open source, but there wasn´t any feedback from Google to Community, i.e. Android doesn´t appear in Distrowatch. What´s more is easier install to install an actual linux distribution in a Windows 8 computer than in a Chromebook.

    Please if you support Linux, don´t support Google, because it´s its worst enemy, that betrayer that attacks from inside.

    Lastly, I have read that you love Ubuntu. Have you tried Lnux Mint… It´s much more better.

    Thanks. Javier

  • I have a few questions.

    1. Javascripts are normally sandboxed for a security reason. What is the defence mechanism to protect the phone from the malicious Javascript injections?

    2. Is is possible to write multi threaded high performance JavaScript apps?

    3. Does is support a multi core processor architecture?

    4. Google Chrom’s V8 engine compiles Javascript in runtime how about Gecko’s?

  • I have a few questions.

    1. Javascripts are normally sandboxed for a security reason. What is the defence mechanism to protect the phone from the malicious Javascript injections and phishing?

    2. Is it possible to write multi threaded high performance JavaScript apps?

    3. Does is support a multi core processor architecture?

    4. Google Chrom’s V8 engine actually compiles Javascript in runtime how about Gecko’s?

    • Hehehe there are no protection against anything. Everything is accessible from everywhere, because the OS is sooooo open source

  • close