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Firefox Cellphones Handhelds Mozilla Open Source Hardware News

Firefox OS Smartphones Arriving For Developers 124

Posted by timothy
from the here-be-dragons dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time Mozilla has been working on Firefox OS, a lightweight mobile OS built in HTML5. Now it's whipped the curtain back from the first developer preview phones. The developer preview phones are unlocked, requiring the user insert their own SIM card. If those specs seem a little underpowered compared to other smartphones on the market, it's because Firefox OS is intended for lower-end smartphones; target markets include developing countries such as Brazil and China. (The first developer preview phones will be available in February.) The Firefox OS (once known as 'Boot to Gecko') is based on a handful of open APIs. The actual interface is highly reminiscent of Google Android and Apple iOS, with grids of icons linked to applications." The specs really aren't that bad; reader sfcrazy points out that they include the usual features baked into medium- and high-end phones these days: Wifi N, light and proximity sensors, and an accelerometer (though no mention of NFC).
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Firefox OS Smartphones Arriving For Developers

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  • by Machtyn (759119) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:23PM (#42658469) Homepage Journal
    This is to compete with the Winphone and Nokia markets. Microsoft has the idea to make WinMo flexible enough to work on high and low end phones and break into the Nokia dominated, but largely untapped, low-end market. Having several options is a good thing.
    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:25PM (#42658495)

      This is to compete with the Winphone and Nokia markets.

      Talk about aiming for a low market share. Can firefox break even if they only sell a thousand?

      • by snadrus (930168)
        It's an open stack that's withstood years of security hardening already with a well-tested sandbox (Gecko Javascript). Also the lack of app updates every evening (like the other 3) will help keep data usage down to what's used. There is enough new & different in this phone that I could see it going (low-price) places where even Android can't reach.
    • There is no winphone market, and the nokia market is steadily going away - as it has ever since they successfully put the MS plant into Nokia's executive staff in the first place.

      The only sentence here of relevance is the last sentence: having several options is a good thing. The rest doesn't even exist.

    • Re:Competition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hjf (703092) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:48PM (#42658807) Homepage

      Low-end? More low end than the sub-$200 Galaxy Ace? More low end than even the sub-$100 (!) android phones all over Latin America?

      sheesh. I like it when people from the "first world" opinates on "developing markets" and "low end". (don't take it personal, previous poster, but i mean the devs and stuff).

      I live in latin america. you know why people get smartphones? cause they can't afford, or don't even want computers. and they want chat and facebook and a smartphone gives them what they need (it even works when either power is out, or where there is no fixed internet service like cable or dsl). yes, "most"people live within reach of fixed internet service. and almost everyone has wifi if they got that (from my house to the city center, in 10 blocks, i mapped over 400 wifi networks in range!)

      but internet service is slow to get to the "fastest growing" areas: the "outskirts" of the cities. over there it's 3G all the way

      you know which smartphones they get? Galaxy S2 and S3. Milestone/2/3. Razr. Razr I. (most of them assembled in Argentina). Myself? I got an HTC sensation. back in 2010 they projected sales of 25.000 units of Milestone in argentina. it sold over 100.000. you had to be in a waiting list. now almost every phone they offer is a smartphone. basic phones are difficult to find.

      i can only speak from experience. I don't know how good or bad other countries are. some countries are supposedly better (Chile), others worse (Bolivia). but smartphones are by no means unseen things here.

      the big exception is the iphone, since Apple is simply not interested in this market (no idea why. the iphone 3G was available and it was a huge success). You can buy an imported, no-warranty iphone, but you can't get a subsidized one from a telco.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Low-end? More low end than the sub-$200 Galaxy Ace? More low end than even the sub-$100 (!) android phones all over Latin America?

        The last phone I bought (for temporary on a business trip in December) cost 20 Euros, with 10 Euros of air time included. My personal phone cost $25. As far as I'm concerned, $200 is pretty damn expensive for a phone.

        • by hjf (703092)

          Ah, good ol' AC with nothing to say. You forgot to specify which phone you bought.

      • "...i live in latin america..."

        Where apperently, keyboards don't come with working shift keys.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Do your computers come with spell check ?

          • Anon Coward said:

            Do your computers come with spell check ?

            All "Anonymous Cowards" are Karma Whores looking to make snarky comments with suffering the Karma hit.

            Man up.

      • by Niterios (2700835)
        I live in Mexico and things don't always work that way. High end phones do seem to have a very large portion of the market, such as iPhones and flagship phones by other companies. Nevertheless low-end smartphones are also very popular. Blackberry (particularly Blackberry Curve, their cheapest model) seems to have a huge portion of the market, at least in my city (Monterrey, one of the three major cities in Mexico). Similarly, the Galaxy Ace has become extremely popular. TV is swarmed by ads of many smartpho
    • there is no winphone market.

      They will take symbian's marketshare in the developing world, which is huge, and largely unsupported now.

      eventually they might go after android and iOS. You need to start somewhere, and they found a good place to start.
    • by kllrnohj (2626947)

      Too bad Firefox OS doesn't have a chance in hell at competing in the low-end market. It requires higher specs than Android does to run (surprise, surprise HTML5 is slower than native - a *lot* slower), and Android is also free and open source. So cost, features, *and* performance all go to Android as a result.

      A bad experience/feature set compared to high end phones, and is too slow for low-end phones. So what market, exactly, is Firefox OS hoping to compete in?

      • It requires higher specs than Android does to run

        The specs quoted for these devices are 2010 era Android specs - single core 1GHz, 512GB. Any (decent) Android phone released in 2013 and beyond will come with a quad core Cortex A15 with 2GB RAM.

        JIT-compiled dalvik bytecodes should run no better or worse than JIT-compiled JS running on IonMonkey. They both use a FFI to C/C++ dynamic libraries.

        • by kllrnohj (2626947)

          The specs quoted for these devices are 2010 era Android specs - single core 1GHz, 512GB. Any (decent) Android phone released in 2013 and beyond will come with a quad core Cortex A15 with 2GB RAM.

          2010 era Android phones ran Android just fine as well. Modern high end Android phones are pushing 14x more pixels, so that comparison is rather stupid and pointless. Or if we do take into account the number of pixels, it's glaringly obvious that modern Android phones do not have 14x faster hardware, yet run smoother & faster than Firefox OS. Why? Because web technologies are goddamn slow. Mozilla is 5 years too early with Firefox OS - the hardware just doesn't have the spare cycles needed to pull off sl

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @01:33PM (#42658609)
    For some reason, I think that's not quite right. Perhaps the intent was to write "an OS with built in HTML5"?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      For some reason, I think that's not quite right. Perhaps the intent was to write "an OS with built in HTML5"?

      I was thinking the same thing - unless HTLM5 is way more powerful than I realized.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Yeah, I could see the apps running in HTML5+Javascript, but I couldn't see the actual OS being writtent in HTML5.
    • Maybe "an OS whose primary application space is based on HTML5" is a better description.

      I agree the summary seems inaccurate.

    • You're right, it's not an OS built in HTML5. It's actually built more or less on top of Android without Dalvik... very similar, actually, to ChromeOS it seems, except Firefox replaces Chrome. Apps are built in HTML5.
    • "For some reason, I think that's not quite right. Perhaps the intent was to write "an OS with built in HTML5"?"

      In order to understand what was written, it is important for you to have absolutely no idea what an OS actually is.

    • by jlebar (1904578) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @02:49PM (#42659599) Homepage

      For some reason, I think [it's] not quite right [to say that FFOS is "an OS built in HTML5"]. Perhaps the intent was to write "an OS with built in HTML5"?

      FFOS developer here.

      The entire FFOS front-end is written in HTML5. That includes the homescreen and the task switcher. So "The Web" is the API that applications use to communicate with the system.

      But there's of course plenty of C/C++ below that. To a first approximation, it's probably accurate to guess that parts of Android written in Java were re-written in JS for FFOS.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > the usual features baked into medium- and high-end phones these days: Wifi N, light and proximity sensors, and an accelerometer

    I am sorry, but my low end smart phone has all of these, and it even has NFC (although it is currently not supported in software). And my previous (2 year old) low end smartphone also had all of these, except for NFC. It also had a better display (800x480).

    So the hardware seems to be somewhat comparable to a middle of the road low end smartphone. If that is where they want to p

  • I look at that, and I see nothing but copying things others have done better before. What is the point of this? Just being a cheaper version of the same thing we already have? Why would anybody care?

    Say what you want about Microsoft and Windows 8, but at least they actually tried building something on their own, instead of directly copying what was popular.

    • Perhaps they feel they can do it better
      • by Goaway (82658)

        Then why are they doing the same thing, instead of actually doing better?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Yes, the entire point is to have a cheap mobile computing device for under developed countries.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        You make the device cheaper by making the hardware cheaper. You make the hardware cheaper by giving it a slower CPU and less memory. However, taking the cheaper device and then running all the apps in HTML5+Javascript seems counter productive. The nice thing about the low end Nokia phones was that you could still get some pretty good performance out of the apps because the apps were all written in C. I guess that they could take HTML5+Javascript and compile that to something that could execute faster, bu
    • "Say what you want about Microsoft and Windows 8, but at least they actually tried building something on their own, instead of directly copying what was popular."

      they copied from Gnome-Shell on Gnome 3. Ironicly, copying what was un-popular
      • by exomondo (1725132)

        they copied from Gnome-Shell on Gnome 3. Ironicly, copying what was un-popular

        What did they copy from gnome shell? They look nothing like eachother - unless you're suggesting they've copied a 'grid of icons'.

    • by pr0nbot (313417)
      Phone OS innovations: 1) it's truly open source 2) it's built by a not-for-profit organisation 3) it exists so that apps can be built in HTML5 and run off the internet, which is where the world was headed before Apple introduced the notion of apps and erected the walls of their garden
      • Apple didn't introduce it. Their plan was web apps only. Developers begged them for a SDK to match the native apps capabilities.

        Then it snowballed. For better or worse.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        Phone OS innovations: 1) it's truly open source 2) it's built by a not-for-profit organisation 3) it exists so that apps can be built in HTML5 and run off the internet,

        None of those are anywhere near the meaning of the word "innovation". "Innovation" doesn't mean "things I like".

        which is where the world was headed before Apple introduced the notion of apps and erected the walls of their garden

        Apple started out with HTML apps. Everybody hated it.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @02:11PM (#42659093)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellis/ [flickr.com]

    I believe he's one of the arduino founders or principles.

    don't know much about this - just saw it on the flickr stream - but it could be interesting. not android at all, but in a way, that could also be a good thing. sometimes you want a simple cell phone and just that.

    (no connection; just saw the photo link from DAM)

  • That's OK, I haven't ever heard that acronym before! I guess, after googling, that it is a on-Bluetooth Bluetooth? Wat the fuck is the point of yet another short-range communications standard? Is that nickel royalty payment going to hurt the device manufacturer that much?

    The down side of lacking NFC is that you can't say that you can bump your phone into random strangers' phones until they "squirt" files at each other.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      That's OK, I haven't ever heard that acronym before!

      Turn in your geek card.

      I guess, after googling, that it is a on-Bluetooth Bluetooth? Wat the fuck is the point of yet another short-range communications standard? Is that nickel royalty payment going to hurt the device manufacturer that much?

      No, whatever royalty payment that might be applicable isn't going to hurt that much. But the lack of pairing requirements, much lower power requirements under most circumstances, ability to work with some existing RFI

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      The down side of lacking NFC is that you can't say that you can bump your phone into random strangers' phones until they "squirt" files at each other.

      I don't like NFC either. The downside of innovation is that one day the industry says "pony up for new hardware because we no longer support yours." Bluetooth is cumbersome to use, especially if you have to remember which devices you disabled it on due to battery life problems on your older gadgets.

      My point here wasn't so much for NFC, but against the trend to ignore PCs and even the web browser with "download our APP" excuse. After all, it's not that they want to give US the news, but to track us better. A

      • Bluetooth is not cumbersome to use. It's very simple, dead simple even. And interactive bar code marketing has been tried, and has flopped consistently ever since the CueCat came out. PR codes are just the latest flop, and passive radio tags are set to flop as well other than in inventory control and other logistics.

        Marketers are marketers, though, and will try to sell their snake oil to companies, and succeed, despite its worthlessness. Companies want to be hip to technology even if it stupid and so we

  • by Anonymous Coward

    requiring the user insert their own SIM card

    This makes an advantage sound like a shortcoming. So now you have to apologize if you give people freedom and interoperability? Because that requires them to get their own SIM card? It's unbelievable how much locked-down gadgets and appified, remote controlled programs have become the default.

  • I think that the economy of scale will make higher performance phones a frugal possibility in near future. The trend has always been moving that way. So why bother developing an OS that will probably be obsolescent in a matter of couple years? Even if it is presented as a reasonable alternative, the fashion factor of other operating systems and the combined marketing efforts of parent companies will make Firefox OS a joke. I know that geeks might get excited at open-source anything, but most people really,

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