Mozilla, the Firefox maker, is readying its entry into the smartphone fray. But will the devices be a head-on challenger for Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, or will they look to fill in the low-end niche that their competitors haven’t as yet addressed?
A new Firefox operating system for mobile devices is set for a July release after winning the backing of 13 wireless service providers around the globe, including Spain’s Telefonica, China Unicom and America Movil.
Mozilla is betting there’s room for a software developer-friendly mobile platform alongside Apple’s and Google’s Android, which together power the majority of mobile devices on the planet.
The new OS is based on open Web standards, and can run on devices that are much lower-end that what we see with the iPhone and phones that run Android.
Firefox OS is open-sourced, and web based, so third-party developers will be able to sell their wares with no revenue share going to Apple or Google. Firefox OS uses the HTML5 standard that Web services are built with. So, anyone familiar with Web programming can create apps for the Firefox OS.
“There’s a strategic imperative for the industry to have another OS that really is open and supports choice and competition,” said Mozilla’s Senior Vice President of Products, Jay Sullivan.
Mozilla showcased some of the first hardware devices based on their OS at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Brands that have signed up to manufacture devices based on Firefox OS include South Korea’s LG, China’s ZTE and Huawei.
it remains to be seen if a phone that uses HTML5 as its basis can give the kind of performance consumers expect from their devices. Facebook stopped using HTML5 in its iPhone app last year, saying the technology couldn’t deliver acceptable quality.
Gizmodo and The Verge both got a look at a few Firefox OS based phones at the MWC, with Gizmodo saying, “Firefox OS won’t be coming to the U.S. until 2014, and chances are that its rather budget approach is not for you, dear gadget-obsessed Gizmodo reader.”
The Verge felt the phones brought to mind the Android phones of a few years back, saying, “…these are relentlessly low-end devices that are obviously equipped with low-end components the second you touch them. That’s great for keeping the price low enough to slipstream these into emerging markets at a reasonable MSRP, but it also drives the point home that Mozilla doesn’t currently have anything that could really survive in the brutal smartphone markets of the US or Western Europe.”
Gizomodo’s video coverage can be seen above, and The Verge’s video spot is available below.
The first Firefox OS based phones will be available this summer in Brazil, Columbia, Poland, Venezuela, Serbia and Spain.