Firefox OS smartphones arrive: A fine mobile Petri dish

Firefox OS smartphones arrive: A fine mobile Petri dish

Summary: The mobile ecosystem continues to search for a real No. 3 platform. Why not Mozilla's Firefox OS?


Mozilla's Firefox OS smartphones will soon land via Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica, and the mobile open-source platform is worth watching — only to see if another player can make a dent in Android and Apple's iOS.


The mobile ecosystem is desperate to find a No. 3 platform. Windows Phone has carrier support as does BlackBerry. Why? Carriers don't want to be dependent on Apple and Google. That reality is why you see Samsung trying all sorts of software overlays to minimize dependence on Android. The problem: there are viable mobile platforms beyond Android and Apple's iOS, but consumers aren't buying.

BlackBerry's most recent quarter indicates that demand is tepid for BlackBerry 10 devices. Windows Phone largely depends on Nokia, which is also struggling.

Perhaps Firefox OS has a shot. Firefox has the open source cred with Mozilla just like Android has. Meanwhile, Firefox also has a well-known brand. The first Firefox OS devices will be the Alcatel One Touch Fire and ZTE Open.

Mozilla is also targeting growth abroad in a move that's strategically sound.

Firefox OS is designed from the ground up to be about the Web and will have features such as Facebook and Twitter. The idea is that the phone is integrated with the Web and that minimizes the need for non-HTML5 apps. Mozilla describes the elevator pitch:

Firefox OS features a brand new concept for smartphones — an adaptive app search that literally transforms the phone to meet your needs at any moment, without the need to download anything. Simply swipe to the right on your Firefox OS phone and start to type what you are interested in to get a whole new customized phone experience based on your needs instantly.

For example, search for your favorite music artist and get results to buy your favorite song, concert tickets or even listen to your favorite song instantly. Making it possible for you to create these one-time use or downloadable apps on demand gives you a completely customized experience and helps you get the exact content you want, when you want it.

Firefox OS is all about the HTML5 apps, but it's unclear whether the market will be ready for it. Folks are used to downloading apps.

In other words, Firefox OS is one fine mobile Petri dish and 20 hardware and operator partners highlight the interest. Everyone seems to want a real No. 3 platform with Android dominating the market. Why not Firefox OS?

Topics: Mobility, Mobile OS, Open Source, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This is the one we've been waiting for

    I think Mozilla is poised to do for Mobile what Firefox did for the Web: keep the big guys honest.

    Firefox OS doesn't have to be a smash hit. It just has to keep innovating and keep plugging away, all while doing things that are (here's a shocker!) genuinely in the interest of their users.

    Android is open source, sure, but *real* Android -- that is, all the stuff that makes Android Android -- is closed up Google. And when Google gives away Android, the user is not the customer, but the product.

    This will not be the case with Firefox OS. Long live the Open Web.
    x I'm tc
    • How old are you?

      • 38

        Why do you ask?
        x I'm tc
  • Cloud is Bogus On Phones

    As long as companies like AT&T limit us to 3 GB I don't want a phone that is constantly uploading & downloading data in the background!

    This happened to me a couple of years ago when my phone decided to download all 95,000 photos I have on Google; it cost me $30 extra dollars that month!
    • Yes, they need to stop thinking that...

      ...everybody has either an unlimited data plan (and ubiquitous stable 3G/4G signal as well) or a bottomless bank account. In real life, most of us have stringent data caps and expensive data tariffs. That was a big problem in my first month with an Android phone (made even worse because it was a Motorola model with the data-hungry Motoblur customization) until I learned to configured the interface to download less and, most importantly, installed an APN blocker app to stop all data traffic and keep my phone off-line unless and until I specifically want it to access the Internet at a given moment.
  • The browser's recent history undermines my trust in the OS

    In recent versions, Firefox (the browser) has had a plethora of bugs that are never corrected in new versions, from excessive memory use to processes that won't shut down and, most importantly, add-ons that start working erratically or break altogether. It is still my default and most often used browser, but I don't know for how long it will be able to keep that position.

    Now, I understand that Firefox OS is an entirely different project, but it comes from the same foundation and will supposedly have similar, if not the same project management. The way they have been running the house lately about the browser's development makes me very wary of the OS. When I'm at my PC and the Firefox browser has a hiccup, I can resort to Chrome and even (knock knock knock) IE. If I'm out there with my phone and Firefox OS has a serious glitch, I will be helpless.

    For now, no, thanks but no, thanks.
    • Something Andriod lacks

      A good browser, Chrome is decent, but displays many pages incorrectly, and doesn't autoreformat text if you try to expand it so you can read. It got so annoying that I ended up downloading the Firefox app, which does display more pages correctly, but crashes and hands a lot.

      Not sure what to do, but at Android version 4.2.2 you would think Google would have the built in Chrome kinda figured out by now.
    • goyta, you are right on

      After years of using FF in released, beta, up to nightly, I am find all versions break down too frequently on my and mostly my client's computers. I have hated to give up on it, but to remain productive I have had to move back to Chrome Dev channel. Chrome is awkward to use on because fonts can be too small in the tabs, tool bars and menus, its lack of better tab control, and other customizations, but for now I have had to make it the default and do that on some of my clients.

      I think that Mozilla has lost sight of the excellency picture that they used to have in exchange for performance tweaks to compete. They have lost my loyalty in the browser and in Thunderbird. They need to have a closer relationship to their developers and revert to the excellency model from before.
    • Re: from excessive memory use to processes that won't shut down

      These are Windows ‌problems. Don't‌ worry, ‌FirefoxOS doesn't ‌run Windows.
    • Firefox's recent history

      (note: work for Mozilla)

      I think that Firefox is demonstrably improved, see Tom's Hardware review published this week:,3534-12.html
      "With no apparent weaknesses and generally strong finishes all-around, combined with near-native start times, greatly-improved hardware acceleration scores, and almost-perfect reliability, the latest version of Firefox soundly wins this installment of the Web Browser Grand Prix. "

      If you are experiencing stability problems, it's possible a reset of your profile might help. Perhaps this might help:
  • A solid #3

    is what Microsoft already has with Nokia and Windows Phone. This think probably won't even make 4th.
  • 3rd is no longer in contention..

    Agree with MCTronix 3rd place is a fait accompli. The Nokia hardware on WP 8 is an already proven platform to be reckoned with. Q3 sales #'s will show a clear 1-2-3 platform/ecosystem positioning without desperation.

    Perhaps a Firefox mobile phone platform could lead the "all others" category.

    Disclosure: I use Nokia 928 on Verizon
  • I still

    have never seen a Windows phone in public, or a Blackberry 10 device for that matter. For whatever reasons folks seem to just want 2 platforms
  • it could go far

    The web experience on the phone these days is ever improving. So... In time it might transition over to this, but the Browser in there would have to have full WebGL aswell as great control..
    • It does

      FF's WebGL is top notch.
      x I'm tc
  • Having read through this article, and thought about it,

    I feel that Ubuntu could fill this void, and let me state why: One of the bragging rights of Ubuntu is that you can put your phone into a USB powered dock, and plug that into a USB monitor, along with a keyboard and mouse, and go from mobile phone in your pocket to a fully functional desktop. Also Firefox OS has little to no web app support, and I feel that Google has a strong lead on this.
    Richard Estes