Firefox OS: The Emerging Browser-Based Mobile Platform

Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, has finally released a new platform for tablets and smartphones – the Firefox OS. It is a mobile operating system which is based on Linux technology. Similar to the Chrome OS, the system is built entirely within the HTML 5 environment, thus, making it a lightweight OS which could run smoothly even on devices with lower-end specs. For starters, we’ll discuss below the things that you need to know regarding this emerging mobile platform:

When will it become available?

As featured on Verizon Wireless’ news page, the ZTE Open is the first Firefox-enabled handset which recently debuted on the market. It gained a favorable response from the critics and selected mobile consumers. Alcatel has also released their very own smartphone running the system on their One Touch Fire model. In the coming months, expect to see a new wave of mobile devices that are pre-installed with this mobile OS.


What is the user interface like?

If you are familiar with the Android operating system, you won’t feel alienated with the Firefox environment. The newbie is inspired by Android. There are a home screen, a notification center, an application tray and a lock screen. The only difference is that its home screen basically shows the time and date along with your wallpaper. Presently, the operating system doesn’t have widgets yet.

The user interface is very much alike except that there is no dedicated icon to launch the app drawer. From the home screen, you only need to do a slide from the left to the right of the screen to show the apps. The same toggles can be found in the Settings menu to enable the airplane mode, Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular data connectivity.


What’s new with the apps?

The applications here may look familiar to the interface of Android apps. But, these software are all web-based applications. There are two forms of apps for the Firefox OS: packaged apps and hosted apps.

  • Hosted Apps: This app is hosted by Mozilla’s server. Each time you access them, it will be downloaded and saved from the server. It’s like an application which automatically links to the corresponding web page. These apps won’t run if there is no data connection. On the positive note, these apps won’t take much of your phone’s storage. An example of this is its native AccuWeather app. It will give you the latest online forecasts once you clicked the icon.


  • Packaged Apps: These programs are downloaded only once in the form of a ‘compressed’ package and are stored in your device’s local source. These are also web apps, but they are mainly designed for offline use. The dialer, messaging app and camera are some of the default packaged apps in a Firefox mobile.


What are the built-in apps?

It will naturally give you the basic apps that could be found in a smartphone. Some are just labeled differently. Below are the pre-installed packaged tools:

  • Social: It is the default contacts hub. Just like the Android, it displays the name and picture of your phonebook connections. It is organized alphabetically and there are letters on the right side to jump to a particular person whose name starts with the letter.There’s also a search icon on the top right.
  • Photos: The camera app and image gallery are combined in one. Launching the app will give you a stitched view of all your images. The camera button can launch the snapper.
  • Songs: The default music app which includes online streaming services. Apart from the tracks installed on the device memory, the hub scans for free online radio stations. For a web app, it’s interesting to know that it also displays the music information and there is also an option to shuffle and forward music.
  • Messages: Pretty similar to Android but in the messaging launcher, apart from its capability to send and receive SMS, it is also integrated with the Gmail services.
  • Maps: If you think that the OS uses Google Maps, you’re wrong. Firefox developers have formulated its own mapping client that is powered by Nokia’s Here Maps. It shows street view and satellite mode. The only limitation as of the moment is that it doesn’t provide a real time traffic mode and turn-by-turn navigation features.
  • Marketplace: These are where you shop for Hosted and Packaged apps. In here you can either manually search or browse through categories. It doesn’t provide a preview or screenshot as of now.

Does it support cloud sharing?

Cloud sharing is only activated on some of its apps. Like the contacts, where you can sync your phonebook with Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully, they will bring Google Drive and Dropbox soon.


Since the system is new, it isn’t surprising if your favorite applications are not yet supported. When it comes to performance, Firefox OS runs smoothly even on a device with 256MB RAM. The only downside is that most of its applications are internet dependent. As a mobile consumer, do you feel like getting a Firefox handset? Share your thoughts with us.

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