The main highlight of this operating system is that it is actually developed for emerging markets, where most of the population is still not on the web.
As the OS is based on HTML5, everything in it is the web. As the web that we use everyday is converting itself to HTML5, so basically everything out there is ready-to-use for the OS; the only thing to be done is optimization.
There’s also a Firefox Marketplace, where developers can post their apps and get ratings and reviews. Also, just like Android, Firefox allows side-loading of apps because the apps are based on HTML5 and can be indexed easily.
Mozilla has done something different for the operating system, which brings the power of the web right into the users’ hands. The feature is called “Dynamic App Search”. What this feature is really about, is that if the user searches for the query on different platforms like YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon, SoundCloud etc. and shows the results as App icons. The results contain apps which aren’t yet installed on the device, but the user can run those apps and if he/she wishes, they can install the app locally on their device, which will allow the app to run offline. The good thing about this is that if the user wants to check something quickly, he/she won’t have to install the app first and then search from within it. This directly gives access to the web-based application and displays the information we are looking for. This also enables the user to get content from the web for which there are no applications on the Marketplace.
Almost like every other mobile OS out there, Firefox OS imports the user’s contacts from facebook and integrates them into the user’s contact book. The unique thing is that the user can send a message to a contact on facebook or post something on their timeline directly from the contact book.
The platform is totally customizable as it’s totally open and based on web. In countries where data is charged per MB, the users can check the data usage and get alerts when a set limit is about to be reached. The cost-control facility is integrated in the OS itself. Because of this customizability, the users can get functionality based on their countries and operators.
The UI of the Firefox OS is quite simple as well. On unlocking, there are two buttons on the bottom of the screen. The one on the left starts the camera and the one on the right unlocks the phone. There’s also a button on the center of the bottom which acts like a Home button and basically gets the user out of any app to the homescreens. In terms of navigation within the OS itself, swiping from the left/right changes the homescreen pages. The first page of the homescreen is the Dynamic App Search. The second page displays the date and time and the pages that follow display the app icons. On pulling the menu at the top to the bottom, toggles will be displayed. What’s different here is the toggles are on the bottom edge of the display, so the user doesn’t have to move his/her thumb/finger all the way to the top again. Above the toggles, there’s a cost-control function which shows the data usage when opened. At the bottom of the pages which show the app icons and the page which shows the date and the time, there are four icons which are shortcuts to the applications. The Firefox OS uses it’s own Firefox Browser as it’s default browser and the Nokia HERE as it’s default maps application.
For the developers: Firefox OS runs on HTML5, so almost 90% of the development can be done from computers and there’s an emulator on the Firefox browser as well to test the HTML5 and web-based apps. Everything that Is available on the web can be tailored down and optimized for the OS. OEMs can customize the OS according to their requirements.
At the moment, the phones available and running Firefox OS are ZTE One and Alcatel One Touch Fire. Sony has released a developer ROM of the OS for it’s Xperia E. Mozilla has also states that LG will be releasing devices running the OS. Devices based on Firefox OS will be available in the first half of 2013.
The minimum requirements for a Firefox OS based phone is a 800MHz processor and 256MB of RAM. So, the devices can be made available at a very low cost for the emerging markets. Mozilla plans to replace feature phones with Firefox OS-running devices so everyone can get on the web.
Firefox OS will have a tough competition with the upcoming Tizen OS, which will be the primary OS for feature-phones from Samsung.
In emerging markets like India, companies like MicroMax and Karbonn are already selling basic Android-powered devices for less than $100. For Firefox OS-running devices to get a market share, either the basic devices will have to cost even lower, or the OS should have features and functionality that can attract users to the OS.
Will you be trying out the OS? Tell us your thoughts about the Firefox OS in the comments section below.