First Firefox phones to be released in February

By Graeme Burton
23 Jan 2013 View Comments

New Firefox phones - the first in a slew of new smartphones based on operating system alternatives to Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone - will be launched in February.

Created by a Spanish startup called Geeksphone, the phones will run the new Firefox OS, a mobile operating system designed by the Mozilla Foundation.

Further reading

The specifications of the phones, though, are nothing to write home about. Keon, the first of the two devices, will feature a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon microprocessor, a 3.5-inch HVGA touchscreen, Wi-Fi support, just 512MB of RAM, a three-megapixel camera, and 4GB of internal storage.

The second of the two phones is called Peak and will sport a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon chip, an eight-megapixel camera and offer a bigger 4.3-inch screen. Both will be kept current with over-the-air updates and will be carrier-unlocked so that developers can play around with the device and the operating system as it takes shape.

The user interface is built with JavaScript and HTML, so the look and feel ought to be easily customisable. HTML5 applications will integrate directly with the device's hardware using JavaScript, but with a privilege model for security. The operating system has already been demonstrated on some Android-compatible smartphones and the Raspberry Pi low-cost computer.

The unique selling point of Firefox OS, claims Mozilla, is that it uses "completely open standards" with no proprietary software or technology involved. It is supported by Spanish telecoms operator Telefónica, Adobe, Qualcomm, and Deutsche Telekom's Innovation Labs.

The aim of the Mozilla Foundation is to get a cheap device out into the market to enable app developers to develop on it before a bigger launch later in 2013 or early 2014. Mozilla claims that because apps can be built in standard HTML5, there are already a plethora of potential developers that could easily build apps for it.

However, Firefox OS will be joining an increasingly crowded market. In addition to competing against iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone, there are also two significant further Linux-based rivals coming out this year and next in the form of Ubuntu for Phones and Sailfish OS from Jolla.

Ubuntu for Phones is based on Linux and was unveiled at the beginning of January. However, Ubuntu-based devices are unlikely to appear before 2014 at the earliest. The key feature of Ubuntu for Phones is its ability to be run like a portable PC - working as a phone when on the move, and a desktop PC when docked.

Sailfish is also Linux-based and originally started life as Nokia's Meego project. Its original aim was to become a smartphone operating system running on Intel Atom microprocessors, instead of ARM, the de facto chip standard in mobile technology.

Meego, though, was canned by Nokia in 2011 by new CEO Stephen Elop after he decided to focus the Finnish company's efforts on Windows Phone. The developers behind Meego subsequently acquired the technology, set up Jolla, and ported Meego to ARM. Sailfish-based devices are expected to emerge this year.

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