Firefox OS was Mozilla’s official operating system for mobile devices. It was a very hopeful project that was intended to compete against iOS and Android. It had a very attractive design, was simple to use and promoted participation in the form of an open platform. However, the system was only active for 2 and a half years. What were the reasons for this short run?
Today, in TuAppPara, we reveal all the keys that explain the demise of Firefox OS and why it did not succeed among developers and smartphone manufacturers. To do this, we will explain in detail all the features of the defunct Mozilla system and what were the most popular apps.
But that’s not all, we will also analyze what the situation is in the current mobile market and whether there really are operating systems with the potential to break the duopoly exercised by Apple and Android. All this with updated data for 2021.
Interested? Read on and discover all the reasons behind the closure of FirefoxOS.
Firefox OS: the birth of a new operating system in 2013
The origins of Firefox OS go back to the “Boot To Gecko” project, launched in 2011 under the leadership of engineer Andreas Gal. The aim of that project was to launch an operating system for mobiles and other low-end devices that would revolutionize the technology market and could break the monopoly exercised by the two great dominators to date, Android and iOS.
Mozilla led the project and counted on the collaboration of companies and volunteers from all over the world, such as the Spanish multinational Telefónica. In parallel, Mozilla also started working on the development of Firefox Marketplace, the app store that would be part of Firefox OS and was released in October 2012.
A few months later, in February 2013, and taking advantage of the imminent celebration of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mozilla announced the expected official release date of its operating system: April 2013. In this press release, the company announced the first ten countries where the OS would arrive (including Spain). It also revealed the manufacturers that had committed to develop Firefox OS on some of their cell phones. It was the beginning of a promising stage.
Also read: Best Mozilla Firefox Extensions
Features of the Mozilla OS
Firefox OS was an operating system whose design was based on web technology. In this sense, both the operating system and the applications were written in HTML5 language, which is characterized by being much simpler and also more open to editions by any developer. In other words, it was a free and fully customizable system.
As for the Firefox interface, it is worth noting that it came equipped with multitasking functions, a home screen where you could perform quick searches and a drop-down menu at the top with notifications and various settings (WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, etc.).
Firefox OS mobiles: Which devices used this operating system?
With the arrival of Firefox OS in 2013, Mozilla’s operating system began to be integrated into different mobiles and manufacturers. The first three models to officially present the OS were the ZTE Open, Alcatel’s One Touch Fire and LG’s FireWeb. This is the complete list of Firefox OS compatible cell phones:
Alcatel: One Touch Fire, One Touch Fire C, One Touch Fire E, One Touch Fire S, Fire C 2G, Flame and Orange Klif.
GeeksPhone: Keon, Peak, Peak+ and Revolution.
Intex Cloud FX (Cherry Mobile Ace)
Spice Fire One MI FX1 and One MI FX2
Symphony GoFox F15
Zen U105 Fire
ZTE: Open, Open C, Open II and Open L
Firefox OS Apps
As we explained at the beginning of this section, Firefox OS apps were also web-based. In other words, the apps were like web pages that could be stored in the terminal’s memory thanks to the WebCache function. Some of them could run offline, although the vast majority of them did require the Internet.
The apps were downloaded from the official Firefox Marketplace store. Although applications as widely used as WhatsApp itself were missing, apps of any subject could be downloaded there. These were some of the most outstanding ones:
Social networks: Tuenti, Facebook, Twitter, Badoo…
Instant messaging: HTML Messenger, Chat, Telegram…
Music: SoundCloud, YouZeek, MTV…
Games: My Farm, 3D Chess, Candy Crush…
News: Wikipedia Mobile, El País, Pulse, The Weather Channel…
Utilities: Wallpaper HD, Translator, Here Maps, QR Scanner…
How to install applications on Firefox OS?
Firefox OS allowed to install applications in two different ways: from the official app store or through the dynamic search. This was the procedure to follow in each case:
In Firefox Marketplace
Enter Firefox Marketplace. The applications were searched by keyword or by category.
Select the application of interest and click on Free or Pay (depending on the app) to continue with the installation.
Confirm the installation by clicking the Confirm button.
Using the dynamic search
From the home screen, you had to swipe your finger to the right to open the dynamic app search.
Then you searched for a category or entered a keyword (e.g. soccer) in the box at the top of the screen.
Finally, once all the results were displayed, all you had to do was click on the app icon to install it on your phone.
What happened to Firefox OS? The reasons for its farewell
Unfortunately, the Firefox OS project did not have a long run. In December 2015, its creators were giving the final fold to an operating system that fell by the wayside. There were many factors that influenced this decision, but one of the most obvious was the lack of support from mobile developers.
Without going any further, an application as demanded by users as WhatsApp was not part of its official marketplace. This and other leading applications in the market contributed to the fact that Firefox never really took off. Likewise, other apps such as Facebook or Twitter did not have their own version, but redirected to the official websites.
It could be said that the project was launched to the market being not very mature, with very good intentions but still with many aspects to improve. In this sense, the freedom offered by the operating system ended up being a double-edged sword. While it is true that it allowed more flexibility when it came to editing, this was a barrier for large developers, who were not willing to freely share the code of their applications.
But this was not the only reason, as there were also many doubts about the performance of HTML5 versus other more closed systems such as iOS and Android. In fact, Apple and Android have software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs) that make it possible to get the most out of the device’s hardware with much less effort than with open systems.
And finally, another factor that should be mentioned to explain the closure of Firefox OS is the strategy carried out by Mozilla. Focusing only on low-end mobiles in its early days probably caused the OS to go unnoticed by the general public. This approach left out users looking for mid-range and high-end handsets, so that the system’s true potential was never seen.
Is an alternative operating system to Android or iOS impossible?
Undoubtedly, Android and iOS are the two great dominators of the smartphone and tablet market. However, over the last few years different alternatives have emerged, such as Ubuntu, Sailfish OS, Tizen, Windows Phone or Firefox OS itself, which have tried to win their place and compete against the two technological giants.
And the reality is that almost none of them has achieved what was initially proposed. One of the main reasons is that very few manufacturers have bet on incorporating these systems in their devices, so they have only had some success in more specific user niches.
But what is really a big disadvantage for all these alternatives is the lack of variety in their catalog of applications. Today, a cell phone without WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter or Google services is not attractive to the user. A problem that has also affected Windows Phone, one of the few companies that has stood up to iOS and Android and that has currently lost a lot of market share compared to the data of 10 years ago.