In what seems to be the standard for these sorts of projects, we haven’t heard much about Firefox OS recently despite plans to launch more broadly back in 2013. Even so, for quite a while the niche Mozilla platform has made its way to several devices including the Nexus 5 through unofficial builds, and the project has in fact been moving forward, albeit somewhat slowly. Now, another step has been taken, and there is finally a piece of official Firefox OS developer reference hardware that can be purchased today.
Called the Flame, this Firefox OS developer phone is not going to impress with specifications or build, but then that isn’t what we expected from the project which plans to target lower end devices. Instead, the Flame sports a $170 pre-order price tag, which is respectably in Moto G territory.
For that $170, the Flame offers a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras, the standard WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS, as well as NFC and dual standard SIM support. The biggest disappointment is likely the display, a 4.5-inch 854×480 afterthought that won’t look very good at all next to today’s HD smartphones.
Then again, the Flame doesn’t need a super high resolution display to function well as a development platform, a duty which it should fulfil well despite its bland looks and low specifications. (The original CR-48 Chromebook comes to mind, a bland and underpowered laptop that was exciting merely because of the new software that came with it.)
Speaking of Chrome OS, there are several similarities between these two projects that are interesting to note. Naturally, since Firefox OS is based off of a browser, it is focused mostly on HTML web applications much like ChromeOS, though it naturally uses mobile instead of desktop versions. In addition, the goal of Firefox OS seems to be to differentiate through price and simplicity, not overpowering specifications, a strategy which has been used for Chrome OS to some success.
There certainly isn’t much of a comparison to be made between the dominance and functionality of Android and Firefox OS at this point. Still, if one considers Android is as ubiquitous and dominant as Windows in the smartphone market, that only makes the comparison of Firefox OS and Chrome OS more interesting.
There are no guarantees and the project certainly has a long way to go, but there may also be a great deal of potential for the OS in lower end and budget smartphone markets. As usual, more competition, even indirect competition, is always interesting, so the progress of Firefox OS is certainly something to keep an eye on.[Mozilla Hacks]