updated 04:34 pm EST, Sun February 24, 2013
One of first phones with Firefox OS
Mozilla was one of the first companies to hold a Mobile World Congress press conference, where the developer focused on its Firefox OS for mobile devices. Electronista had a chance to try out Alcatel's One Touch Fire, one of the first production devices to embrace the platform. The handset is clearly an entry-level smartphone, seated in a market suited for the fledgling OS.
We've already seen early Firefox OS builds, when the project was referred to under the obscure name Boot to Gecko. Mozilla at the time was still ironing out some issues, such as creating a dialer and other core functions based on web standards, but the One Touch Fire and ZTE's Open show the platform in its ready-for-market form.
Firefox OS aims to simplify application development, enabling anyone with a bit of HTML5 knowledge to create apps that work across a wide range of devices. This is a similar approach to several of the Linux-based mobile operating systems that have recently transitioned out of beta, including Ubuntu Phone and Tizen.
The "simple" approach encompasses the platform as a whole; there aren't any bells and whistles with Firefox OS. Many users, first-time smartphone owners in particular, may find this to be refreshing. We were quickly able to find the appropriate utilities for making calls, sending text messages, browsing the web and social networking.
The One Touch Fire isn't the fastest phone on the planet, integrating a 1GHz processor, nor is it the most visually stunning with a 3.5-inch display and HVGA resolution. But it is important to keep the device in perspective--it is not geared for the US market, but rather emerging markets where carriers must offer a complete smartphone experience at a low cost.
We do not have any complaints about Firefox OS, but we are left wondering if the web-standards approach will attract enough developers to give the platform a chance to serve as a viable alternative to Android. The One Touch Fire might provide the first hint when it arrives in June.