Firefox OS Review

Here is my first draft.

A few days ago, the charging port on my HTC One failed. The headphone port has been dodgy for ages so, to get both of them fixed, I’ve sent my gateway to life off to HTC to be repaired. During this time, my very generous network carrier offered my a replacement phone for the very generous, non-refundable sum of £40. Needless to say, I kindly declined; which left me with a dilemma - what to buy?

After much pondering and eBay surfing, I put a bid on a second hand ZTE One with Firefox OS. This was in perfect condition and the winning bid was a mere £25. First off, I knew what to expect. I knew that this phone has been built for ‘developing markets’ and ‘first time smartphone users’, so I will try and separate the hardware from the OS where I can.

First impression of the phone is that, for its price, it’s very solid. I love the orange painted, rubber finish. It feels like it will stand up to years of hardship without showing any signs of age. Clipping the SIM and microSD card in was quite counter-intuitive, they clip in different ways which is a mild annoyance. After getting that done and the cover clipped back into place, it’s time to turn on and look at Firefox OS.

Originally I was running 1.1, which came as default, but quickly upgraded to 1.2. The process was very easy via the guide on Mozilla’s website, using the Andriod SDK tool set.

As the phone boots, you get a cute animation of the fox with its flaming tail. After a few seconds, you get a very Android 1.0 looking set-up menu asking for your preferred language. As is always the way, English (US) is selected by default. For us Brits, that is very infuriating, but hey-ho.

Finally to the home screen. You get the usual goodie bag of default apps S/MMS, Music, Gallery, Videos, Clock, Email, Contacts, Camera, Marketplace and, of course, Firefox. All of these applications, except maybe Firefox itself, feel quite unpolished but are very usable and pretty stable. There is good support for importing from Google, including contacts and calendar which is a God send if coming from Android. As expected, the Marketplace is quite bare, but there are a few big hitters, such as Twitter and Facebook. I’ve not created any apps yet but I suspect the HTML 5 layout and JavaScript logic combination will make writing them a breeze.

Luckily, a good friend of mine has the Android version of this phone, so was easy to draw comparisons in OS only. The battery life is not as expect. I thought that in the absence of having to run a JVM, this would be greatly improved (like we saw with Maemo etc. phones). I also thought that everything would be a bit smoother. Again also wrong.

Then I thought for a bit, if Mozilla have created an OS that already matches Android (in those respects), without the financial drive that was put behind Android, then we could soon
be on to a great platform.

Firstly, thanks for the review, @joe - we are really keen to see more and more community reviews here on the forum, so I created a ‘Community Reviews’ category that can be used.

Secondly, your review was quite different to my own personal (not Canonical) view of FFOS. When I used it on the Orange geek phone it was slow, laggy, and felt incomplete. Now, this may well have been the hardware (I seem to remember it being very low spec), but the experience was less than desirable for me.

The issue with Android is the service layer. Everything points you to Google services, and this is how Google can trump much of the competition. FFOS doesn’t put OEMs in control of the service layer and therefore doesn’t break this culture. This is something we are focusing on in Ubuntu with our scopes technology - the goal being to allow OEMs to differentiate without fragmenting the platform.

It was very different, are you sure you got to play with the same version of FireFox OS?

Personally I don’t find FireFox OS appealing as anything other then a back-up phone, mainly due to how it looks the same as android and IOS something I feel we have enough of with those two, and the fact that it mainly runs HTML5, thats where my main phone drifts between Android, UTouch and Sailfish.

With the review done, can you see this as an OS you’d put on a high end phone, or a phone you could see you using daily while not waiting on a phone the likes of UTouch, Android, Sailfish or IOS to get repaired or upgraded?

This ZTE, at least, is pretty low spec. But this phone, new, is less that most PS4 games, so it’s to be expected. The great thing here was that I had a “control phone”, which ran Android at a similar sluggish rate.

I agree, I’ll have to add this point to the article!

So, I missed my HTC One, on Android for 2 reasons. First was all the apps. This is an issue for any new mobile OS - I’ve got some friends that were being offered some pretty big bounties by Microsoft to write apps for their mobile OS. I hope, that due to the ease of writing apps for FFOS, in comparison to Android (and maybe iOS), there will be a quick influx of the most needed apps. Second was the speed. But, as mentioned, the same phone running Android is just as slow. Once I get a new phone, I’ll try running FFOS on the HTC One; I reckon it’ll go like a stabbed rat.

In my opinion, I agree that Sailfish is the most exciting mobile platform. But, let’s not forget the Jolla was designed from the ground up to run Sailfish, the ZTE Open was designed to run Android.

@joe I am working on the 1st issue of bad voltage magazine. Do you mind if I place your Firefox OS review in the magazine?

I know you stated that this was a first Draft so if you need to make edits that’s fine

I have a gitHub repository for the magazine is here if you want to contribute directly:

That would be awesome. :slight_smile:

Feel free. Thanks for the thought!

@joe not a problem. Do I need to commit it into the repo or do you want to do that?

Shall I raise a pull request, or can you add me as a contrib?

Just do a pull request for now. I am still learning how to use GitHub. :wink:

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