In an age where bigger is seen as better when it comes to smartphones, and 5- or 6-inch screens are becoming more common, Mozilla -- the nonprofit organization which leads development of the open-source Firefox web browser -- made it a goal to help smartphone manufacturers produce "entry-level smartphones" with its Firefox OS platform. Most of these gadgets are about the size of the original iPhone, with low-end hardware specs and price tags to match.
There still aren't any Firefox OS phones being sold new in the United States, through wireless carrier partnerships. However, app developers and technology enthusiasts can now purchase an entry-level Firefox phone from Geeksphone in Spain, for $119 plus about $30 shipping.
"A developer device with a developer build"
Firefox OS, that is. According to Mozilla's Director of Websites and Developer Engagement, Stormy Peters, "The software here [in the Keon] is not necessarily 100% representative of what will ship into customer's [sic] hands." Those customers being the people who will eventually buy Firefox phones new from wireless carriers, when they launch in different markets worldwide later this year.
"We would urge them to wait"
The "full [Firefox] experience" isn't ready yet on the Keon, according to Peters, although it is expected to receive updates "every couple of weeks" to add new features and performance improvements. The latter may be sorely needed; CNet editor Rich Trenholm said that the Alcatel One Touch Fire, a Firefox OS handset "almost identical" to the Keon, "felt pretty slow" even for "basic functions."
What exactly is under the Keon's hood?
The One Touch Fire has a 1 GHz processor and an HVGA (320x480) screen, the same as the Keon's. It has only 256 MB of RAM compared to the Keon's 512, though, which would slow it down as it opened new apps and web browser tabs.
The Keon also has 4 GB of internal storage, and a microSD slot to add a memory card.
Are there any more powerful Firefox phones for sale?
Geeksphone is also offering the Peak, a 4.3 inch smartphone with a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor (but the same 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage). It is much more powerful than the cheap Firefox OS devices which will be sold at retail later this year, and is designed "for developers wanting to experiment with apps for devices that might be commercially available in the future."
The Peak costs $194 plus shipping.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics