After teasing subscribers to its Facebook page with a photo of boxed smartphones ready to ship in a factory, Geeksphone -- one of Mozilla's partners for the new breed of Firefox smartphones -- announced in an email Wednesday that "Next week at last" its smartphones would finally ship. Once ready, they'll be available in Geeksphone's online store.
The Keon and Peak, both powered by Mozilla's Firefox OS, aren't the only "Firefox phones" out there. They may be the only ones being sold to a North American audience right now, though, even if they're targeted at Firefox app developers more than the general public.
Here's a look at the phones, the OS, and a couple of free ways to try out the Firefox experience.
A bright orange handset about the size of the original iPhone, the Keon also has similar limitations -- no flash, no front-facing camera, and no apps except for "web apps." It has a 3.5 inch screen, a 3 megapixel camera, 4 GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot to add more. Its 1 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM place it closer to iPhone 4 territory, however.
The Keon will sell for "€91 plus taxes," or about $120 USD.
A bright white smartphone evocative of the original MacBook, the Peak has a 4.3 inch qHD (960 x 540) screen, a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, and an 8 megapixel camera, plus the flash and front-facing camera the Keon lacks. It has the same 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage, though.
The Peak will sell for "€149 plus taxes," or about $195.
Firefox OS was called "Boot to Gecko" early on in its development, after the Gecko web rendering engine at the core of the Firefox web browser. That's because it's basically just a web browser, where the home page looks like a smartphone's home screen.
Firefox OS runs apps from the Firefox Marketplace, many of which are just links to web pages but some of which are actually games or traditional apps, designed to work inside of the Firefox browser.
All of the programming code to both the OS and the Marketplace is released under an open-source Free Software license, and is partly developed using volunteer labor.
The Firefox OS Simulator is available as a Firefox extension, and allows web developers and hobbyists to basically install the OS in their desktop browser and see how it works. Android device owners who want to try out Firefox apps can download the Aurora version of Firefox, then go to Tools -> Apps from the menu to visit the Marketplace.
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