The web browser war in the 1990s to 2000 saw a dominant option, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, against Firefox; Source game browser that separated from Netscape and continued to operate under a new name.
Entering the year 2000, we saw the beginning of a new software war and Microsoft once again entered the market with Windows Mobile, but this operating system did not achieve much success against the market led by Nokia’s Symbian; Of course, Symbian could not keep its throne because from 2007 onwards we saw the arrival of two main players, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
However, today’s story is about Firefox OS. The task of developing this project was entrusted to the Mozilla Foundation, the same association that worked on the Firefox browser since the late 90s. Mozilla wanted to bring the principles of openness, security and privacy of its popular browser to the smartphone market, and some smartphone makers welcomed the new Android alternative.
(Geeksphone Peak smartphone)
The first phones equipped with Firefox operating system called Geeksphone Keon and Peak were launched in 2013. These affordable devices (€91 and €141, respectively) were designed for developers because they ran a version of FirefoxOS that was not yet complete. These two products were also equipped with S1 and S4 chips, respectively, and used 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage.
In 2013, some prominent phone manufacturers released products with Firefox operating system, including Alcatel One Touchfire (made by TCL) and ZTE Open. Like Keon, these two devices were equipped with S1 chip and their RAM was 256 MB. The display of these two phones was 3.5 inches and offered a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, which, although considered very low-end by today’s standards, was good enough to compete with the first generation iPhone in 2007.
The LG Fireweb also came with a 4-inch screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, 512 MB of RAM and the default Firefox operating system, but it was still considered a low-end product. Of course, the purpose of releasing the Firefox operating system was to be available to everyone, and perhaps this factor made smartphone manufacturers reluctant to use the mentioned platform in high-end phones. On the other hand, most of the companies were busy making Android devices at that time, and the presence of Windows Phone also made them not have extra time for other projects.
(From right to left, respectively, LG Fireweb, ZTA Open and Alcatel One Touchfire)
Before we continue, let’s talk a little about the Firefox operating system. As the name of this project suggests, it uses Firefox as its web browser. Of course, this platform was more than just a browser. Android and iOS have their own user interface toolkits that are used to build apps. This issue made the developers need to learn how to use new tools to build applications based on these operating systems.
Like Android, the Firefox operating system used the Linux kernel. In fact, Mozilla continued to build its own mobile platform using code developed for Android phones, including things like the Android Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL); The part that fixed the differences between different platforms. Most of the phones that ran Firefox OS used Snapdragon chips. Of course, some others like Geeksphone were equipped with Intel Atom Z chip.
Alcatel and ZTE were also known as major hardware partners for Firefox OS, with devices like the Fire S and Open L, which were roughly in the mid-range category. In 2014, Huawei introduced a smartphone named Y300II with this operating system.
(Alcatel Fire S, ZTE Open L and Huawei Y300II respectively from left to right)
Small devices such as the Alcatel Pixi 3 with a 3.5-inch screen and even some tablets such as the Alcatel Fire 7 with a 7-inch screen that offered a resolution of 960 x 540 were also launched with Firefox operating system.
FirefoxOS arrived in Japan when LG started down another path. Tokujin Yoshika He designed a device called LG Fx0, which uses transparent outer panels and was the most advanced phone equipped with Firefox operating system up to that time. This device uses a fast Snapdragon 400 chip, 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Other features of LG Fx0 include a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display with 720p resolution. It came with a price tag of $415, making it the most expensive FirefoxOS-equipped device at the time.
(LG Fx0 phone)
But by 2015, the end of the Firefox operating system had arrived and Mozilla officially announced the death of the platform in December of that year.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at some other weird projects that used Firefox OS. One of these projects on Kickstarters tried to become a Chromecast competitor by making a product called Matchstick TV. This product failed due to issues related to DRM, which is very important for streaming.
(Matchstick TV project based on Firefox operating system)
The VIA was also a single-board computer similar to the Raspberry Pi that used the Firefox operating system. Panasonic also released a smart TV called CX700 with this platform.
The Firefox browser was originally known as Phonix, named after the legendary firebird that rose from the ashes. The name was later changed to Firebird due to a trademark dispute with BOIS Phoenix, and finally to Firefox when the browser was reborn.
Like its namesake browser, the Firefox operating system was reborn from the ashes, and after Mozilla’s departure, a community was formed to continue the development of the B2G operating system, which was later changed to KaiOS.
ZTE is also active in KaiOS and continues to work on Open series devices. KaiOS probably looks familiar to you from simple Nokia phones such as the Nokia 6300 4G, the Nokia 8110 4G and the Nokia V Flip 2720.
Some of Alcatel’s popular phones, including the 3088, have been relaunched with the new KaiOS operating system, this time under the name Alcatel Go Flip 3 and Go Flip V.
Interestingly, KaiOS has spawned a sub-genre of rugged phones, including devices such as the Nokia 800 Tough, Cat B35, Energizer E282SC, and Plum Ram 9.
Indian operator Jio also used KaiOS in JioPhone and JioPhone 2; Although the company later decided to use the Android-based Pragati OS on its devices.
Currently, millions of KaiOS-based phones have been released to the market, and in February 2018, this number was reported to be 30 million devices. Unfortunately, this operating system does not support the open nature of FirefoxOS, and some of its features are not open source. KaiOS has never overtaken Firefox’s preference for low-end devices, and its main focus is to provide a powerful operating system for devices that are very cheap even for the Android One series.
Currently, it can be said that KaiOS has been much more successful than FirefoxOS up to this point. Firefox OS was not the only platform based on web technologies for smartphones. Before this, the Palm operating system was also present in the market and its user interface seemed much more advanced than the competitors of that time, but its life as an operating system for smartphones was very short. This platform, after being used in HP products, is now known as the operating system of LG smart TVs.