Skip to main content

Mozilla enters the smartphone wars with Firefox OS, takes on Windows Phone and Android

For the last few years, Mozilla, makers of the king of indie browsers Firefox, have been working on a new mobile OS called Boot2Gekko. The OS was built around HTML5 and CSS coding tools and it tended to look very much like Android and iOS—that is it was a collection of icons laid out in a grid with some notifications.

Today, in a somewhat surprising move they announced the re-naming of the OS to Firefox OS and they intend to put it on phones next year. In a press release, the company noted that it had deals with TCL Communication Technology (Alcatel) and ZTE to make the hardware for new devices with carrier partners Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor are all backing the initiative.

What caught our eye though was Sprint. The company who has the HTC Arrive, who claimed sales are miserable and were “thinking about” Windows Phone 8 but who were the only major US carrier to not publicly endorse it after the recent Summit.  This is the same company now throwing their hat in with Firefox OS which no one has even seen yet let alone knows what’s unique about it. Yet they can’t sign on with Microsoft and their one-two punch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8? Yeesh

In fairness, Firefox OS looks to be aiming for low cost handsets, the same market that Windows Phone Tango wants to grab but can't. Even Android evidently can't go as low as Firefox OS though OEMs are certainly trying (don't forget, Android licensees have to pay Microsoft to use Android). Both Google and Microsoft have publicly commented about the "$99" smartphone--referring to the cost to manufacture, not sell. Just today Microsoft reiterated the flexibility of WP8 and its ability scale up as well as down for low-cost hardware.

Early screenshots of Firefox OS

Although we have a soft-spot for the Mozilla Foundation and we think they have made the internet world a better place, we can’t help but wonder if this will go anywhere. Microsoft, with all of their money, large ecosystem, media tie-ins and strong partnership with Nokia are barely making waves. Most people have already written off RIM with Blackberry 10 and that’s a company with an established track record and valuable IP—what chance does Mozilla have with Firefox OS?

So 2013 will be an interesting year of the giants, Android and iOS with the juggernaut-in-waiting Microsoft dominating the smartphone market, while Blackberry 10, Firefox OS and Bada all fight for fourth place.

We’ll let the free market decide this one but we know where to place our bets. As for Sprint, if they don’t say something soon about Windows Phone 8 or we don’t start to hear rumblings of new WP8 devices, we seriously suggest you ditch them and look at T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T or US Cellular for your next-gen handset.

Does Mozilla have a chance for the prepaid/pay-as-you-go market or will Android and Windows Phone get there first? Should Microsoft be worried? Let us know in comments.

Source: Mozilla

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • OperaOS next?!
  • Not so bad...
  • This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one. computer tech support   
  • Don't think it will catch on, its all about Android and iOS, people are too closed up to try new things.
  • What wheres Windows Phone?
  • People just aren't interested in Windows Phone - yet...
  • They will be with pureview and three screen tech
  • Let me tell you something. People are. I showed my CFO first reaction to my Lumia 900 "Why aren't we on Rogers?" My company uses Bell.
  • At work they want, and will get, the iPhones so I paid $600 out of my own pocket to get an AT&T Titan, unlocked it and brought to a meeting once and showed it off, more than half of the lawyers said they want whatever I have after I gave them a quick walkthrough. It's all about educating the end users in the corporate world. Sure lots of them are drunk of the apple juice but when we work with MS as our main operating syatem, nothing beats the Exchange integration like the Windows Phone did. Only thing I wish is that it was a bit more secure for the corporate law world. Can't wait for Windows Phone 8 as it will be much more secure and better integrated with the surface tablets which i again plan to educate them with. The future is looking like it will be a lot of fun in he office.
  • +1 alot of my corporate guys still say iPhones and Androids are just tooks. Windows Phone is the real deal
  • because rogers SUCKS . lol,   I work for bell and have my WP with Rogers.... and Rogers screws me  over on a month to month , and the reception sucks. lol
    hopefuly  BELL  will get WP8,   specially now with the NEW CEO .
    the old one told MS to go F them selfs  ( he was a MS canada CEO before bell and hates them)
  • so, if u get any tips on new wp8 devices heading to bell we'll be expecting u to spill the beans :P
  • Didn't they also say Xbox wouldn't catch on. And what's the number one selling console? There used to be Playstation, Sega, and Nintendo. Now we have PlayStation, Nintendo, Xbox. So don't think. Just because you start late that means you're out of the game. Soon it will be iPhone, android and, windows. Forget about blackberry(RIM).. I don't see them gaining anything again..
  • I don't think they are planing on competing with Android & iOS like wp. I think there goal is to sell cheap touch screen phones to people that want touch screen & don't know anything about operating systems.
  • Mah low-end pay as you go sure. High end hell NO
  • LMFAO... Are they for real? Look... WP's OS is the cream of the crop and they are still fighting tooth and nail to make a dent in Android and iPhone market share. Mozilla is a joke. Don't even bother.
  • They are saying the same thing when google introduced android a few years back. Never count out challengers until the dust fully settled.
    I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. I think you spend numerous effort and time updating your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am taking a look ahead to reading new articles. Please keep up the good articles! Must be 18
  • Demo here (Firefox only)
  • I like Sprint, wife & I both have the HTC Arrive and Love 'em, I have 5 phones on our plan. If Sprint doesn't come out with a decent Windows 8 Phone I'm taking my account with 5 phones elsewhere. Sprint has been pretty damn screwed up in the Windows Phone Selection, I don't want Android and I hate anything to do with Apple.
  • I'm in the same boat. Switched carriers to Sprint because Verizon didn't have a Windows Phone at the time. Willing to do it again. Disheartening that Sprint did absolutely no promotion for the Arrive when it was an active model and gave no discounts at their stores. It's quietly the best of the first generation of WinPhones.
  • Its still an active model on the floor. Its hasn't even been scheduled for end of life yet.
  • I'm with you, I can't stand apple and don't want android.
    My company pays for my phone, I'm happy with my arrive.
    But I hope Sprint wakes up and has a few good Windows 8 phones.
    Having a sim card is going to be great.
  • +1
  • I had sprint in high school and it was terrible but I was young and didn't know anything about cellular service. Went to metropcs, which is a lot better than it first was, but now on tmobile and love wp7. Just wish they would have gotten the lumia 900 as well.
  • Replace IE on wp7...cuz it sucks
  • You suck IE is faster and more secure than any other browser including google, google chrome, and firefox
  • Firefox was way too cartoony for my tastes. It was like a stripped down attempt. Chrome has a couple nice features, but as far a full featured cream of the crop browsers IE just rocks.
  • IE9 is really good, IE10 looks to be great for Windows Phone. I'm using Chrome on Jelly Bean 4.1 and it has some neat features but it's not "OMG, best browser ever!" just yet. Scrolling is still a bitch on Android (gaps in graphics).
  • OMG, Daniel you converted to Android? :-P
  • Tablet or phone, Daniel? 
    Chrome is kinda nice, aint it? 
  • Whoa whoa...I did not convert. I'm lucky to be in a position where I can evaluate Android for comparative purposes, that is all, lol. I have 14 Windows Phones and now 2 Androids. We know who's winning with me.
  • they really need to add better css support.  especially for fixed divs.  so many mobile sites use fixed divs for top and/or bottom bars and they don't render correctly on mobile ie9.  it's a pretty big issue for me.
  • Wrong. IE on any laptop/desktop has done nothing but crash every few minutes since vista launched. Even the newest version 9 on my wife's laptop caused enough frustration that she had me put Firefox on it. In 5 years, i have had maybe 4 instances where FF lagged out and had to restart itself.
  • Sounds like user error.
  • What you saying seems very suspect. I run an organization with 300 PC and laptops and have had IE problems with 2. I also had a few people who used Firefox and they had issues with it displaying or accessing particular web pages
  • I've had no complaints with IE9 mobile. And I've used the browsers on all the major phone platforms.
  • I have been using Firefox since day one. But recent upgrades are garbage. On one of my computer, I had the most up to date flash installed and it kept telling me I'm missing the plugin. Not only that it also keep crashing or freezing on 3 separate computers.
  • IE is currently the best, fastest most secure mobile browser available...
  • It doesn't suck that much...
  • IE9 rocks on WP 7.5 I don't use Iphone but I can tell you its way better then Google's browser on ICS anyway. I'll let you know my thoughts on jellybean when my Nexus S gets updated this month. I hate using the android browser its like a pain to use compared to Windows Phone. I just wish Windows Phone had options for font size on the browser.
  • IE9 on mobile is practically useless without "forward" and "find".
  • Agreed, IE9 is a half @$$ attempt at a browser, with so much competition they should do better. Hopefully IE10 will be that... But in my book Opera has the best mobile browser on any OS including desktop as well. Only WP7.x is missing out, but I'm confident a WP8 version will be simple for them to make with the native coding coming out for it.
  • I think they will flop, especially since they're stealing Android and Apple is features.....Don't worry, if apple can stop the sell of the Galaxy tab 10.1, I'm sure they will file an injunction of some kind.
  • Why? They're no threat to Apple whatsoever. And besides, Mozilla is aiming for the low-end, not the high-end.
  • Because Apple wants to rule the world in the mobile space. Do you think the Galaxy tab 10.1 was giving the iPad a run for its money? No, yet Apple filed an injunction against them and won. And Apple is now pursuing the low end market....why do you think they're now offering the iPhone on pre-paid????
  • Just another droid clone.
  • What's next? The Netscape Communicator OS?
  • lol
  • LMAO!
  • I hope so.
  • I love my Arrive hardware, but Sprint can go fuhg themselves. Zero user support and zero platform support. Good luck breaking even on that $15billion iPhone play dumb-arses.
  • I think it was $20 billion.
  • That commitment takes sprint through the iPhone 5s. Also have fun taking your iPhone to an apple store with att and Verizon. With sprint you can do in store exchanges without being forced to wait weeks for apple to mail you a phone or driving hundreds of miles to an apple store. Some morons just don't know the specifics of the deal between apple and sprint. Sprint is the only carrier who apple allows to do apple care exchanges.
  • Another phone influenced by the iPhone's app layout, there is already Android
  • I'm fond of Mozilla and, as a consumer, I'm always open to new competition. . . But . . . they're going to have a harder time than Microsoft and Nokia in gaining traction. I wonder what those people who said Windows Phone was too little, too late will say about this? As for Sprint... all I can say is that I'm glad we don't have carriers in the UK who're managed by fanboys. That being said, if O2 don't buck up their ideas, I'll be moving on....
  • Total waste of their time & money. Whose going to pay for a data plan for that, when you can get real smartphones for free or cheap. Is this a joke?
  • No, if it's this easy to get into smartphone wars, why don't we all just make our own OS by borrowing code and features from others
  • Oh my Gawd, who are they kidding? I was barely opening the demo ( and right away I found a stolen behavior from WP7—the lockscreen.
    C'mon Mozilla! You can do better than that, or can't you?
  • It works best on Firefox Nightly builds.
  • I think it is a strange time to come in, but ok. More competition the better. The only thing that urkes me is sprint. F u sprint., f u... My contact is up when win 8 comes out, and i have already decided i am done with the d-bags.
  • I really do love Mozilla. They have the best, most fully featured browser for the desktop - bar none. Nothing can even come close to the customizations and capabilities.
    But I don't see them succeeding in the MobileOS space. This "web-technology as apps" thing was already done and tried to death (literally) by WebOS. Which was such a colossal flop that Palm was bought out by HP and they then cancelled the whole hardware line just 2 months after the release of the TouchPad.
    I'm really hoping that with the introducing of Native support in WP8 that I can finally use the mobile Fennec browser - because that would be fantastic to sync everything across all of my devices. But I haven't heard anything saying that it would be possible, I i'm just going to resign my hope.
  • Many would tell you that WebOS was a good OS with many excellent features. Some that WP still need working on. However, it faced a very similar challenge to WP. Low hardware specs that ppl just couldn't get around, trying to edge their way into the android/ios world, etc. HP though just wasn't willing to do what MS is. Stick with it. HP's phone division believed it would take a solid 3 years before beginning to catch on and make a dent. Something MS plans on doing.
  • WebOS had an excellent UI and a lot of poorly executed ideas. If you want to see the kind of performance and fluid UI of what WebOS should have been, look at the Playbook OS.
    I say nothing about it's utter failure. But if you want to see "WebOS done right" from a technical and performance perspective - it's Playbook OS. I owned a firesale TouchPad. It ran on (at the time) some quite high-end hardware. Yet you couldn't watch ANY videos above 480p and even that would lag to hell. WebOS was actually going to be my choice in phone OS before HP shitcanned it and I decided on a Windows Phone device.
    But it was still a failure for many reasons. The biggest of which is the sheer limitation of being forced to design applications around "web technologies" and nothing else. That's why Palm was forced to release a PDK that gave native development capabilities.
  • Surely, it'll be the second best mobile OS after windows phone
  • True. But wp8 is just too good for Mozilla to compete
  • On a different subject but Firefox Browser has now been ported to Windows Phone 7 (for those interested)... Homebrew though... Works good.
  • Sweet, heading to XDA now :)
  • link please? ;)
  • SPRINT!!! Y R U NO LIKE WINDOWS PHONE 8!!! Fuuuuuuu!! Ok, seriously, let's here something from you guys. You always claimed to have the latest, greatest, and newest tech. You always claimed to be first to market with new tech. Well. HERE IT IS!! Either get onboard or get lost and loose a whole lotta customers too.
  • I left Sprint because of their lack of Windows Phone support and went to ATT to get the Lumia 900 in April. Then it turned out that ATT service was horrible in my neighborhood (tried microcell and still was not going to cut it) so I had to come back to Sprint. I love my HTC Arrive and even upgraded the memory card to 32gb but I hate that I am supporting Sprint due to them not supporting me. I will go to Verizon next if by fall they haven't announced any concrete WP8 Nokia Support.
  • That screenshot reminds me of webOS for some reason.
  • An omen perhaps?
  • It looks like a phone made for kid.
  • I have four lines, two on contract and the other two off contracts. If Sprint does not come with a Nokia phone, I am changing carriers even after 7 years of loyal consumer. They are trying to force people using garbage phones based on Android and I am not for it. I don't like Iphone since I am deep ingrained in the windows Ecosystem.I can easily pay the ETF and change boat. I am tired of the small screw of the HTC arrive with no update or supports.
  • I gave up on Sprint properly supporting the Arrive and I just manually updated the phone as per the instructions and articles found here and on the XDA forums. Not hard to do at all and well worth my effort.
  • I stopped depending on SPRINT since I bought my Arrive. Unlocked it as soon as the HSPL was released and began rocking custom ROMs... Been on 8779 for quite some time... jejeje
  • Same here. Lost all hope on Sprint to deliver updates.
  • paid the ETF and switched to Lumia 900 with AT&T. ETF was basically subsidized since the phone was free and nokia credited $100. don't think I can go back to anything less than LTE either. annoys me whenever I'm out of LTE coverage actually heh.
  • Same here. Dumped sprint as soon as the Lumia came out. I bought a black one. Got a white on for my brother in May and switched my mom over to an iPhone 4S. I pay $17 more per month but I get HSPA+, LTE and I can actually use my phone in the house. Sprint was cheap. That's about all I can say about them.
  • I'm glad your a supporter of WP, but why would you get your mom an iPhone? Most elderly people don't even know how to use androids or iPhones properly, its always, " where can I find this, and how do you do this". WP7 is the most technical yet simplistic phone available today with the best OS that makes everyday tasks a breeze and gives you productivity tools as well.
  • One thing that always gets me is that the Arrive is the highest rated phone on Sprint ( not including the new EVO for now) and Sprint continues to give the Arrive minimal attention. I have had Androids and vowed never to return to that unstable platform. I used to think it's okay to have to remove my battery all the time and just dealt with it. I have had 2 phones that have never crashed, HTC Arrive and iPhone4s. Doubt I could say the same if I got an android.
  • By all means lets throw in something else that looks exactly the same as everything else for the past ten years and declare Mozilla the winner! You guys get a prize because you finally came up with something the whole world has been holding its breath for...thank you so much for all your wonderful work. To world peace! =D
  • Lmao! Shit I knew this would happen companies should pop up and copy Androids OS to give them a taste of their own theft ideas in still waiting to see Sony make ther own OS so that it will be a big cluster of different OS and that will help our WP cuz wer simple and not all over the place with lawsuits every 5 seconds lol
  • Yes Microsoft has a lot of weight behind them to stay the course.  But have you thought that maybe people just don't like Microsoft?  or they just don't like Metro UI?  Maybe this will take off because it is fresh or new.  Just a thought-
  • It's not "fresh", it's a droid clone, Metro is fresh, if you mean different, of course.
  • This is what I actually think the problem is. If Windows Phone was exactly the same as it is, but not called a Windows Phone or done by Microsoft, it would be doing a LOT better.
  • Of course Mozilla has a chance. FireFox the name, like Android and iPhone sounds cool even though it has three syllables.
  • A new phone OS ? Ugh....
    Firefox for WP7 or 8, YES !
  • Man, I hate Sprint so much. Data has been very spotty recently in my area, and I'm stuck with them till next year.
  • This is a joke. They're going nowhere. Its a battle of the 3 major ecosystems. Microsoft, Google and Apple. There is no room for anything else
  • windows phone had yet to prove it's a player.
  • Another grid of icons, that's been done to death. New ideas people.
  • Totally agree.
    Looking at it as a business idea they want to
    Creating a phone OS (for free), that looks exactly the same as two other OS's out there.
    And release yet another new ECOsystem (or they will just run Android apps - in which case guess who earns from that).  And go up against WP, BB10, iOS and Android that are already established, or new and being marketted heavily.
    Thats a terrible business decision.
    Now why would Google be paying them hundreds of millions?
  • Next phone. DOS 1.0 OS With COLOR!
  • lol
  • loved my HTC Arrive, but left Sprint for greener Windows Phone pastures with AT&T. LTE and better overall coverage than Sprint in my area makes me a happy camper.
  • Hahaha happy camper yeah sure won't be happy.when your big high bills comes and no unlimited data. Art sucks charges too much, no unlimited. Sprint way better all unlimited data to use, and no worries of over price or have to watch your data use. Also sprint will be having windows phone 8 new phones this fall. What a fool for leaving just to get a wp? When sprint will have wp 8 soon
  • Unlimited data is useless if you can't actually take advantage of it. My data speeds with sprint were pathetic. I left because of the crappy, spotty service. My Lumia 900 was just the icing on the cake. I pay a little more for better phones and better service but you get what you pay for. Maybe sprint will launch the first (and only) windows phone that has 4 screens, 3 keyboards and a 2.5" screen made by Kyocera. Have fun waiting in line for it. Me, I'll enjoy my Lumia and my HSPA+ and, of course, LTE while I wait for Nokia's next iteration on windows phone's premiere carrier.
  • sprint users take the time to hit up their forums and express your anger and plans to leave. They try to keep the boards so pro sprint,put the truth out there,I am
  • Hahaha boot2gecko what a joke. Mozila give up.
  • Palm couldn't make it with the best OS ever made, I don't think they stand a chance... People are all iOS and Android, even MS still has a long way to go... It's not how good your SO is, it's all about making people think differently, which as of today has proven to be almost impossible
  • Surprise, surprise!!! Apples bans it for some kind of patent. Or tries.
  • Good luck, lol, this is dead even before it starts, the smartphone war revolves heavily on apps right now, which is something we've had to hear about ever since wp's inception and to launch a NEW OS that at best can only use web based apps is going to fail. Can u imagine, what will the sale force have to say about it? Buy this budget phone with no apps for 100 bucks or get a free phone with 600,000 apps with contract?
  • It's funny how they say sale for htc arrive is miserable when you read about 90% of there comments on the htc arrive have been very good comments of the phone. Sprint should have realize how good the htc arrive is with not much problem of a phone compare to iPhone or android.
  • Forget sprint, I never took them seriously. Verizon going to support wp8 and hopefully a Lumia will available on all carriers.
  • LOL.... Good luck fox fire
  • lol !!!!
  • I'm a bit worried. Mozilla is very respected and loved dearly as a brand. All it takes to make this thing fly off is support from all carriers and tech blogs.
    Anyway, I'll reiterate what I posted yesterday but somehow was lost:  
    For Microsoft to win, It's not just Marketing. It's carrier support. You can market the hell out of something, but if the product is not available to me within my current carrier that I'm tied with, then what's the point? I think Nokia and WP will kick off once Pureview Technology and WP8 are presented and supported by Verizon and other carriers with each of them having slight modifications to these things. Also, I see future success not only from carriers, but from the media and tech sites. Right now it's just mediocre support. Today I was driving to the beach on Long Island and was listening to the radio. Then comes a commercial of a company that does something with radio and video. They say "...Now you can download our app for iOS and Android... blah blah" No one is considering Windows, but once you get the recipe out like I explained above, I think it will slowly change. One last thing, Microsoft needs to get more big boys involved in making Apps. People don't just want to go on facebook, they want to run their lives. We need apps like TD Bank for banking, Ameritrade for buying stocks, etc... We need big boys. That's all for now. Thanks!
  • Mozilla was a serious brand in tech. Their market share is sliding since chrome is the new browser choice for the tech crowd.
  • It is hard. I work with an MDM (mobile device management) company. Pretty much securing devices so they can access corp email and VPN etc. sadly, we never picked up WP 7 because it was a loosing propsition. It cost a lot of money to bring an app to market. You mentioned banking apps, think about the liability. They want to test and test again. So a lot of money.
    And with WP markets hare, it is hard to justify picking up that support. But if we can get to 10%, maybe. 
    Think back to the Apple days. So few Ames where ported over because it makes no financial sense. 
    How to get beyond this?
  • One thing that has me worried as well for WP8 is Nokia's Pureview technology will have a smaller sensor for their next WP8 device. Even though it will still kick ass, tech blogs will use that as an excuse to continue giving WP8 mediocre support. We can only hope the full Pureview technology is implemented into the next WP8 phones. If not, I see a very cloudy future.
  • I am a fan of firefox. If they happen to build Firefox for windows phone, consider me interested. This candy coated cartoon OS is ridiculous.
  • If it's anything like the browser it will use a lot of memory to start with, leak memory like a sieve, and each minor update will break all the apps (plugins).
  • Really Firefox?? Really?
  • I think I'm gonna switch to the AOL OS... They come with built-in modems!!
  • Any manufacturers showed interest? if it has something new people are interested. However, new is hard right now with WP, iOS, and Android fighting to be best. Can't sell an OS without a phone maker though. Heh