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Firefox OS gains speed, features, phones

Oct 10, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Mozilla released version 1.1 of its Linux-based Firefox OS operating system, adding MMS support, push notifications, and performance improvements. Meanwhile, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, and Telenor announced plans for launching Firefox OS phones in South America and Europe, following “very successful” early sales.

Mozilla has released the first major update to its Linux-fueled, HTML5-focused Firefox OS operating system to all Firefox OS users. A beta version of Firefox OS 1.1 was made available exclusively to owners of Geeksphone’s Keon, Peak, and Peak+ phones back in late July. The release was said to feature battery and graphics performance improvements, among other enhancements.



Geeksphone Keon, Alcatel One, Geeksphone Peak+
(click images to enlarge)

 

The final version continues to be touted for its performance improvements, and it’s also said to provide faster load times, and smoother scrolling. The release also adds MMS support, enabling attachments to text messages, and a push notifications API is now available to developers. A new music search feature allows searches by artist, album or title, and the adaptive app search function has been overhauled.

Numerous improvements have been made to contact management, including Gmail and Hotmail contact import, dialer suggestions, and new ways to update contacts. Email enhancements, meanwhile, include a draft mode, and support for multimedia attachments, and calendar improvements include direct event creation and event reminders. In addition, Firefox OS 1.1 adds keyboard improvements and easier browser downloads, and it now supports more than 15 languages.

That language support will come in handy as several carriers have just announced additional countries that will soon receive one of the first two commercial models to offer Firefox OS: the ZTE Open and Alcatel One Fire. Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom announced continuing expansion plans for the phones, and Telenor says it will start selling the phones in Eastern Europe before the end of the year. All these phones will run the faster new 1.1 version.

Telefonica continues to be Mozilla’s most aggressive partner. After launching the ZTE Open in Spain in early July, Telefonica expanded to Colombia and Venezuela in August, and also began selling the Alcatel One Fire there as well. Now, claiming that sales “have surpassed our expectations,” the Spanish mobile provider says it will expand to Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay by the end of the year.

Deutsche Telekom claims to be similarly pleased with sales in Poland of the One Fire, calling the launch “very successful.” The carrier now says it will expand to its native Germany this month, and will follow up in Greece and Hungary “soon.” Telenor confirmed that it will go ahead with plans to sell Firefox OS phones in Hungary, Serbia, and Montenegro by the end of the year.

None of this is exactly news, as this is more or less the same rollout schedule that Mozilla announced earlier this year. Still, the fact that the launches are going per schedule is significant enough, considering that an early failure was more than just a possibility. The key test could be the huge Brazilian market, and the Latin American market in general. These underserved mobile territories are crucial to Mozilla’s plans for expansion.

In other good news for Mozilla, LG is rumored to be prepping a Firefox OS phone, and Foxconn may unveil a tablet by the end of the year. In addition, Via Technologies recently announced Firefox OS support for its APC Paper mini-PC and APC Rock single board computer (pictured at the right).

“It is striking that the Firefox OS is entering its second phase of expansion at a time when other aspiring third smartphone platforms continue to struggle for position, scale, and sustainability in the competitive market,” stated John Jackson, IDC Research VP. “The platform continues to add new features that are appropriate for its target markets, striking a balance between value to consumers and affordability. Perhaps more importantly, Firefox OS continues to attract new apps and content partnerships.”
 

Not the only Linux-based Android alternative

Firefox OS will soon have some other tuxified company as Canonical will release its Ubuntu for Phones platform (shown below) for several Nexus Android devices on Oct. 17.



Challenging Android: Ubuntu, Tizen, and Sailfish OS phones
(click images to enlarge)

 

And in other Android-alternative news, Samsung’s first Tizen launch is also expected by the end of the year, while Jolla has now opened a second round of pre-orders for its newly Android-compatible Sailfish OS phone, but only in Finland.
 

Further information

Firefox OS 1.1 is available for free download now. More information may be found in the Firefox OS 1.1 announcement on Mozilla’s blog.
 

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