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Second Firefox OS phone ships, 4.0 simulator released

Jul 12, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Deutsche Telekom opened sales of the Firefox OS-based Alcatel One Touch Fire phone in Poland today for one Zloty (30 cents) on contract, a few days after Telefonica launched the ZTE Open for 69 Euros ($89) in Spain. On July 11, Mozilla released Firefox OS Simulator 4.0, which adds features like a “Connect” button and simulated touch events.

So far, the rollout of the first commercial phones to run Mozilla’s Linux- and HTML5-based Firefox OS has run a bit behind, but is more or less as promised. Telefonica was a few days late getting ZTE’s Open to Spanish customers, which it accomplished on July 9. Today, Deutsche Telekom (DT) launched online sales of the Alcatel One Touch Fire in Poland, with retail sales expected in 850 locations in Poland starting July 15.



Alcatel One Touch Fire runs Mozilla’s Firefox OS

 

Telefonica sold its ZTE Open outright at 69 Euros ($90), including a 30-Euro balance for prepaid customers and a 4GB microSD card, or else at the equivalent of $3 per month on contract. DT is going even cheaper with the similar Alcatel Touch One Fire. The German carrier said the phone was available for one Polish Zloty, or about 0.23 Euros or 30 cents U.S., and said it would be supported by “a very attractive tariff.”

Earlier this year, Mozilla’s carrier and vendor partners said they planned June launches in Spain, Poland, Portugal, Brazil, and Venezuela. Now, Telefonica is only committing to imminent releases of Firefox OS phones in Venezuela and Colombia. Yesterday, DT said it will follow up this fall with releases of the Alcatel One Touch Fire in Germany via its Congstar brand, as well as in Hungary and Greece via DT subsidiaries Magyar Telekom and COSMOTE, respectively. Mozilla recently announced that Telenor would launch its first Firefox OS phones in Central and Eastern Europe later this year. Later this year, we can also expect a Firefox OS tablet and other devices from Foxconn (Han Hai Precision).

Sprint, which was acquired by Japan-based Softbank earlier this week, has yet to weigh in on a U.S. release for either Firefox OS or Tizen, the other emerging mobile Linux platform to be publicly supported by the carrier. In any case, Samsung recently confirmed that its first Tizen phones would be delayed until the fourth quarter. Earlier this week, Canonical announced Verizon Wireless had joined its Carrier Advisory Group (CAG) for next year’s Ubuntu for Phones platform.
 

Alcatel One Touch Fire

The Alcatel One Touch Fire (pictured at right; click to enlarge) won’t easily be confused with an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S 4. Mozilla has no interest in competing with high-end, or even mid-range Android phones, but is instead going after the millions around the world who have yet to buy a smartphone. Unlike most feature phones selling for similar prices, the first Firefox OS phones offer better speed, a more sizable touchscreen, and the novelty of an appstore. That’s a lot more than you’d expect for one Zloty!

The modest specs are almost identical to those of the ZTE Open, but the Alcatel model offers a slightly different Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with its 1GHz, Cortex-A8-based MSM 7227A. Memory is limited to 256MB RAM and 512MB NAND flash, as well as a microSD slot that can hold up to 32GB.

Mozilla claims that perceived performance is better than these specs would suggest. This is because Firefox OS is optimized for the Snapdragon, and with its browser-based approach, is free of the performance-slowing middleware found on Android and other major mobile platforms. Even if that’s true, video is limited to VGA quality at 30fps, and the 480 x 320-pixel display is disappointing even for the small 3.5-inch screen size. There’s a 3.2-megapixel camera, but no front-facing cam, but you get WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, aGPS, and a variety of sensors. The 1400mAh battery is said to offer up to 6.7 hours on 2G networks, but only three hours on 3G.
 

Firefox OS Simulator 4.0

Following up on the Firefox OS Simulator 3.0 simulation engine released in May, Mozilla has released a 4.0 version that introduces several new features. The primary focus is in helping developers sell apps on the Firefox Marketplace, which now offers more than 1,200 apps.



Revised Simulator Dashboard
(click image to enlarge)

 

With Firefox OS Simulator 4.0, each app now includes a time-saving “Connect” button that opens up a developer toolbox linked to that app. Developers can also test receipt verification for the Firefox Marketplace, including valid, invalid, and refunded payments.



New Connect buttons
(click image to enlarge)

 

Within the updated Simulator, using a mouse now generates real touch events, letting developers test third party apps that rely on touch events “without needing to fall back to mouse events,” says Mozilla. In addition, CSS style sheets can now be applied to apps remotely via a Style Editor tool (pictured at right; click to enlarge), and there’s a new keystroke command for clearing persistent data while refreshing an app.

With the Geeksphone’s Keon and Peak developer phones for Firefox OS still sold out, the simulator has played a crucial role for Firefox OS app development. Now that the first commercial phones are arriving, the process should get a little easier, at least for some.
 

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