Firefox OS launches in Spain while Android reaches 70% market share

Is Firefox OS and their shockingly inexpensive entry point the key to a strong number three mobile OS? 

The ZTE Open officially launches in Spain July 2. It's the first available consumer version of a Firefox OS device, and the Internet is buzzing about its debut. With good reason -- the phone will sell for $90, and include $39 of prepaid airtime. That makes it a $51 dollar smartphone, and will be an easy sell for all those feature phone users out there. We're looking to get one, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

Meanwhile, Android has reached a 70-percent share of the global smart phone market. Android is especially strong in Europe, right where the ZTE Open is launching. That's a big Goliath to Mozilla's David, and in a world of cheap prepaid Android phones can the fledgling Firefox OS compete? It's all going to come down to one thing -- the apps.

You hear the term user experience thrown around a lot from industry experts, developers and bloggers. The fact is that a big part of that user experience comes down to having all the apps you need, and most of the apps you want. The App store was a big part of Apple's and Android's respective success, and Firefox OS will be no different. 

Right now, there are 1,146 apps available in the Firefox Marketplace for the ZTE open when it launches tomorrow. You'll find a few of the big names like Twitter, Facebook and Evernote, as well as some filler apps like clocks and calculators. That's not going to cut the mustard when you can spend another $50 up front and have access to the 700,000 apps in Google Play. Developers are going to have to get on board, or Firefox will have a short lifespan as a mobile operating system.

The good news is that apps are easy to write because they are all HTML 5. The bad news is that the apps are all HTML 5, and that means no access to low level functions for things like games. Playing around, I can code a standard calculator application for Firefox OS in a couple hours. Mozilla really did make things easy here, and for many things using HTML makes perfect sense -- it's easy to code, offers fast production times, and there is already a huge pool of developers in place. But with all the apps being essentially rendered in a web view, performance is going to suffer without world-class hardware -- which the ZTE Open is lacking.

Make no mistake, we want Firefox OS to succeed. Mozilla is a cornerstone of open-source, and the folks there are great people with exciting ideas. Besides this, even we don't want to see a world where Android is the only choice for budget-minded consumers. A successful Firefox OS will spur Android innovation at the entry level, making better phones and software for everyone. A healthy dose of competition from a company like Mozilla is exactly what the doctor ordered to keep the mobile space on its toes and innovative. But things look pretty bleak in a world where cheap Android phones dominate. 

We're watching Firefox OS closely, both because we're nerds who love this sort of thing and because of the impact it could have on Android. And we're hopeful that it can make one hell of a splash.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Certainly a low-end phone, not marketed to most of us here. Not sure if this is really going to make a splash, but phone prices are getting more and more reasonable.
  • I am not interested in seeing Firefox OS succeed. But I'm not rooting for it's demise either.
  • +1
  • Mozilla's mission is to drive the web forward, so we've developed an open WebAPI standard to fill in the gaps between web and native development. More details about our progress and adoption here: I'll also say this...I was there for the rise and fall of webOS, which was a beautiful vision but the web wasn't quite ready yet. There have been incredible improvements since 2009, but we've still yet to hit our stride for web apps. Firefox OS is a great environment for those who want to experiment and have a voice in how that vision materializes.
  • Thanks for that link! I *really* want the mobile space to change, and I think if anyone can do it Mozilla can. Here's hoping you guys have a great launch, and (after I get mine ordered) hit that magic spot where you can;t make them fast enough to satisfy demand :)
  • I was just going to ask didn't you work for palm then all my questions were answered in phargraph 2.
  • I would love to see Firefox do well. If they actually had good customer service, or customer service at all beyond hidden email addresses, they could have a decent chance.
  • I'm very much so thinking that I would choose a FireFox device over an "I device"any day.
    It may be cheap but it's rich with innovation. Where as Apple makes rich devices with cheap innovation. From the DARK AC App!
  • It's all going to come down to one thing -- the apps. well i guess but mostly it will come down to price. these wont be premium devices.
  • Sounds to me like the phone version of a netbook or more like the chromebook. It's great because that can only help Firefox mobile browser and therefore improve Firefox on android.
    I doubt this will be any more successful than what chromebooks are vs regular PCs.
    Is AC going to adopt Firefox OS? Wasn't there a spot for Web OS? Shouldn't Firefox OS get it's own site?
  • Well, the Firefox OS should have little to do with the ultimate price of the phone. The phone is cheap because it is a cheap phone (hardware). And, unfortunately, if Firefox OS takes off, Mozilla will be sued by Microsoft and Apple and etc and end up paying lots of royalties just like Android does :( It will be funny to see if Firefox OS passes Microsoft market share :)
  • This reminds me of webOS.
  • Jerry, eventhough there are no low level function there's still WebGL for hardware acceleration. Wouldn't that be good enough for gaming? Anyway, I wish Firefox OS the best. I love Android, but I also want to see lots of competition. Competition is good for US, the consumer, and also what Jerry already stated.
  • I think I recently read that Android users are much more open to the idea of using a different OS than Idevice users. At this price, I could imagine one of the as a spare. Apple has no chance there! Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm not trying to provoke anything here, but I've been legitimately wondering who will protect Mozilla when the patent lawsuits start flying. If they manage to grab appreciable marketshare, I'm sure it's going to happen.
  • This particular phone is low end, so maybe I don't care about it in specific, but I actually really want this OS to succeed. Mozilla is not for profit, so any success this OS sees isn't helping just Mozilla, it is helping the whole online world.
  • Seems like the perfect OS for people who don't really need all the power android brings to the table - so if it's well marketed it'll probably do very well. I also think the games angle is a bit over played, touch controls suck for 3d gaming, and all the most popular games are simple 2d games which should work fine in html5. Posted via Android Central App
  • Correction: Play has 950,000 apps, not 700,000. Posted via Android Central App
  • The interesting thing about Firefox OS is the amount of people who are giving back support. Panasonic: Foxconn: ZTE, Alcatel, Telefónica, etc. :)