My journey with Firefox OS

Firefox OS: the Web is the Platform

Over the past few months, I’ve been very intrigued by the mission of Mozilla in creating a completely web based OS for smartphones where the entire phone’s software is run by HTML5 aka the open web. Utilizing web apps to function on the device as native apps, and making affordable hardware, it brings the possibility to distribute these devices into the hands of those people in other countries where there is no chance of ever affording a high end and popular device from the likes of Apple and Google.

I’ve read up on web development for building and creating open web apps for Firefox OS, as well as hacking the devices and all of that good stuff.

When it was announced that ZTE was planning on selling their ZTE Open (Firefox OS device) through eBay for the US and UK markets, I was totally excited. For only $80 USD you could buy an affordable Firefox OS device to play with and learn from, so I was hyped. Right before this eBay sale went live (which they sold out for both in the US and UK), I found a pre-production (but fully functional –according to ZTE support) ZTE Open that was black for sale at $116, so I ordered it. Then the next day I learned of the upcoming eBay sale in which the consumer version/mass production Orange devices were going to be up on eBay at the ZTE Store for only $80. I thought it was a bummer at first because I spent a bit more than $80 and for a pre-production device but I was happy I was going to get a piece of “the future”, regardless.

So I waited and waited since it was shipping from China. It actually took 3-4 weeks to arrive which was pretty frustrating because while tracking it on eBay, almost everyday it gave me a different and delayed estimated arrival date.  When I finally got the device, I was still excited. I played with it but reality sunk in. And no, it’s not because I’m American and I’m “spoiled” with higher end devices. It’s because of the fact that the device wouldn’t even load a website. I thought the goal was to bring the power of the open web to the user? How is this so, if I can’t even view a website? Every time I tried to do anything basic on Twitter (which is just the mobile Twitter site), such as view my lists, compose a tweet, reply to a tweet or search…..CRASH. Same thing with Facebook’s mobile web app. So I would have to constantly reboot the ZTE Open just to “try again”. Well, it became so much of a problem that I returned the device all the way back to China.

Orange ZTE Open Firefox OS device from eBay

After that I got a mid range Android from 2012 and used that for a while until I was tempted to give Firefox OS another shot but this time with the Orange mass produced ZTE Open, instead of the pre-production “collectible”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash Mozilla for their amazing endeavor, but I’m trying to tell it like it is from a users perspective. Anyways, I got my Orange ZTE Open in 5 days (because this time it was shipped from the US) which was nice. Played with it as well, used it as my main device. Thinking that it was a more stable version of the OS, I didn’t fear any crashes, freezes, reboots and so on. Oh was I mistaken. I currently still have the device and I have to reboot it 5 times a day on average to get applications to work on it. I wrote ZTE on eBay about this and to the point that I was fed up with a 2nd time and asked them to refund me the money. A lot of people are harsh with ZTE support but they are very kind and try to be as helpful as possible, as I’ve learned chatting with them on eBay. Well, after I asked for a refund, there’s been a little back and forth action where there is some resistance on their part which is not pleasing for a customer. I want a phone I can use daily. Especially use the web on, which in this case should be no issue right?

My main point in writing this post is to reach out to Mozilla and ask them why they released a smartphone that stands for so much but barely achieves these points?
Think about the person in a less fortunate country who wants to get their hand on a smartphone for the first time. Well now they can with Firefox OS which is a huge breakthrough. But the problem is that the OS isn’t ready enough to even function correctly, so imagine how a person in that scenario feels? My opinion is that Mozilla should have waited to release the OS, perfect it, test everything about it, then release it with true confidence.

I wish Mozilla the best with this awesome mission and I know they can do it and do it right. Their community is inspiring and their goals are incredible and humbly powerful.


6 Responses to “My journey with Firefox OS”

  1. Great article

  2. Martin Zatroch Says:

    Pretty cool report, man!
    So far am sticking to SE Cedar (featurephone with 2 week +- battery life), but I was almost firmly decided to get my hands upon some cheap ZTE / Huawei device. Sadly after proof-reading your summary I am not that sure whether it’s good idea to go for such a bargain handset when I plan mostly to use it without SIM, just for WiFi browsing [if possible at all].

    Q: Have you tried to flash FOS ver. 1.1 despite warranty etc.?!

    • Thanks Martin! And yeah, think hard. I think Firefox OS will get to the place one day where it will be greatly usuable daily and more but at the moment, it’s a hassle. I haven’t tried to flash 1.1 on it but I know people who have 1.1 on their geeksphone keon who said there are no bugs at all or freezes, but at the same time, they said they don’t use twitter or facebook etc…. :/

  3. Sorry for the hassle. I have a new ZTE Open I bought from eBay last week. No real problems. But I’m comparing it to early versions of Android, Palm, Windows Mobile, etc. For $79 I was willing to take a risk, and so far it has paid off as a developer machine, music player, and … a phone! But I’m not comparing it to my nearly perfect Samsung Galaxy Note II.

    The problem with the tech industry right now is that they can’t wait until things are perfect, because they need to get phones out there and see what works, and let developers actually play with them.

    I see you had a Windows Phone and that had problems, too. If you want a sturdy dependable phone, try the Samsung Galaxy Note series. Very good surfing, a huge screen, and still fits in my pocket (the same size as the Moleskine). But part of what I like about the ZTE Open is how small it is, and I have high hopes that they’ll do an update and make it better.

    Phones are the “wild west” at the moment, and you have to be careful, read the reviews, and be prepared. It looks like you were able to return the two ZTE phones that weren’t up to your liking, and I admire that!

    • Thanks for the advice. I’m the type that likes to stick to smaller screens. Not necessarily small but just smaller than these huge screens today. For the average user, Firefox OS would be fun I think.

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