Brief look at Firefox OS and the Alcatel One Touch Fire

The first time I heard of Firefox OS was at last year’s Beyond Tellerrand conference. Christian Heilmann spoke about the upcoming operation system. Well, who cares for a new OS when we have the two big players iOS and Android on the market? Well the lads from Mozilla do!

The most interesting thing about Firefox OS is – and that everyone should always have in mind talking about this OS – that it is for low budget smartphones. The first time it was released wasn’t in the US , nor Germany, the U.K. or France. It was in South America and Hungary. The purpose of Firefox OS is to bring the smartphone experience to those who can’t afford it. You see, in the US or Germany or a like people do have smartphones for quite a while. We have smartphones, a desktop PC and maybe even a tablet. Being mobile is common for us, a no-brainer. It’s completely normal. But in other countries people are cut off from the internet. Buying a PC? Too expensive. So having a small device to access the internet is the only option. But it has to be affordable. Here comes in Firefox OS.

It’s not just an open-source OS, it’s also designed to run on low cost devices. When the OS went public in July 2013 it was with the ZTE Open in Spain. A few days later Firefox OS was delivered on an Alcatel One Touch Fire in Poland. In Germany Firefox OS was on the market from October 2013 on – also on the One Touch Fire. In Brazil the OS is installed on the LG Fireweb. Enough theory, now let’s have a look at the OS.

What’s to see?

When the smartphone boots you will see a sweet little fox with a flamed tail that waves in the wind. Then you have your look screen. You don’t swipe to unlock. Well yes in some way you do after all. From the bottom to the top. 🙂

As you already know this from other OSs you have a dock with the most important apps. In my case I had five apps in the dock, although you only have place for four. That means you can put in more apps, you only have to swipe then horizontally. Above you can place all your apps, even in more then one screen. So nothing new here. Nothing anyone could mock about. You can’t group your apps. Never mind.

Where do you get new apps from? From the Firefox store (it’s called Marketplace, see below). It’s young so don’t expect all your beloved apps here. But Twitter and Facebook, they are here already. Heck they where even pre-installed. Obviously I threw out the Facebook app ? Looking at all the apps in the store one thing will attract your attention. Most of the apps and their reviews are in spanish. Well, that’s because they started where first? In South America. That’s why. I’ve told you that already. The installation is pretty easy. If it weren’t it would’ve been a still birth.

Let’s have a look at: Main screens

As mentioned above I had five apps in my dock when I started the phone for the first time. Looked strange. But it’s damn easy to get rid of this fifth app. After that everything looks just fine. Initially I had two screens. You can swipe through them. A little bar at the top of the screen indicates where you are.

The search within Firefox OS

From the main screen swiping to the left, you will get to the search. Type in whatever you want. You’ll get suggestions for a search term. And the background will change. Let’s say you’re looking for the term „hamburg“, then you will get a picture of Hamburg’s town hall as background image. That goes for everything else as well. So you will „get in the mood“ for what you are searching for. As results you’ll see „apps“. Actually these aren’t real apps but links. In our example one of the links is that one that goes to Google News. Click on the icon and a search will be triggered for „hamburg“ within the „google News“. Same goes for all the other icons/links.

Looking for different terms will result in different „apps“ that are displayed on the screen. Hitting the „home“ button will bring you – as you might know this from another OS – to the first screen. Here it is the search.

The search will look for things in the internet. It will not look for example for a song on your phone.

You’ll get your apps in the Marketplace

Obviously you want to have more! More apps I’m talking about. You can get new apps from the Firefox Appstore – only that it isn’t called that way. It’s Marketplace. Looks very familiar. You will even see some good old friends. And like in other OSs it is pretty easy to install one app – or to remove it. Don’t be confused when the majority of the descriptions and comments are in spanish. I told you that this OS has been first launched in corresponding countries. So it’s no wonder. (About building an app – see below.)

The Mail program

Yes, Firefox OS comes along with a mail program. It has everything you want from a mail app.

Firefox OS has got a Browser *duh*

And of course Firefox OS has a browser. Now take a guess which major player has put his browser into this OS. 😛

Camera and Editing

As long as your phone has a camera – the Alcatel one touch Fire has one – you can take pictures and videos. You have access to the camera through the camera app, but also right away from the lock screen. Just swipe from the bottom to the top and get the little bar with the camera on the one side and the unlock button on the other.

Your photos will be stored ? well I don’t know where (actually it’s the folder called DCIM – just connect the phone via USB to your PC and you will it). But you can see them in the gallery app. From here you can even edit your photos. Play around with Exposure, Crop and Borders or add an Effect. You have five borders and effects at your hand. If you have opened a photo you can share it from within the gallery.

When I connect my Alcatel One Touch Fire to my computer iPhoto will open so I can decide what picture I want to import. I have to say that the quality of the pictures taken with this camera is not the best.

Firefox OS’s Calendar

The calendar looks nice. Nothing fancy, nothing too white, too thin or else. Classic I would like to say. You can add already existing calendars from Google, Yahoo or you use CalDav if you have for example a home network you want to synchronize your calendar with.

Let’s play some Music

Open the music app and you will see the prompt that you first have to upload some music to your phone. Just establish a connection between your phone and your PC. (You have to check „Enable USB storage“ [Settings > Storage]). Initially the One Touch Fire offers roughly 2GB storage for you. But you can bump up the storage size by inserting a bigger Micro SD. It’s located under the battery (a rechargeable Li-ion battery, 3.7 V dc/ 1400 mAh, 5.18 Wh for the Alcatel One Touch Fire that is).

On your PC you have access to the storage space of your smartphone. Three folders I found. „DCIM“ is the place to look for your pictures. If you have taken screenshots (by clicking the on/off button at the top of the phone simultaneously with the „Home“ button) you can find these ? well ? in the folder called „screenshots“. Then there is a third folder called „LOST.DIR“. Forget about this one.

Now create a new folder. Name it whatever you want. I for example called it „Mucke“. Copy all the music you want and place it in the folder. Now you’re ready to hear some music. And it’s all there: playlists, albums, direct access to the songs ? you name it.

The rest

Then there are some little things that caught my attention. For example: What’s up with the numbers in the upper left corner? Well they s.o. you the numbers of messages you have. And I’m talking about system messages here. You can see the messages by pulling down the upper border of the screen. This comes also in handy when you need a quick access to your quick settings. You’re about to board a plane and what to switch into flight modus? Well you can do this within the settings – or you enter the quick settings.

By clicking and holding the background you can change the background picture. Available sources are the background images folder, the gallery or the camera. Very simple and quick.

The Alcatel One Touch Fire can also be used as a phone. Just saying ?

Nokia’s Here is installed as the common maps app.

One or two additional words about the Alcatel One Touch Fire. Please don’t get one and as s.o. as you hold it in your hand start complaining. I don’t want to hear something like Bahh, it doesn’t feel good. It’s not fast enough. The quality of the pictures is bad. The back cover is poorly as is the glass of the phone. or things like that. Always remember: You hold a device in your hand that costs only 90 Euros. It supposed to be a low-end smartphone. Yes, it does not have a gorilla glass cover. No, it does not take panorama pictures. Yes, there is not every famous app available (yet). This phone will not go into a race against an iPhone or a Nexus. It is not build for that. It is here to give people access to the internet that can’t afford such a pricy device. And that is good. That goes for the smartphone. Firefox OS on the other hand is a great OS. I like it very much. The only thing – about the GUI – I think is strange is the fact that the „back“ buttons within an app are very small. But that may change in the future ..?

When you charge your Alcatel One Touch Fire a blue light is glowing. When the phone is fully charged the light turns off.

Let’s make the Internet a better place

And now the real fun part! So you wanted to build an app for a looong time, didn’t you? But who can program in Objective-C, Cocoa, C++ or Java? That’s hard and smells like elitist. Firefox OS is for the people. You want to create an app? Basically it’s damn simple. Just create a HTML page – even the famous „Hello World“ page if you like – and deliver it along side with a so called manifest. That is a file that contains meta Dat. like the version number, the name of the app, the author’s name and other stuff. Voilá. Your first app is ready.

Okay, that is a really simple way to explain an app that runs on Firefox OS. But in the end that’s it. You don’t need to know fancy program languages. You can start with what we all know: HTML, CSS and JavaScript. That is the backbone of the internet and that is also the essence of every Firefox OS app. That means we have so much more gifted people who can program an app. You don’t have to take care of pixel dimensions or the latest GUI update. Your app will behave like a responsive webpage. That is the beauty of Firefox OS.

There are hosted and packaged apps. The packaged apps come along in three „flavors“: privileged (approved by the Marketplace), certified (also approved, wants to access critical system functions) and plain packaged.

The folk from Mozilla provide a nice simulator add-on that helps you to develop an app for Firefox OS.

Firefox OS lives the Mozilla spirit we all know from the beloved browser:

The Mozilla community uses, develops, spreads and supports Mozilla products, thereby promoting exclusively free software and open standards ?


I like the Firefox OS. I like the idea behind the Operating System, that it is open, easy to develop, that it is build upon „what the internet is made off“ and the social character – like that the phones are low priced so more people get access to the internet. The look and feel is straight, nothing too fancy or bright or too stylish like other OSs these days. Would be nice to see how it feels and behaves on a costlier phone.

As long as you don’t want to have the latest „hot shit“ on your phone, a smartphone that runs on Firefox OS could be of interest for you.

Have a look …

Here are a few pictures.