In the tech space there are two definitions of free. Free as in free beer, and free as in freedom.

The latter definition is at the core of Open Source communities such as Mozilla. It was also initially the reason why Mozilla’s new mobile operating system Firefox OS was received so well. The idea of a mobile operating system fully based on web and open source technology was attractive to many. It motivated people to contribute to the project, support it and even switch from their iOS or Android smartphone to Firefox OS.

With it’s prime focus on the low end market and developing countries, Firefox OS is gaining a solid user base and is trying to break the Apple and Google mobile duopoly. The announcement of a $25 smartphone in several markets has helped gain further interest.

With the announcement of Firefox OS 2.0, a new chapter is set to be started, the first since the launch of the first Firefox OS smartphones, exactly 1 year ago.

Some of the new features announced for Firefox OS 2.0 are:

  • Users can copy/paste and select items.
  • A new lock screen with a music player and scrollable notifications.
  • Find my phone feature that will help you find your phone through GPS trackers and will emit a noise when near.
  • Firefox Accounts Integration that will log you into everything with the help of just one login.
  • Creating ringtones from music.
  • Smarter typing input
  • NFC technology that will help share data with other phones and devices
  • Direct dialing within the call log
  • A new camera app

As an owner of a Firefox OS Developer Preview Phone, a Geeksphone Peak, I downloaded the latest Alpha Build of Firefox OS 2.0 and tested it on my device. If you want to experiment with it too, you can find the builds here.
I’m going to show you around the updated UI and some work in progress updates in Firefox OS 2.0. Obviously, everything shown is not final as the system build is updated every day, and a final update is due for release in late summer.

Firefox OS 2.0 Lock Screens

The first change you will notice is the updated lock screen. It is clear, uncluttered and attractively designed. The new two directional slide lock bar now lets you access the camera app directly without unlocking the screen. The screen lacks any visible borders, making the UI elements and UX more unified. Even the status bar has only a subtle gradient, refusing to keep a black solid border. Being able to see the notifications from the lock screen is unique in Firefox OS, a feature which Google recently introduced at I/O for Android L (a coincidence perhaps?).

Whereas in Android the application drawer and home screens are separate, they are in the same menu in Firefox OS. The application screens can currently be highly customized with icon alignment, organization and size easily modifiable on the fly by holding an app icon. These features provide fantastic functionality for those with accessibility requirements or just those with large fingers!

Firefox OS 2.0 Icon arrangement

The notifications bar is still heavily inspired by Android, putting push notifications on top, data usage next, and quick access to settings at the bottom. However, in future updates the notification bar is set to be overhauled completely. It’s layout is set to change and users will be able to access it from sliding from the bottom upwards, instead from the top downwards.

The dial screen has been also revamped, with bigger buttons and a cleaner interface. The high contrast rich colors and buttons look slick and modern, yet warm, due to their round forms, an aspect which adds to the UI’s friendliness.

Other Firefox OS 2.0 features

This friendliness is a characteristic which Firefox OS achieves well. Due to Mozilla’s community nature, a good portion of Firefox OS code and contributions are made by volunteers, a unique approach for a mobile OS. This generally only happens in true Open Source Communities (unlike Android), hence the big hope among enthusiasts, who want it to succeed.

Mozilla has set some serious goals for Firefox OS in 2014. Amongst them is to own 1% of the Mobile OS market share, which is a large goal, yet doable if everyone continues to pull together. You can find the Roadmap of Firefox OS here.

Firefox OS is definitely a game changer. Penetrating the market with a $25 smartphone could enable it to compete with the big boys Apple and Google. There is a lot yet to be improved in Firefox OS, but do you remember Android in its first 2 years? You don’t? Well, probably best. There is a long way for Firefox OS to go, but with such a large and enthusiastic community involved, it will definitely make a lasting impact.

Elio Qoshi Elio Qoshi
Elio is a freelance designer with a weak spot for anything open source. As a board member at Open Labs Albania, he promotes free software and open source locally and regionally. Further, Elio is also a community designer and Representative at Mozilla. When he doesn't write for SitePoint, he scribbles his musings on his personal blog.

  • Pedro Rosado

    I would be quit happy if someone could port this to huawei g300. I had g2g 1.0 on my huawei, but can’t update to any other version through the settings…

    • Fawad Hassan

      Better buy phone with Firefox OS preinstalled (e.g. ZTE Open C) to have better experience

    • Elio Qoshi

      There should be probably be away to hack around it… Mozilla Developer Network might help you

    • szatkus

      Custom builds usually doesn’t have updates. You must just flash with newer version (if there’s any).

  • Jingqi Xie

    I wonder whether you have encountered the problem that input fields in some privileged apps, when focused, would crash.

    • Elio Qoshi

      Haven’t heard of that, any examples?

      • Jingqi Xie

        It was so on my simulator.
        BTW, I wonder whether it supports viewport meta tags.

  • Jingqi Xie

    I couldn’t imagine that Fira Sans is so beautiful here, and I like it. I wouldn’t have to install Segoe UI as previously thought.

    • Elio Qoshi

      I use Fira Sans all the time in designs! It works amazingly well in UI. Gotta love it.

  • Chee How

    One of the challenges for Mozilla is really shipping out a phone people can get their hands on.

    I’ve ordered the latest Flame more than a month ago and it still has not shipped. There has been almost no communication from Mozilla and the vendor on the status of the product since the delay of the original shipping date. Any communication would have been reassuring. Since it is a developer phone, most people will be understanding, but sadly, even that is missing.

    I think they really need to buff up in this aspect. I appreciate all the difficulties and complexities in creating a phone OS, but if even the developer phone can’t ship, I don’t know how will Firefox OS even reach the end-consumers.

    That said, I’m still hopeful that Mozilla can pull it off!

    • Elio Qoshi

      You’re right, everything is still exciting and dynamic for us so we get caught up easily. I’d love to hear your feedback though! As a representative I always gather feedback on how to improve our projects :)

      • Chee How

        Hi Elio, if you are able to help, maybe you can get Mozilla (or Asa Dotzler) to just put a page, or share a Twitter feed, or email, or something to let everyone who has put down the money in support of the program to know what is the status of the phone.

        A small gesture like this really goes a long way towards building goodwill. Being left dangling after forking out USD170 really kills the enthusiasm.

        • Elio Qoshi

          I’m going to let them know and report back when I get a reply!

          • Chee How

            Cool! Thanks!

  • Elio Qoshi

    You have a point there! I might have focused too much on the Firefox branding instead of using a neutral wallpaper. It should be clear enough this way too though.

    • YemSalat

      I agree, th fox looks great, but its too much contrast on the background.

  • Chris Frost

    I’m a fan of FirefoxOS but they it’s not just Android and iOS it has to compete against. You say lock screen notifications were a first with FirefoxOS but Blackberry10 has had them for much longer and also has a lot of other great design points. I think FirefoxOS has a bright future but if someone is willing to leave the Android/iOD duopoly they really have a massive amount of choice from new entrants like FirefoxOS and Jolla etc.. to established players that have lost market share but still have a lot to offer.

    • Elio Qoshi

      As of now, I don’t think Tizen or Jolla are a major ‘threat’ to Firefox OS. Blackberry sure is, and it’s indeed underrated, however I don’t see why there is need to worry about these players, when Android and iOS is dominating right now.

  • szatkus

    You can’t? I build FFOS 2.0 for my Alcatel One Touch Fire for some time.

    • YemSalat

      I don’t have the Open C yet, still waiting for it. But I know very well how bad ZTE is with releasing updates for their phones from my ZTE Open (1st gen) experience.
      The only one I saw so far for the C is 2.1 but everybody says its not ready for day to day use yet.
      I can’t build one myself cause I’m on winblows so I have to rely on links that people kindly provide. If you have one that would be well appreciated :)

      • szatkus

        Yeah, I know, I tried 2.1 and now sticked to 2.0 because it’s much more stable.
        Sorry, I can’t produce an image for you without targeted device.
        But you can install Linux on VirtualBox, it’s possible to communicate with physical USB from guest OS.

  • Yash Pal

    I have been eagerly awaiting release of a firefox phone in India. It appears that two manufacturers will release the phones by October. However, I feel that phones based on firefox OS 1.3 may not be very well received, because of lack of features and applications. Firefox OS 2 may be much better received as it would be able to straddle lower and middle segment. The growth in these two segments is quite high but India is also a price sensitive market. As in any other Country, there are three overlapping segments, lower end, middle segment and higher end.

    Taking into account the time taken by Android and iOS to mature and the money power behind both the OSs, I feel Firefox OS is coming along very well.

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