A year ago, Mozilla announced Firefox OS, its first mobile operating system. In mid-January, phone manufacturer ZTE said it is expecting to launch the first phones running the OS in Europe soon. If you use Firefox on your phone, you can give the OS a test drive with the Firefox OS simulator add-on. We have done just that, and here are our first impressions.
The OS has a basic lockscreen, showing the date and time. To unlock it, expand the menu at the bottom of the screen and click the padlock. Usefully, Mozilla has added a link to the camera on this menu, too, letting you quickly take photos without having to unlock your phone.
The layout of the OS is equally simple; swipe right for your apps, and left for search options, plus a list of the most popular Marketplace apps.
The simulator has more than 30 apps pre-installed, including a calendar, calculator, clock and music player. You can add more apps from the Marketplace, but you’ll need to register first. Firefox OS runs HTML5
apps, which means apps developed for the browser will work on the OS. Consequently, there’s already a good selection to choose from, especially for such a new platform.
A bar at the bottom of the screen shows calls, texts, contacts and the Firefox browser. You can drag up to three more apps onto this bar, and swipe left and right to see them; a small but useful touch.
However, we think the app and Marketplace icons are too large and simplified; the design of the built-in apps is poor; and the games we played were buggy (though we’d expect this to improve by the time the 05 is fully released). Also, there isn’t a Back button, so you can’t easily quit an app or scroll back through web pages, which is frustrating.
Minor grumbles aside, the Firefox 05 simulator impressed us. It’s easy to use and has some clever touches that make a big difference. Considering that the final 05 will be an improved version of this simulator, we can’t wait!