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After upgrade hiccups, Alcatel will skip Firefox OS 1.2

Rapid-release software updates are easier with browsers than operating systems, judging by Alcatel's decision to skip the next Firefox OS release.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
The Alcatel One Touch Fire, a Firefox OS phone
The Alcatel One Touch Fire, a Firefox OS phone. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Alcatel One Touch Fire, one of the inaugural phones to sport Mozilla's Firefox OS, won't get version 1.2 of the browser-based operating system -- but it will get 1.3.

That's the word from Mozilla and Alcatel. And although it's an inauspicious start for the browser-based operating system, it's likely a relief to those who feared Firefox OS 1.1 would be the end of the line. One unpleasant aspect of low-end Android phones is that they often don't get OS updates, but Firefox OS hasn't been around long enough to establish much of a track record for staying up to date.

Alcatel was cautious after some troubles with the update to Firefox 1.1, the company said.

"Following reports of some users experiencing issues during upgrades to Firefox 1.1 in specific markets, we have temporarily paused the upgrade while we investigate and fix the issue," the company said. "This currently affects a small number of markets and has no effect on our current plans to support the upgrade of the One Touch Fire through to Firefox OS 1.3."

Firefox OS is Mozilla's attempt to extend the relevance it achieved in the personal-computer market to the mobile market. Firefox is widely used on PCs, but it's effectively barred from Windows Phone and iOS, and it's a rarity on Android.

Phone makers have a hard time keeping up with the rapid-release cycle that Mozilla uses for its mobile operating system, Mozilla said. The rapid-release cycle got its start with just browsers, which are easier to update than whole operating systems. Mozilla explained in a statement:

Firefox OS is developed on a much faster schedule than others and Mozilla currently publishes a new rapid release every 3 months. Most of our OEM [original equipment manufacturer] partners have decided to skip the update to 1.2 and will directly update their customers to version 1.3, which will offer additional features in comparison to version 1.2.

What will those Alcatel customers miss out on? Firefox 1.2 offers a number of features, including the following:

  • A status-bar notification showing when music is playing, with song and album art shown in the utility tray (the panel that shows when you drag down from the status bar)

  • Notifications for new e-mail messages
  • The ability to attach audio and video files to e-mail
  • An interface to let apps use the microphone
  • Support for CDMA mobile networks
  • Performance improvements, including faster app launching and scrolling
  • The ability to establish conference calls with up to five people
  • The ability to launch the camera app from the lock screen even with a passcode lock
  • The ability to share Web addresses from the browser
  • The addition of a stopwatch and countdown timer to the clock app
  • Support for CLIP and CLIR caller ID technology
  • A range of new Web programming interfaces
  • However, Firefox OS 1.3 is well under way, so perhaps they won't have to wait too much longer to get those and other updates.