Who really needs the Firefox phone OS? Not me.

Made to run on weak handsets in emerging markets, I'll pass on Mozilla's new mobile software.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
2 min read
The Geeksphone Peek is the most robust Firefox phone yet, but that's not saying much. Stephen Shankland/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--One of the big news developments at MWC 2013 is Mozilla's big push of its Firefox operating system for mobile phones. Based on the few devices which are expected to run it, however, I'm not impressed.

Software maker Mozilla certainly generated a lot of buzz when it announced a slew of mobile carriers (18 in all) which have jumped on board the Firefox phone operating system. Big-name handset manufactures have also hinted at supporting the fledgling mobile platform or have expressed outright plans to sell their own devices running Firefox themselves.

Mozilla will have a tough time selling the virtues of Firefox OS to the Android faithful. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Besides heavy-hitters such as Sony and LG that have committed to constructing Firefox phones, the other companies down with the 'fox are decidedly second-tier. These include ZTE, Alcatel, Huawei, and Spanish startup Geeksphone.

This isn't exactly a roster of players likely to shake the pillars of mobile industry. Don't get me wrong, it's a good start for an OS which pretty much came from nowhere. Plus, handsets from this group of companies has been steadily improving and encroaching onto flagship device territory. Two examples are ZTE's Engage and Huawei's Acend P2.

That said, all of the three Firefox devices announced at MWC 2013 -- the Alcatel One Touch Fire, ZTE Open, and Geeksphone Peek -- are very low-end compared to their Android counterparts. For instance, these phones run dual-core or even single-core processors (as opposed to quad-core), have small allotments of RAM (512MB and less), and low-resolution (non-HD) screens.

To be fair, it seems that Firefox phones will target emerging markets where customers paying top dollar for mobile devices is unrealistic. Mozilla Chief Executive Gary Kovacs himself admitted this situation, stating, "Is the farmer in the Indian countryside going to have the same needs and requirements as a lawyer sitting in New York?"

It's also clear from Mr. Kovacs' remarks that Firefox Phone has been crafted to not give underpowered devices any trouble. That said, if my time playing with the Alcatel One Touch Fire is any indication of platform performance, I'm not about drop my Android for a Firefox Phone anytime soon. The Fire's slow handling and jerky, simplistic interface leave much to be desired, especially coming from a modern mobile OS.

Honestly I'd rather have an old HTC Desire or Samsung Galaxy S II churning Android Gingerbread in my hand. Until the Firefox platform evolves greatly or improves significantly, I suggest you keep away for the time being.