Mozilla announced PhoneGap support for Firefox OS, as well as new App Manager tools, and tipped upcoming features including LTE and NFC support.
In addition to announcing three Firefox OS hardware reference platforms, including the Firefox OS Flame (shown below) and seven new commercial phones and tablets from ZTE and Alcatel, Mozilla unveiled several new Firefox OS developer tools. The open source company also offered a preview of upcoming features in its fast-growing Linux- and HTML5-based mobile OS.
The Firefox OS developers rollout was accompanied by new market research estimates from Vision Mobile and Strategy Analytics showing growing developer interest in Firefox OS. Mozilla touted a recent Vision Mobile study that estimated Firefox OS had “captured 7 percent of developer mindshare in just six months.” The report also claimed that in the first quarter of 2014, 52 percent of all developers were using HTML5 for mobile websites or web apps, with 16 percent more indicating they planned to do so.
In addition, Mozilla pointed to a Strategy Analytics report from November that showed Firefox OS to be the fastest growing mobile platform among mobile app developers in terms of future plans. Although only 3 percent had worked on Firefox OS apps in 2013, 10 percent expected to do so in 2014. This was far beyond Tizen’s totals, despite its own fast-increasing developer interest, and almost matched the 2014 expectations for Blackberry.
PhoneGap and App Manager
The integration is possible due to changes in PhoneGap’s underlying Cordova technology. Last week, Mozilla announced that the Apache Foundation’s Cordova project, which allows HTML5 applications to be packaged as native apps, had been enhanced with Firefox OS support.
App Manager device tab with Firefox OS support
(click image to enlarge)
In addition to the existing Firefox OS development platform. Mozilla has also announced that the App Manager, announced in October for Firefox 26, is now available with full Firefox OS app development support. App Manager is designed to bridge the gap between existing Firefox Developer tools and the Firefox OS Simulator. The tools let developers test, deploy, and debug web apps on Firefox OS phones from their desktop.
Mozilla also touted its more than 30 WebAPIs, which are available to Firefox OS developers. New WebAPIs are said to include WebNFC and Data Store API. PhoneGap and Cordova integrate six of the most popular WebAPIs, and Samsung added the Vibration API and Battery Status API to WebKit, says Mozilla.
Future Firefox OS
The new Firefox OS devices run the latest Firefox 1.3. At MWC, Mozilla also previewed some features destined for future versions of Firefox OS, although it did not mention which would be included in Firefox OS 1.4. New releases will feature performance improvements, speedier launch times, smoother scrolling, and improved keyboard accuracy, says Mozilla.
Other future Firefox OS highlights are said to include:
- Customization — “Deep” customization options for operators, manufacturers, developers, and users will include user-requested features for creating custom ringtones and replaceable home screens.
- Search — A new universal search feature available on any screen will include functions such as “swipe down from the top to find new apps, content or navigate to anything on the phone or the Web.”
- UI — New navigation features are said to provide more intuitive multitasking. Users can swipe from the left and right edges to “seamlessly” move between pages, content, and apps, says Mozilla.
- NFC — Near Field Communication technology for very close-range data transfers, will be now supported for direct sharing of content and software updates. An NFC radio is found on the newly announced Firefox OS Flame developer phone,
- LTE -– So far, we’ve only seen Firefox OS phones with 3G. But LTE support is coming, which means a US-based phone is more likely to appear, probably coming from Sprint.
- Firefox Accounts and Services — Firefox Accounts provide “a safe and easy way for users to create an account that enables them to sign in and take Firefox everywhere,” says Mozilla. This will enable the company to better integrate services including Firefox Marketplace, Firefox Sync, backup, storage, or a potential service to help locate, message, or wipe a lost or stolen phone.
Mozilla also touted its increasing support for WebRTC for real-time communications. Backed by Mozilla, Google, and Opera, WebRTC is said to offer an open, standards-based approach to offering services like real-time chat, image, and file sharing.
Other recent industry initiatives touted by Mozilla include a self-service partner portal to help manufacturers bring Firefox OS products to market. The company is also collaborating with Deutsche Telekom on a “Future of Mobile Privacy” project to “bring data privacy closer to customers.” Late last year, it launched an Open Web Device Compliance Review Board aimed at “encouraging API compatibility and competitive performance for open Web device,” says the company.