Firefox smartphone OS: Three reasons it's not for you

New phones based on Firefox aren't quite ready for the top end of the market

Firefox's new smartphone OS has been making big news at the Worldwide Mobile Congress, with a slew of new phones available for it. But Firefox phones are likely not ones you'll want -- not now, and maybe not ever. Here are three reasons why it's not for you.

The phones tend to be underpowered

Firefox targets low-end hardware, so if you buy a Firefox phone, you'll likely see mainly those with relatively slow processors, mediocre screens, not much RAM, and unimpressive cameras. For example, Firefox's "reference" phone used by developers to write apps has a 4.5-inch 480x854 pixel screen, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5-megapixel camera.

Of course, that's only a reference phone, and actual devices are frequently more powerful. Alcatel, for example, has a number of Firefox phones that range from a 3.5-inch, dual-core phone to a much more powerful one, the Fire S, which has a 4.5-inch display, quad-core processor, LTE support and 8 megapixel camera. Still, even at the high end, that's less powerful than the most popular phones, such as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy line.

It's the apps, stupid

Why do you buy a smartphone? Primarily for the apps. And that's where Firefox OS comes up short. The Firefox Marketplace is a lonely place, and makes even the Windows Phone's Store look bustling and full by comparison. That should be no surprise, of course, because the phone OS is still new, with a limited market share. IDC says that a mere 390,000 Firefox phones shipped last year, and that only 2.5 million will ship in 2014, for a 0.2% share of the smartphone market. Given those numbers, there's no incentive for developers to write apps for Firefox. So if you like apps -- and let's face it, who doesn't? -- a Firefox phone isn't for you.

They have limited availability

Even if for some reason you decide you want a Firefox phone, if you live in the U.S. you won't likely be able to buy one, at least for a while. Because of its light hardware requirements, it's being targeted largely, although not exclusively, at the developing world. So the phones have been released in many places in South America, although they are also in developed markets including Spain, and Italy. Primarily, though, they're aimed at the developing world for now, not the U.S. market. So even if you want one, you may not be able to find one.

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