Mozilla’s not alone in thinking there’s space at the cheaper end of the smartphone market. There’s Jolla, a Linux-based phone from Nokia expatriates. And Chinese phone maker Huawai is stating that it is “coming up with a phone,” as something as a hedge against future Android complications. Those sound more like a traditional phone OS gambit, though, and less like an attempt to out-open Android.
Can a cheaper, web-capable Mozilla phone outdo Android as the smartphone that is (seemingly) less costly than iPhone? Firefox, as a browser, was far more open, offered add-ons and developer tools, and pushed hard for adoption of accessible web standards over that era’s proprietary, Microsoft-driven tools. But what really got people into Firefox—speaking from a few years’ experience writing about every release from 2.0 and up—was its core differences. Firefox didn’t catch viruses and pop-ups everywhere it went, it implemented up-and-coming features like tabbed browsing quickly, and it was faster. So much faster.
Can Mozilla make a phone that feels fast, doesn’t have crud from its manufacturer and carrier tacked on, and is offered at a very cheap or free cost on major carriers? If so, you’re looking at a real opportunity. If not, you’re watching as a very smart and idealistic company tries to scale the thick, moneyed walls of an increasingly impenetrable smartphone fortress.