Firefox OS Apps Now On Android Too

June 18, 2014 1:52 PM

firefox OS

Just recently, Tech Reviewer, released an article that discussed the cheap alternative to Android, Mozilla Firefox OS based on Gecko. The mobile OS based on Gecko, the same core rendering engine that the desktop and mobile based browsers use now, is adopting a new strategy. If you can’t beat them, join them and that is exactly what Mozilla’s Firefox is doing. The unified framework that Mozilla and Firefox developed is now the same one for  the desktop and mobile versions. Mozilla’s web apps sees the future of apps and browser as the sides of the same coin. With Firefox v29, Mozilla’s updated browser for Android, you can now download open web apps that can be installed with no additional configuration.

Android and iOS app developers create apps using Java or C giving them a robust application programming interface (API). The APIs improved the performance by notches when compared to web-based technology. Firefox on the other end is using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. This gave them one distinct advantage – they can run the apps they develop on any platform with the right rendering machine in this case, Gecko.

If you think Mozilla is the only one that has this unique approach, then there’s Palm. Pushing the idea for an adaption of the platform to develop apps that are cross-platform, Palm led the way for Mozilla to popularize the web app concept. Palm’s approach to the web OS  did not go down as planned, but as they say everything get’s better with time. That distinction goes to Palm, which used a similar approach to the app ecosystem on webOS. It didn’t go so well, but what browsers are capable of has been well established with time. Mozilla has adopted the approach and perfected it in stages in the last four or five years. Narrowing the gaps between web-based apps and native apps Mozilla’s WebAPI now accesses features like camera, battery stats, sensors, etc. and other apps such as a file explorer, music player, Wi-Fi based texting apps and so on.

Now that Firefox has joined Android, all you need to do is install the browser from the PlayStore. Do not try to use the Firefox App Store with Google Chrome, it results in an error. The web apps are packaged as APKs, standard Android installable files and appear on the drawer too. They even open up as normal apps but are rendered via Gecko. The apps work just as fine as one can expect it to, the performance is better than what it was initially. The design may not be refined to an acceptable level but they work satisfactorily.

Mozilla has achieved something Palm set out to do initially, but now wants others to joins in on the web app phenomenon. Touting the web app as the next-big-thing Mozilla hopes the technology will spur more development in the same direction. Developers across different platforms can save a lot of trouble building apps from the ground up instead of doing the same thing across iOS, Firefox and Android. The cross compatibility is now limited to Android, because both are based off FOSS. Apple still doesn’t have the option yet, their Chrome for iOS uses the WebKit engine and there is still no way to render the Open Web Apps.

This new tactic Firefox employed is not the only bunny in the hat. Sure Android’s cross compatibility is a smart way to gain an easy entry, but the constant development of Firefox and the price is a reason that is hard to miss. The $25 phone is  now set to release in new territories like India and the entry-level phones have the benefit of being the cheapest hardware and software available for a novice smart phone user. Moto E that is dirt cheap and an Android alternate can’t compare to Firefox OS for phones. Microsoft is still far behind in a race that Android is clearly leading and with iOS enjoying the coveted second place, Firefox can take the bronze by a long shot, but a rather comfortable one at that.

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