Firefox OS simulator available for Mozilla's browser

Mozilla is moving forward with the Firefox OS plans, even though odds are not in its favor. The open-source organization released a prototype simulator for the in-house operating system, which gives a glimpse of what potential customers should expect. All the action happens in a small Firefox window.

Mozilla did not release a standalone application, but instead the Firefox OS is available as an extension for the popular open-source browser. Firing up the new operating system is done with a simple flick of the Simulator toggle, and for easier control there are some keyboard shortcuts assigned to physical button operations. Users can experiment with Firefox OS straight from the lockscreen, so let's take a peek.

The lockscreen looks similar to earlier versions of Android. There is the typical slider to open camera or unlock the phone on top of the date and time. The interface is pretty basic in the camera department, but this is just a glimpse in the stable Firefox OS.

Unlocking the virtual phone reveals the homescreen, which looks fairly simple with the bottom row of apps, simple status bar and what appears to be a clock and date widget. Pressing the home button triggers the list of open apps which can be dismissed by swiping up or down.

Swiping right on the lockscreen allows to view the pre-installed apps from the simulator. A left swipe displays the online app store with content divided into categories (social, games, local, etc.). Apps can be added by providing the address to a site or a manifest. The latter is needed to submit programs to the Firefox Marketplace.

Another familiar element is the notification window, which can be triggered by swiping down from the top, like Android and iOS. It's nothing groundbreaking, as it includes common toggles or a Clear All button. Some of the functionality is not yet fully developed, considering the early stages.

Mozilla's operating system obviously comes with Firefox preinstalled, as well as the common apps for calendar, email, messages or music. At a first glance the design looks a bit tacky if you will, or rather gimmicky. The apps that I tested work, but running either in a tiny window without feeling the integration with the hardware makes it more difficult to judge.

One thing that caught my eye was the Maps app which is powered by Nokia Maps. The choice is rather interesting at this point because of Microsoft's relation with the Finnish manufacturer. Seems rather curious as to why the latter would allow Mozilla to use its own maps for Firefox OS.

There's more to the future operating system than a simulator, but it's useful to notice whom Mozilla's project might appeal to. For me it looks like a combination of Android, iOS and Windows Phone in some ways, and I can't honestly say that I feel a connection. There's no wow.

As it stands Firefox OS is not really a competitor for middle to high-end devices, nor necessarily for cheap ones. Android is a suitable platform for less expensive smartphones because it's free and competent, and I struggle to see how Firefox OS in its current form could outdo the green droid without going even lower on the price scale.

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