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Mobile experience with FireFox OS phones exciting, says Smart

You’ve probably seen the announcement carried by international news agencies like TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes following the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 in Barcelona, the global event where all the latest mobile technologies are showcased.

Filipinos may be among the first in the world to experience smartphones running the Mozilla Firefox operating system (OS), thanks to the partnership between Web pioneer Mozilla and wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the only Philippine operator that has made the commitment.

“Smart has committed to support Firefox OS smartphones because their HTML5-based technology will make available affordable mobile devices with an open mobile ecosystem. We look forward to providing Filipino consumers with more device options so they could have a rich and dynamic smartphone experience. This is in line with our vision of putting mobile Internet in the hands of every Filipino,” said Smart chief wireless advisor Orlando Vea.

What exactly can consumers and tech enthusiasts expect from Firefox OS devices?

Potentially more apps to choose from. The Firefox OS, the engine powering the phone, is based on the latest web standard HTML5, which means developers can create mobile applications (such as messaging, games and social networking)using the web standards they already know, and have these run as fast as other apps. It's a relatively easier way to program, and Firefox sees this as a way to attract more developers into creating apps.

And because the Firefox OS is freely accessible to anyone who wants to use it (it is an open-source system) and based on web standards, the platform is more flexible and customizable. Developers are free from the rules and restrictions of existing proprietary platforms. This can translate to more affordable or free apps in the market.

Since last year, Smart has been vocal about its support for open mobile standards and HTML5. The company has been active in standards bodies such as GSMA, the global association of mobile operators and suppliers, and the World Wide Web Consortium that are crafting HTML5 specs for mobile devices. Smart’s developer program, Smart Developer Network (Smart DevNet),has also been actively promoting HTML5 in its developer events and hackathons, typically one or two day events where programmers code apps or solutions in one sitting.

The smartphones recently showcased by Mozilla at the MWC 2013 already carried popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, and the game Cut the Rope. Mozilla said more games, content, news and media, productivity, and business apps would be made available as a result of its content and app partnerships with AirBnB, Box, Disney Mobile Games, EA Games, Pulse News, and Sound Cloud, among others. And since it is open-source, even local developers can easily develop apps and make it available on the market.

Customized services. The Firefox OS will allow operators like Smart to tailor the phones’ interface and to develop services that address the specific needs of their customers. One such service is operator billing, which will give consumers an easy way to pay for apps. Instead of asking users to register their credit card information, the system can just deduct the app charges from their load or include the cost in their postpaid bill. So for example, you want to buy the latest mobile game, instead of paying via credit card or other third party systems such as PayPal, you can just have the amount deducted from your bill. It’s an easier way specially for people without credit cards or for those who use websites which don’t accept Philippine-based credit card payments.

Affordability. Budget-conscious Filipinos will be happy to know that Mozilla’s handset partners will offer Firefox OS smartphones at affordable prices, without sacrificing the devices’ performance level and user experience. The actual price points are up to the handset partners, but prices are expected to be very low.

Mozilla is working with manufacturers LG, TCL (Alcatel), and ZTE to build the first Firefox OS devices, with Huawei to follow later in the year. The devices will be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon™ mobile processors.

Smart executive vice president and wireless consumer division head Emmanuel Lorenzana said: “Smart has been actively supporting the local developer community through Smart DevNet. By supporting Firefox OS smartphones, we are fostering a healthier and more competitive developer community. We're very keen to see a vibrant ecosystem based on HTML5 technology such as Firefox OS.”

Other leading operators that will distribute the first wave of Firefox devices are América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, TMN and VimpelCom. Schedules for availability are being finalized by Mozilla and its partners. What’s definite is that Firefox OS through Smart will fire up the already exciting mobile market in the country.

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