Ever been curious about that piece of software called Firefox OS but couldn’t really justify buying even the cheapest smartphone for it? Do you have an Android phone? If you said yes to both, then this might be your lucky day, depending on how you look at it. A new experiment coming straight from Mozilla’s developers now gives curious users a chance to play with Firefox OS. Except, you aren’t really going to be the full experience, as the b2gdroid app is basically a Firefox OS Android homescreen replacement.
B2G or Boot 2 Gecko is Mozilla‘s name for an umbrella project that aims to let devices boot to the web directly instead of just a browser. In layman’s terms it means booting into a form of Firefox designed for that particular device. Firefox OS has been pretty low key, preferring the comfort of budget smartphones in emerging markets and, recently, on Smart TVs as well.
b2gdroid comes from Mozilla developer Fabrice Desré. It doesn’t replace Android as the operating system, unlike a complete ROM, which is good, since it leaves you with the familiar trappings of Android. It does, however, take over your homescreen and app launcher instead, making it look and feel like you were running the real thing. At least at first.
Firefox OS does bring some of its own apps to the table, mostly the basic ones like messaging, contacts, calendar, and its app market. It has always been possible to install Firefox OS apps on Android, anyway, so it’s not exactly something totally new. You might find, however, that some of Firefox OS’ features overlap and even clash with Android, like the pull down notification or the Recent Apps list.
Now for the fine print. Firefox OS isn’t exactly designed with this use case in mind, so performance isn’t exactly its strongest point. Apparently, neither is stability. The launcher crashes randomly and, at times, must be cleared before it can even be usable again. It definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. At least not yet. Hopefully, interest and development will pick up, enough to make it a strong contender in the already crowded Android launcher space.