Christian Heilmann

Geeksphones are developer tools

Monday, April 29th, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I am spending this week explaining lots of press folk what the Geeksphone is about. I just got excited like a puppy on sugar rush about unpacking mine, after waiting for a long time to get it internally at Mozilla. See the unpacking photo set on Flickr

Geeksphone unpacked

Posting this on Twitter and Facebook caused quite a stir and many people who bought a Geeksphone wondered about their delivery times. Here’s what I know about this: nothing. I also don’t have access to phones to give out or expedite delivery for you – nobody outside of Geeksphone or inside Mozilla can, so please don’t ask for any of this as it is impossible for us to help you.

I think it is very important to repeat what the Geeksphone Firefox OS preview device project means and stands for. So here it is, in a very clear fashion: the Geeksphone Firefox OS developer preview devices are developer tools for Firefox OS. They are not:

  • Firefox OS phones for day to day use
  • Swag to give out for free as prizes on conferences (so don’t ask)
  • A collector’s item to buy and put on a shelf

Firefox OS is meant to fill a gap in the mobile space and bring HTML5 capable devices in a very affordable fashion to markets that can not get handsets with great web capabilities. In other words, it replaces feature phones, not your high end Android or iPhone.

That’s why we found ourselves in a pickle: how do developers test on a platform that is not sold in their locale as it would be pointless to add to a saturated market with a lower-spec phone? The answer is developer tools like the Firefox OS simulator and affordable testing devices where you can really see how responsive the hardware with the OS is. And these are the Geeksphone Firefox OS preview devices.

Having a Geeksphone Firefox OS preview device means you should be working on an app, that is what we need developers to do. We need the marketplace to have a lot of good apps on launch of the phones to the end users. All you need to do is to build an HTML5 app (that also can be converted to native code with PhoneGap) – you can develop that one to 80% in the browser. To get all the Firefox specific goodies, you’d need a phone like the current one Geeksphone provides.

So while it is very exciting to see people go nuts over the phones, I think it is very important to remember that these are tools to build and test apps and not phones to have instead of the phone that our partners will release in the target markets. These will be very different but share the same hardware specs.
Consider the Geeksphone Firefox OS preview device a Nightly build of a browser. You are helping the browser to test out future features for normal end users but you shouldn’t be surprised about quirks and errors. On the contrary – we want you to find them and tell us what is broken, that’s why there are preview and beta versions of browsers.

I am terribly excited about being able to give real hardware to people who work on exciting apps that will make a massive difference for people who now only can play snake and send SMS on their phones. You could be part of the new wave of mobile internet entertainmment and access in countries that hunger for a better experience. That’s what you’d need a Geeksphone Firefox OS preview device for. If all you want to do is to play with a phone, drop by in any Mozilla location or any of our events.

Right now Firefox OS needs you to build stuff for the web, and if you do that already, the device can give you the final testing platform you need. You won’t need one for most smaller apps though, so don’t feel left out as there are not that many available and it may take some time for yours to arrive.

That doesn’t mean that in the future there might not be devices sold by Geeksphone that are targetted at end-users. It simply means that the Geeksphone Firefox OS preview device is what it is – a preview device for developers.

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