Firefox OS: Devices and Dark Matter

UPDATE: Scroll down for update on May 26, 2013.

Since beginning work on the Firefox OS project, the number one question I’m asked is “Does it run on my phone?”. Sadly, the answer for almost everyone is “no”. The question itself is interesting though, and shows how people – even geeky technical people – don’t have a good understanding of how mobile devices work, nor the whole business and technical ecosystem that brings these things into the hands of consumers (hm, maybe that’ll be my next blog post). Porting an operating system to a device is tricky work in the best of circumstances and when done without the direct assistance of the various business entities involved in the stack for any single device (OEM, chipset manufacturer, original OS vendor), involves a lot of, well, fiddling around. The kind of fiddling around that voids warranties and turns $600 hardware into a paperweight. The success and hackability of Android simplified things a lot, creating a relatively large community of people doing OS-to-device porting, and enabling a lot of what allowed Firefox OS to bootstrap so quickly. However, it’s still not easy.

I was curious about who is playing around with Firefox OS in the dark corners of the Mos Eisley of the device-porting porting world,the XDA-Developers forums. Below, I’ve listed a number of threads involving efforts to port Firefox OS to various devices. Some have builds, some are aborted attempts, but the totality shows the level of interest in putting a truly open Web operating system on low-powered commodity mobile hardware that is very exciting.

Oh, and if you’re interested in porting Firefox OS to your device, the basic instructions to get started are on the MDN B2G Porting Guide. If you scan any of the threads below or have ever tried doing this kind of work before, you already know: Thar be dragons. You could lose your device and your sanity, and will very likely void the warranty. Consider yourself warned.

There are also some efforts at porting to other types of devices, such as Oleg Romashin’s experiments with Firefox on Raspberry Pi, MDN instructions for building for Pandaboard, and a bug for some core changes to Firefox OS to ease porting to basic Linux systems like Beagleboard and Chromebox.


UPDATE May 26, 2013

New devices since this was originally posted, and some fantastic updates:

  • Raspberry Pi! Philipp Wagner, a student from Germany, updated Oleg Romashkin’s porting work, and wrote the Raspberry Pi for Firefox OS guide, where you can download builds and read instructions for building it yourself. I installed his build and was up and running on my Raspberry Pi in minutes. Check out his blog post, and buy him something from his Amazon wishlist 🙂
  • As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Geeksphone has two devices available with Firefox OS pre-installed now available for purchase. The devices keep selling out FAST, so keep a watch on their Twitter account. Also, according to their forums they’re going to make nightly updates available over-the-air soon, so you can stay on the latest versions of Firefox OS.
  • At this year’s Mobile World Congress, Sony released ROMs for the Experia E.
  • The XDA-Developers blog reported on a Firefox OS port for the HTC HD2.
  • Also on the XDA-Developers blog was a port for the HTC Explorer (aka Pico).
  • You can find build instructions for running Firefox OS on Pandaboard up on the Mozilla Developer Network.

A couple of other notes:

24 Comments on “Firefox OS: Devices and Dark Matter”

  1. Coerv says:

    I’m waiting so desperately for Firefox OS, because Android without a Google account is not a pleasant experience. Also I feel generally uncomfortable, with an OS that comes from Google. I was hoping I could get FirefoxOS on my HTC one V, but I guess I’ll have to wait till there are native devices available in europe. Hope it won’t take to long.

    • fredy says:

      There is an effort for HTC one V from Michael Evans ( AFAIK he still trying to solve and test things.

      Thanks for this post. It is nice to see that people are interested on porting b2g.

      Just to add one more device, the tablet “allwinner A13”. There is a b2g-manifest (not complete yet) for this at my github account ( Unfortunately this tablet has many variations, so this manifest probably doesn’t cover all the allwinner A13 tablets but it is a good start.

  2. Caspy7 says:

    Perhaps the answer requires too much explanation… but what are the major roadblocks to porting (or easily porting) FxOS to Android hardware?
    I suppose I, naively, thought that because we’re using the same linux underpinnings as Android, then it would be trivial enough to use/reuse the same for each phone.
    Forgive my lack of knowledge, but my (surely flawed) understanding was that there are linux drivers that connect the OS to each hardware component and we may be working with driver X for GPS, but on another phone there’s a different GPS hardware, but luckily driver Y has already been written and released for us to use.
    Apologies if I am too far in left field for my understanding.

    On a slightly related note, it would be awesome if Mozilla did what we can to make both porting and installing as easy as possible. Would be wonderful to see a thriving ecosystem.
    On the installing front, would be great if there were perhaps one tool/download that a user could get, then maybe extract the port’s file/files into a subfolder. This way there would be a standard way that’s easy-as-possible to get from one source and a second download for the port itself.

  3. […] Firefox OS: Devices and dark matter […]

  4. Obore George Alfred says:

    Am glad to join firefox Oscar

  5. @dietrick

    Thanks for this, there is usually next to no information as to why an os can’t be ported to another device especially when the device is running a similar and also “open” OS already. I was hoping to get even more information.

    That said, with the little info I have gleaned from the lower end device is very similar [ SOC, RAM, Screen resolution, camera resolution ] to another device available on our local market running android, I hope to see some porting efforts directed at it and I hope to lend a hand too.

    Truly Open systems FTW!

  6. Michael Zamot says:

    Is there a Nexus 4 development going on?

  7. sagar mulik says:

    i am user of firefox from long time
    so i love to ask is FxOS working on galaxy ace s5830
    no matter even it go thru root system

  8. DagT says:

    Is Firefox OS going to work on Samsung Galaxy S Plus?
    Help Please! 😦

  9. Filippos says:

    Sony Xperia S, P or U are going to support Firefox OS? If yes I hope it won’t take long! Which devices except from these you mentioned, are going to support Firefox OS?

  10. […] bereits 18 Netzbetreibern aus aller Welt. Auch die Smartphone-Community zeigt sich fleißig bei der Portierung von Firefox OS für Smartphones, bei den xda-developers existiert mittlerweile ein eigenes […]

  11. FYI: I sent an inquiry to XDA Developers a few weeks ago asking whether someone was willing and/or able to port Firefox OS to the HTC One. The response was, paraphrased, that the HTC One would be much too high-end for Firefox OS. Or at least that’s what I read from the responses.

    I’m still keeping my hopes up, though, unfortunately I only have a device, but no skills required to do the port myself.

    • I’m running it on Nexus 4 and it’s so nice from performance perspective. I think that by 1.4/1.5 release we’ll see the level of UI/X polish and feature support that will allow Firefox OS to shine on these higher end device!

      • marcozehe says:

        That really sounds exciting! I am hoping that somebody will step up to port Firefox OS to the HTC One. There are a few talented people on XDA that are building Android custom ROMs for it (TrickDroid, CyanogenMod etc.), so I’m hoping one of them could be motivated to do it. I even thought (as I tweeted earlier) that maybe some crowdfunding might provide an incentive. 🙂

  12. sam says:

    I want to delete totally my iphone 3gs and install firefox os, can anyone help. I am willing to learn whatever is needed. It is a version 6.1.3 and currently no jailbreak available, neither am I bothered.

  13. […] Dietrich Ayala a récemment publié sur son blog un article avec une liste des smartphones sur lesquels des développeurs sont en train de porter Firefox OS. Il s’agit pour le moment de projets jeunes et incertains mais il est intéressant de […]

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