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Double up on your home screen with the new Firefox OS 2.5 Android app

firefox os
Mozilla in Europe/Flickr
Firefox OS 2.5 is now available all over the world for those who like dabbling with a platform that is a little alternative. However, for developers, Mozilla also has a special treat: an Android application of the OS. It has all of the features of the new operating system, but should work on any Android smartphone.

This is quite a landmark moment for Mozilla as, to date, it has only made the Firefox OS available on specific hardware, but this increased support is part of the foundation’s interest in spreading the availability of the alternative operating system to other devices.

In practice, the application operates like a secondary home screen, allowing android users to boot up the other OS without the need to re-flash their device or replace the Android installation. You can of course flash your device with it if you prefer, making it a Firefox OS-only piece of kit, but that will be for the more dedicated Firefox fans and developers among you.

It also risks bricking your device, so if you consider it, make sure you do so carefully.

That’s the whole point of the non-flashing preview anyway, to give you that functionality without requiring you to risk anything. Indeed if you don’t like what you find, you can simply uninstall the app and continue using your device as normal.

However there are a few features of the new OS that may be worth exploring. For starters, Firefox OS 2.5 comes with add-ons, much like a desktop browser. This will allow developers to create extensions for individual applications, or many of them all at once, with a simple system for applying them.

Mozilla has also been quite studious with its privacy protections in the new Firefox OS, allowing for more in-depth privacy-enhancing features, including Tracking Protection that helps reduce the amount of information different websites can track about you as you browse them. 2.5 also breaks down the barrier between web-apps and applications, letting you pin different websites to your home screen as if they were applications themselves.

What do you think of Mozilla’s attempts to offer an alternative mobile computing operating system? Could it ever compete with some of the big boys?

Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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