By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox Internet browser, is preparing to challenge Google and Apple's grip on smartphone software.
A new Firefox operating system for mobile devices is set for a July release after winning the backing of 13 wireless service providers around the globe, including Spain's Telefonica, China Unicom and America Movil.
Mozilla is betting there's room for a software developer-friendly mobile platform alongside Apple's and Google's Android, which together power the majority of mobile devices on the planet.
The new software is based on open Web standards and is capable of operating on devices with much lower hardware requirements than today's existing crop of smarpthones, according to Mozilla.
Because the Firefox OS is open-source and Web-based, third-party developers will be free to sell mobile applications without needing to share revenue with Apple or Google.
"There's a strategic imperative for the industry to have another OS that really is open and supports choice and competition," said Mozilla's Senior Vice President of Products, Jay Sullivan.
Mozilla will showcase some of the first hardware devices based on that software at the Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona this week. Among the brands that have signed on to make devices based on Firefox OS are South Korea's LG, China's ZTE and Huawei.
Unlike Google and Apple's operating systems, which are built from proprietary technology, Firefox OS uses the HTML5 standard that Web services are built with. That means anyone familiar with Web programming can create Firefox OS apps.
Whether a smartphone built on Web standards can deliver the kind of performance that consumers expect remains to be seen. Facebook famously stopped using HTML5 to develop its iPhone app last year, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying the technology couldn't deliver acceptable quality and calling a decision to use HTML5 for its app one of Facebook's "biggest mistakes."
Mozilla, a non-profit organization, also faces stiff competition. Google's Android software, which the company distributes free to phone vendors from Samsung to HTC, had roughly 70 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in the fourth quarter, according to industry research firm Gartner. Apple, which created the smartphone market with the 2007 launch of the now-iconic iPhone, had a roughly 21 percent share of the market.
"The real barrier here is not necessarily a technical one, it's scale," said John Jackson, an analyst with research firm IDC. Mozilla will need to attract large numbers of consumers and app developers if it hopes to avoid the fate of previous mobile operating system hopefuls, such as Palm's WebOS, now owned by Hewllet-Packard.
But "the world's computing experiences are going mobile and when they get to the mobile environment, they're happening on a platform that's controlled by either Apple or Google," said Jackson. "There's a universe of content and service providers that have an interest in seeing a more neutral platform materialize."
Mozilla will initially look to compete in so-called "emerging economies" in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, where many people still use older phone models and have yet to upgrade to more expensive smartphones that feature touchscreens and high-speed Internet connections.
The first phones will be available this summer in Brazil, Columbia, Poland, Venezuela, Serbia and Spain.
The first Firefox OS phones that Telefonica will offer this summer come with a wholesale price of $100. The price that consumers pay for the phone will vary in different markets and depend on whether the phone is offered on a pre-paid basis or comes with a service contract, a Telefonica spokesman said.
Telefonica will eventually offer higher-end Firefox OS phones, and plans to offer Firefox devices in all 25 countries that it operates in by the end of 2014.
(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Bernard Orr)
Earlier on HuffPost:
Don't Wait To Charge
Charge your phone frequently. Recharging when the phone is almost dead too often will make the battery do more work and lower its life expectancy. Charge when your phone is 40 percent full, not 10 percent.
It takes more energy for the phone to vibrate than to ring.
Kill Unnecessary Apps
Apps running in the background of your phone will make it run out of juice faster. Shut down all the apps you don't need to keep it going a little longer.
Turn Off Wi-Fi
If you don't need to download big files, and you aren't performing some crucial task online, turning off WiFi will let the battery rest.
Disable Location Services
Apps that use location are constantly communicating with cell towers to pinpoint where you are. While they're doing it, your battery is dying. Turn them off in settings when you need to get that last bit of life.
Dim The Screen
Dim the brightness of your screens to give battery life a boost. Lowering the default brightness will ensure that the phone uses less charge over time.
Lock Your Screen
Locking the screen on your phone not only keeps strangers from snooping, but will also keep the phone from turning on--and using power--if it accidentally brushes up against things.
While some people already tote around chargers in the dire case that their phone might die, an easier way to prepare is to outfit your phone with a "battery extender case" that packs a spare battery within its skin. When your phone's battery runs out, it will draw power from the case battery.
Get A New Battery
After two years, there's a good chance your battery is running on its last legs. At this point, it might be better to replace it in order to get the full battery life you once had.
Put The Phone In Airplane Mode
Even when you're not up in the air, putting your phone in Airplane Mode will keep the battery from dying, as it prevents the phone from receiving and sending signals. Of course, when it's in Airplane Mode you won't be able to call, text, or get online, so this may be a last resort.
Keep Your Battery Cool
Overheating can damage your phone's battery cells and make it die faster after a charge. Keep your phone out of the sun and other hot places. A phone that gets too hot while in use could be experiencing some kind of charge malfunction and should be checked out.
Turn Off Push Notifications
The function that allows your phone to automatically download new email, and notifications from third-party apps, also makes your battery run out faster. If your phone's almost dead, go to settings to turn off this feature.