Keon and Peak: Two Firefox OS smartphones tested

Gonk, Gecko, and Gaia

On top of Gonk, various web APIs help the Gecko Runtime Environment access, for example, sensors, cameras, Bluetooth, or NFC. Gaia runs in the Application Layer; you can imagine this as something comparable to the Launcher in Android. Gaia displays the start screen, shows notifications (Figures 5--7, 10, 11), and lets the user start and manage applications.

Figure 5: The Settings dialogs resemble those of other systems.
Figure 6: Notifications allow quick access to data.
Figure 7: A simple App Store is already included.

Running native Linux applications is not intended with the current architecture, which could be a problem in particular for game or app vendors who need more computing power. The use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for application development is nothing new. Palm's WebOS [5] was based on this, but it also allowed native applications.

Developing and establishing a new software platform is complicated, especially without specific hardware on which it can be developed and used. Many free-software-based cellphone projects for Linux and the mobile devices that relied on them have failed to tackle this problem previously or are still eking out a niche existence.

Mozilla has recognized this problem and made two developer phones generally available in cooperation with Spain's Geeksphone. The devices also underline Mozilla's aim to make sure Firefox OS runs well and smoothly on comparatively cheap hardware. Table 1 shows the specifications of the two devices.

Table 1

Devices Tested

 

Keon

Peak

CPU

Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 7225AB, 1GHz

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8225, 2x 1.2GHz

UMTS

2100/1900/900 (3G HSPA)

2100/1900/900 (3G HSPA)

GSM

850/900/1800/1900 (2G EDGE)

850/900/1800/1900 (2G EDGE)

Screen

3.5-inch HVGA (320x480 pixels) with multitouch

4.3-inch QHD (540 x 960 pixels) with IPS multitouch

Camera

3 megapixels

8 megapixels (rear), 2 megapixels (front), LED flash

ROM/RAM

4GB (ROM), 512MB (RAM)

4GB (ROM), 512MB (RAM)

Features

MicroSD, WiFi (n), Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, FM radio, light and proximity sensor, G-sensor, GPS, micro-USB

Micro-SD, WiFi (n), Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, FM radio, light and proximity sensor, G-sensor, GPS, micro-USB

Battery

1,800mAh

2,020mAh

Price

EUR 110

EUR 180

Keon and Peak

The smaller, orange Keon is equipped with a 1GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon and an HVGA TFT display (320x480). The larger, white Peak impresses with a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon, an IPS qHD display (540x960), and an additional front camera. These are definitely not luxury smartphones, which is exactly what a customer would expect for a price of EUR 110 for the Keon and EUR 180 for the Peak. However, the build quality is good, all the pieces fit, and nothing rattles or protrudes.

The housing of the Peak is made of smooth, white plastic, whereas the Keon uses distinctive Firefox orange; its surface is also slightly roughened, vastly improving the tactile experience compared with the Peak.

The units are equipped very similarly: The main differences between Peak and Keon are the low-resolution display, the slower single-core CPU, and the lack of a front-facing camera in the Keon. The Keon's battery is also somewhat smaller, but the 220mAh difference will probably be consumed by the Peak's second core.

Memory and Kernel

After starting, 406MB of user space is available on the Keon, and 384MB of RAM on the Peak. The reason for the apparently short capacity is that the devices reserve some of the 512MB memory for the rest of the hardware of the Qualcomm system-on-a-chip (SoC) – for example, the OpenGL graphics buffer or the UMTS/GSM modem. The Linux kernel used on the Keon is version 3.0.8, whereas the Peak uses kernel 3.0.21.

In practice, the devices behave very similarly. After only 21 seconds, both have completed their cold start and display the Gaia home screen. Operation is very smooth on both phones and compares well with an average Android device; however, the extent of the configurable options is not what smartphone users expect today.

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