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High demand for first Firefox OS phones crashes store

Elliot Bentley

Initial batch of developer preview handsets for Mozilla’s web-centric operating system sell out within hours.

It seems that, even months before a commercial release, hype is already swelling around Firefox OS. Demand for the first dedicated Firefox OS hardware devices was so high, it managed to crash the manufacturer’s website within hours of the phones going on sale.

Announced near the start of the year, these first models by Spanish company Geeksphone are designed specifically for developers interested in producing apps for Mozilla’s web-centric OS.  They went on sale around 9am GMT today, with large amounts of traffic causing errors for some buyers and “initial previsions” selling out within three hours.

At the time of writing, the Geeksphone online store was “shut down temporarily” for maintenance, although on Twitter the company promised more “in a few hours”.

Consumer devices, in the works by the likes of LG, ZTE, Huawei and TCL, are expected to launch later this year. They will be launched in countries such as Brazil, where few can afford existing Android and iOS devices, with Firefox OS handsets expected to be cheaper and less powerful than traditional smartphones.

Of Geeksphone’s initial offering, the orange ‘Keon’ is said to best reflect low-end consumer devices. The first of the two models to sell out, it has a 3.5” screen, a Qualcomm 1Ghz processor and 512 MB of RAM, about on par with a three-year-old iPhone 4.

These more realistic specs, along with a €91 ($118) price tag, makes it a more interesting prospect than the ‘Peak’, which has a larger screen and dual-core 1.2Ghz processor at a cost of €149 ($193). Both ship with Firefox OS v1.0.1, with firmware updates delivered over-the-air.

Firefox OS, which began life as “Boot2Gecko”, is a new open-source operating system under development by the Mozilla Foundation. Though based on Android, it’s distinguished by an entirely open-source codebase and apps written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript – including the home screen, lock screen and core functions. Hardware features such as vibration, phone dialling and camera are all exposed via a JavaScript API.

Developers unwilling to shell out for a Geeksphone device can use the Firefox OS Simulator add-on instead.

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