Yesterday I Wrote My First Firefox OS App

2 minute read

Yesterday I wrote my first Firefox OS App.

For now it's called kbt2 and it's a round timer that I can use to give kickboxing lessons.

After:

  • a few very frustrating hours dealing with the unintuitive and sometimes even failing Everlast Round Timer
  • knowing that I could not use my own phone as it will be playing music during kickboxing sessions
  • having a spare Firefox Developer Preview Phone thanks to Sergi Mansilla and a lucky raffle on a Decode Friday meetup
  • knowing that building Firefox OS apps is as easy as creating a HTML site with some json inside a ./manifest.webapp for app definition, and JavaScript calls to make it e.g. vibrate

.. I decided to use my geekphone as a dedicated interval timer / instruction guide and started hacking on an app for that. It all went remarkibly smooth.

Here's the phone:

keon_mobile01

It's a "Keon" Developer Preview by Geekphone. I was lucky to win one, but told they'll only be 50$.

You point it's webbrowser to the location of your app. Your app can detect the phone and offer an install via a simple navigator.mozApps.install()

screen shot 2013-08-12 at 12 14 43 pm

This basically copies all the the assets listed in ./manifest.appcache to your phone, so it can be accessed without internet (awesome cause there's bad reception inside the gym :)

screen shot 2013-08-12 at 12 14 55 pm

Now just launch the app

screen shot 2013-08-12 at 12 02 21 pm

And that's it. I hacked this up on a rainy Sunday afternoon thanks to a headstart with:

Obviously this particular project is quite specific to my use-case; but still open sourced for inspirational purposes.

The first Firefox Phones are targetted at upcoming markets so featurewise can't really compete with - and wont't replace - your modernday iOS/Android devices.

However, at just 50$ you do get a considerable amount of hardware:

  • 1Ghz CPU
  • 512 RAM
  • GPS. Wifi N/UMTS/GSM reception
  • 3.5" HVGA touchscreen (!)
  • 3 mega pixel camera
  • Light & proximity sensor. G-Sensor
  • USB
  • 1580 mAh Battery

.. That you can easily talk to via JavaScript APIs. Just imagine what other dedicated applications you could build on top of this :) Be it:

  • a remote controller
  • the brain of a robot that you're building
  • a security device taking pictures when it detects changes in light
  • in your car, uploading G-forces & GPS to track when you've been driving most economically :)

For some things a Raspberry PI or Arduino makes more sense, but since this has a touchscreen, solid housing, extra sensors, and the platform is fully open too, I see a lot of possibilites.

Update #1

The Keon I won will be sold at 91 EUR, not 50$ as I mentioned. However, ZTE will launch a 79$ Firefox phone on Ebay this Friday.

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