What has a beautiful transparent-gold chassis, a fairly big screen, decent innards, and almost no chance of getting you to switch from your Apple or Android smartphone? The new Fx0, made by LG, which runs Firefox OS.
The phone itself, which was designed by Tokujin Yoshioka for the Japanese carrier KDDI, is rather beautiful. Most of the outer chassis consists of transparent gold plastic, allowing you to see through to the battery, SD card holder, and other innards. The transparency, of course, refers to the fact that Mozilla and Firefox OS are based on the foundational tenets of freedom and openness. The phone’s hardware specs are mediocre: There’s a decent 4.7-inch IPS screen (no word on resolution yet), 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a mid-range Snapdragon 400 SoC (that’s four Cortex-A7 CPU cores, in case you were wondering). Oh, and the home button is a golden Firefox logo, which is pretty cute.
Despite these low-to-mid-range specs, the Fx0 is by far the highest-spec Firefox OS phone to date. Up until this point, Mozilla and a handful of carriers have only produced low-end ($100) smartphones. Depending on who you ask you’ll get differing reasons for this focus on the lower end of the market, but mostly it’s because Firefox OS just isn’t very good — it’s functional, in the sense that you can use it for making calls or surfing the web, and it has most of the default apps/functions that other mobile operating systems have, but it has no real software ecosystem to speak of, and overall it still feels very rudimentary compared to something like iOS or Android.
In other words, Firefox OS isn’t half bad if you’re a first time smartphone owner or you’re specifically looking for something cheap, but it will never challenge Android and iOS. It’s no coincidence that Mozilla is pushing cheap Firefox OS phones in countries where Firefox (the browser) is popular — and again, it’s no coincidence that a lot of those countries are developing nations that aren’t in the habit of blowing $700+ on a phone.
The weird bit is, the Fx0 isn’t cheap (about 50,000 yen or $420), and Japan isn’t a Firefox stronghold. Japan, like most highly developed nations, is a nation of Chrome and Internet Explorer users — and when it comes to mobile hardware, most of them already own an iPhone (it’s by far the most popular phone in Japan). Yes, I’m sure the Fx0’s unique appearance will drive some sales, but it still seems a rather odd move on the whole. Maybe Tokujin Yoshioka is more famous in Japan than I give him credit for? Who knows.
If you want to check out Firefox OS (it has come on a long way since we first reported on it), you can download a standalone Firefox OS Simulator directly from Mozilla. You can also check out the Firefox Marketplace to see what the app ecosystem is like, I suppose. The Fx0 will go on sale in Japan on December 25, with no plans to sell it in other countries (but you could probably import it).