$25 Smartphone? Great Feedback from Mobile World Congress

Jenny

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“Long-awaited”; “impressive;” “extremely disruptive”: These are just some of the comments we’re hearing in the wake of Mozilla’s recent announcement that we are enabling a whole new category of smartphone, priced around $25.

Mozilla—like most of the rest of the world, it seems—has been at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week. As MWC kicked off, Mozilla made some big announcements, including this one. Below, we share some of the great news coverage it is receiving.

CIO today quotes Forrester analyst Ted Schadler describing the announcement as a “long-awaited move” that will put pressure on such phone makers as Nokia.

VentureBeat quotes Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, that the $25 Firefox OS phone “could be extremely disruptive.”

In a CNET review, Stephen Shankland says, “I toyed with a prototype Sunday at its debut at Mobile World Congress here, and I have to say, I’m impressed–given the price.” He also points out, “It’s not something a rich kid from New Jersey or a businessman from Tokyo would be caught dead with.”

At Mozilla, we’re OK with that, because as Shankland goes on to say, “That’s not the target market.” … “Mozilla, reasonably, tells those who would judge this Firefox OS model that they should compare it to a bargain-bin feature phone with a few built-in apps and a low-end camera.” … “And for that market, it really works.”

Redefining the Entry Level for Smartphones

Many comment on the fact that Mozilla is redefining the entry level for smartphones in key growth markets.

Geek.com says, “There are hundreds of millions of people all over the world who would love to have both a phone and a device that can access the internet, but can’t justify the cost. $25 Firefox phones could be exactly what they’ve been waiting for.”

Ubergizmo makes a similar point: “After all, if you’re shopping on a budget, the last thing on your mind would be whether or not your phone comes with biometric security features, right? In fact the goal of these smartphones is to get people to stop using feature phones and to start using smartphones, particularly that of Mozilla’s own making.”

A Pretty Great Package

So while these phones may not have biometric security features, observers recognize that the overall Firefox package is pretty appealing.

Forbes quotes analyst Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group: “Twenty-five dollars could well be affordable to businesses [in developing markets], not to mention consumers, and that–price–is the filter through which they will make their decision about getting a phone.”

Forbes then adds, “But they are getting more than just a phone. Along with Firefox OS come Firefox Marketplace and an adaptive app search that Mozilla has developed.”

At Firefox Marketplace, we couldn’t agree more.

 

Speed, Freedom, and More: HTML5 and Gaming

Jenny

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As we’ve noted before, industry observers continue to tout the rise in HTML5 popularity and predict that it will continue to gain traction.

HTML5 game developers are fueling the HTML5 momentum by tackling what used to be a major complaint about HTML5 gaming: speed. Today, you don’t have to search far to find advice on how to speed up your games and to read success stories from those who are conquering the issue and making great games with HTML5.

As an example, a few months ago, Ludei announced that its CocoonJS tech will be used in Nickelodeon games to speed up performance on Android mobile devices.

Focus on the Benefits

What’s the best way to take advantage of HTML5 as a gaming platform? In a post on Gamasutra, Austin Hallock suggested that, “Rather than trying to emulate native mobile games with HTML5, we as developers need to develop games specifically for HTML5—taking advantage of the unique offering it brings.” As examples from other platforms, he highlighted success stories like FarmVille, which takes advantage of Facebook’s social features, and Angry Birds, which takes advantage of touch.

What are the strengths of HTML5 that developers can take advantage of for gaming? He lists five: hyperlinks, multi-device use, games everywhere, SEO, and freedom from app stores and Google Play.

Freedom with HTML5

Perhaps the best thing about HTML5 gaming is the freedom to play anywhere.

Mobile use is skyrocketing—and for consumers, improved mobile access makes HTML5 games appealing, because you can play anywhere. You just need an internet connection and a browser.

The freedom extends to multiple platforms, too: You don’t have to have the same device or platform as your friends in order to enjoy multiplayer games.

For HTML5 developers, this freedom means more customers, of course.

As China Goes…

With the world’s largest population and one of the largest economies, China is worth watching for trends.

A recent article in NextWeb-Asia highlights the incredible growth of gaming in China. According to the author, Lei Zhang of Chukong Technologies, the Chinese government estimates that the mobile gaming economy generated almost $2 billion in 2013.

Chukong expects four areas to define the Chinese mobile gaming space in 2014. You guessed it: One of those is the emergence of HTML5 as a powerful platform.

“The platform will claim a significant portion of mobile developer attention, particularly with the focus of game design on analytics and optimization,” the article says.

Speed, freedom, and more: What’s not to love about HTML5 for gaming?

Apps Now Required to Have Content Ratings

Scott DeVaney

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Today we have a guest post from Kevin Ngo, one of the fine engineers on our Firefox Marketplace team. Via his personal blog, Kevin recently wrote about his experiences integrating the new International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system into Marketplace. This content rating system will help users more easily identify age appropriate apps.

Before we dive into Kevin’s mind, app developers please take note: April 15 is the deadline to get your content IARC rated or it will be removed from Firefox Marketplace! To learn more about the super simple process of obtaining your IARC rating, go here.

And with that, take it away, Kevin………

Our little webapp marketplace is growing up so quickly. Over the last past two and a half months, robhudson and I have been working with the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to integrate their new IARC system into the Firefox Marketplace. IARC is a framework that unifies multiple age rating systems respective to different countries to make it simpler for content creators to obtain a content rating for their products.

For those not familiar with age-based content ratings, they are most popularly known for their use in games and movies, such as Rated M for Mature for Violence or Suitable for Ages 13 and Up. Firefox Marketplace has become the first app store to implement IARC, and as such it was a bit of a new experience for both parties.

For some background, Firefox OS launched in Brazil and Germany in late 2013. Brazil and Germany have strict and legal age rating requirements for digitally-distributed games, with laws requiring self-rating through an approved age rating system (i.e. CLASSIND for Brazil or USK for Germany). Our Marketplace, in order to list the games in those regions, had to display content ratings for those apps. Before implementing IARC, we built a temporary system that allowed our app reviewers to manually enter content ratings for individual games that were only applicable to Brazil and Germany. Now with IARC, developers can obtain content ratings on their own which are applicable to all regions.

Developers are led from Marketplace through an IARC portal where they can fill out a yes/no questionnaire that inquires about the content of their app (e.g. Does it contain violence?, Crude humor?). Although the app is self-rated, IARC will occasionally do spot-checks and manually update the rating. Marketplace app reviewers may also spot any inconsistencies between the app’s rating and content.

Upon filling out the form, developers are redirected back to Marketplace where their content rating will be registered to their app by both Marketplace and IARC. If the developer ever releases his app on another storefront, the rating would conveniently follow that product. When people visit their app’s details page on Marketplace, they’ll be able to read all about the its content rating.

We organized development in this Bugzilla tracking bug. Throughout development, ESRB has been very responsive with communication, in making sure our system was correctly implemented and in ironing out bugs on their side. Currently, the IARC supports the ESRB, PEGI, CLASSIND, and USK rating systems. More will likely follow.

Geo-Targeting: Keeping Developers in the Driver’s Seat

Jenny

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Geographical targeting—allowing developers to choose where their apps are available—puts the developer in the driver’s seat, and Mozilla believes that’s the right road to take.

It’s the developers’ content, and they should be able to choose what they want to do with it. The circumstance of political, legal, and geographic boundaries and of monetary exchange complexities is the reality today and in the foreseeable future. Developers have to work within this context, and we believe in supporting the often unique and nuanced needs of regional developers everywhere.

Today, about 15 to 20 percent of Firefox OS app developers take advantage of geo-targeting. That’s not a large percentage, but it’s significant enough for us to want to address their concerns.

Here are just some of the reasons developers prefer to control the geographic availability of their apps:

  • Licensing or geographical restrictions limit a developer’s rights to distribute content within an app (e.g., videos or characters in a game), and thus she is unable to list her app on the Firefox Marketplace unless she can limit distribution to specific countries.
  • An app is a paid app. (The Firefox Marketplace currently only facilitates payments in certain regions.)
  • An app is relevant only to certain regions, and the developer doesn’t wish to provide language and/or other support for customers elsewhere.
  • A developer is concerned about legal matters, such as liability for copyright infringement, for user-generated content within the app.
  • A developer is concerned about political, censorship, and/or privacy issues within certain countries and doesn’t wish to distribute to those areas.
  • A developer may have maps for different regions in different languages, and due to the size, it’s preferable to divide them up and target certain regions.

A few intriguing hyper-local apps you’ll find on Firefox Marketplace include:

On a related note: We also plan to give hyper-local communities a voice in choosing “Featured Apps” that are best suited for their region. (Stay tuned for more on this.)

Speaking of the driver’s seat, if you’re going to Mobile World Congress  (24-27 February in Barcelona), cruise on over to Mozilla’s booth to see some of the hyper-local apps we’ll be featuring.

Valentine’s Night on the Town? Take Our Apps Along!

Jenny

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You’ve mustered the courage to ask that special someone out. Now, you need to plan a fun night on the town. Why not download a few apps from Firefox Marketplace to help make it a night to remember?

First, check the weather. An outdoor concert in a downpour won’t make a good first impression. F&C provides current weather conditions as well as a forecast for up to three days. You can view the temperature in either Fahrenheit or Celsius (F&C: Get it?), and the app changes colors dynamically to express current conditions.

If you’re struggling to decide what to do, Hot Trends lets you see what people are searching for around the world, so you can get a sense of the local zeitgeist. Once you decide where to go, use Easy Taxi to get around.

If it looks like rain, a restaurant is a safer bet than that outdoor concert. Yelp is great for checking out restaurant reviews, but we have many other apps, too: Depending on your location and language, try kekanto or foodfindr. Then look for restaurant discounts with Offerum. (Thrifty and romantic aren’t mutually exclusive, right?) Tip Calculator is another handy tool.

What about after dinner? If your friend likes movies, Joblo will help you do your homework: Find movie news, commentary, and previews, so you’re up on the latest.

There’s nothing like humor to break the tension on a first date. So, come prepared with a few jokes from 9GAG and Chistes. And if things are going well, throw your date a digital kiss with Flying Kiss.

If you take any pics, use PhotoFunia to add effects and create a collage to commemorate the evening. Finally, if you’re not sure about the chemistry between the two of you, French Love Test will come to the rescue.

No need to thank us; we’re glad to help—and don’t forget to check out Firefox Marketplace for apps to improve all your social engagements!

LINE Lands on Firefox Marketplace

Scott DeVaney

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LINE's ridiculously adorable character lineup.

LINE’s ridiculously adorable character lineup.

Since its debut in the summer of 2011, LINE has found a formula for success in the very crowded field of messaging apps. In less than three years, LINE has attracted over 340 million users in 230 countries.

What’s the trick? LINE has struck upon a brilliant balance of easy-to-use messaging services—free phone and video calls, group chat, buddy lists, “Shake It!” feature to add friends, and more—along with a catalog of great social games and sticker packs featuring original and unbearably cute characters.

It’s ironic then, to say the least, that an app associated with such fun characters and positive social activities started under a most inauspicious beginning—in the aftermath of the Japan’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The disaster knocked out significant portions of Japan’s communications infrastructure. The need for a reliable, internet-based communication system became instantly critical. In response, Japanese engineers from the Naver Corporation (formerly known as NHN Japan Corporation) rapidly developed LINE and debuted it just three months later.

And now LINE is available to Firefox OS users. The initial version of LINE on Firefox OS includes 1:1 messaging, group chat, photo sharing, and a scaled down sticker pack. LINE plans to continue to develop and expand its feature set for Firefox OS users over time. Check it out today and let us know what you think!

LINE02

HTML5 Momentum: Vimeo and More

Jenny

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HTML5 is kicking off 2014 with a few tips of the hat in its direction—from adoption by Vimeo to more industry predictions for HTML5 traction and growth.

Vimeo

On January 7, Vimeo announced the debut of a completely rebuilt player—one that automatically defaults to HTML5.

“Tremendous work went into developing the latest version of our player, and we’re excited to take a leading role in support of open web standards by defaulting to HTML5,” said Vimeo Chief Technology Officer Andrew Pile.

Because the new player uses HTML5, it will be fully compatible with all types of browsers on mobile, tablet, and desktop.

And Vimeo’s not the only company to see the benefits of HTML5. A recent HTML5 Report article says that HTML5 is “gaining steam” in mobile app developments. It cites a recent BI Intelligence report indicating that more mobile developers have begun to rely on HTML5 as their main development platform (as of July 2013).

Industry predictions

Other industry observers have some good things to say about HTML5 in the coming year, too.

Gartner, in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends For 2014, predicts that through 2014, improved JavaScript performance will push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment.

In addition, CNBC predicts that in 2014, HTML5 will gain traction as a leading option to develop custom enterprise apps that are compatible with multiple device types. Using an amalgam of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, web developers can create highly interactive, yet economical, web applications (accessible online and offline) for today’s tech-savvy business user, CNBC notes.

At Mozilla, we’ve never been shy about touting the benefits of HTML5. We extend a tip of our hat, too!

 

3 Keys to Writing Effective App Copy

Scott DeVaney

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copywritingSo, you’ve just developed an amazing app. It’s incredible. A game changer. Maybe even disruptive (ugh, sorry). Anyway, the internet is gonna freak out when they see this thing.

Now comes the tricky part… marketing.

There are many facets to successful app marketing. Today we’ll focus on one of the most basic, yet overlooked, aspects of giving your app a good shot at success: the app description.

We’re talking about the copy that appears on your app’s landing page on Firefox Marketplace (or any app store for that matter). This is your chance to pitch your app to prospective installers. They clicked on your app to get to its details page, so they’re obviously interested. They want to know more about it. Here’s where you tell folks why your app is worth their time, memory space, data usage, and possibly money.

Here are three fundamental rules to follow when crafting app copy:

1. The first sentence means everything. Don’t waste time getting to the hook. Let people know why your app deserves their attention right away. This can be a simple statement of what your app does (if it does something unique), or a detailing of how it does something distinctly different (e.g. there are a lot of calculator apps; how is yours different?).

2. Less is more. Your app is your baby, and like a lot of proud parents you have difficulty resisting the urge to drivel on and on about your precious little bundle of joy. But 100% of the time, nobody cares as much about your kids as you do. Respect your audience’s time. Cut to the chase. Only mention what is critical about your app, and not a word more.

3. Find someone capable to proof your copy. Poor grammar and spelling is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, coding is your language of choice. So find a trusted friend, family member, or colleague who has some level of comfort with the written word to look over your copy for glaring mistakes. A dumb typo can undo otherwise brilliant work.

Now, let’s illustrate these points with a simple test case… Let’s say we’ve just created an app that turns a Firefox OS device into a jetpack. That’s pretty sweet! I think people would download that!

Jetpackr. This Firefox OS app is going places!

Jetpackr. This Firefox OS app is going places!

Our app is called Jetpackr. Below we have an example of BAD copy for Jetpackr, and then we have GOOD copy.

BAD Jetpackr copy

With surprisingly intuitive UI, responsive touch controls, and efficient use of your phones battery life, Jetpackr is like no app you’ve ever experienced. Download it for free today and find out why everyone is talking about Jetpackr! You’ll be glad you did. Irregardless of whether rush hour traffic is driving you crazy, or maybe you just want to spice up you’re trips to the mall, Jetpackr is the game-changing app that transforms your Firefox OS phone into a fully functional jetpack.

Why this copy doesn’t work:

    Everyone likes nice UI and touch controls, but these are complementary components to an app—not central to its primary experience (flying!). The opening sentence basically says nothing of real value to the discerning user.
    The copy focuses on non-specific statements like, “Jetpackr is like no app you’ve ever experienced,” “You’ll be glad you did,” and “find out why everyone is talking about Jetpackr.” Empty phrases like this don’t lend an air of mystery to our app—they just confuse people.
    “phones battery life” should have a possessive apostrophe “phone’s battery life”… “Irregardless” isn’t a real word… and “you’re trips to the mall” should be “your trips to the mall”… with such poor attention to detail I’m starting to wonder if I should trust this developer with my life.

GOOD Jetpackr copy

Turn your Firefox OS phone into a jetpack. With surprisingly simple touch controls, you’ll be soaring with the birds in no time. Download Jetpackr for free today.

Why this copy works:

    The lead sentence directly conveys the app’s core appeal.
    It correlates peripheral elements— in this case, simple UI and touch controls—to the app’s core appeal (“you’ll be flying in no time”).
    It’s short and to the point. The reader clearly understands exactly what this app will do for them.

If you have a lot of app features you’d like to detail, no problem. It usually works well to break those out into bullet points below your primary intro paragraph. Just make sure your opening paragraph is as enticing as it can be, lest your readers never make it to the bullet points.

I hope these copywriting tips have been helpful. Happy app marketing, friends!

Editor’s Note: Have you created a remarkable app on Firefox Marketplace? Drop us a line at editor@mozilla.com and let us know about it—maybe we’ll feature your work!

Hey, developers—We’re accelerating the evolution of Firefox OS for tablets. You interested?

Jenny

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If you’re enjoying seeing your apps on mobile phones, it won’t be long before they can appear on tablets, too!

If you follow Firefox news, you may have seen the recent announcement about a new Firefox OS contribution program aimed at accelerating the development of Firefox OS for tablets and the supporting ecosystem.

The plan is to provide dedicated contributors with access to resources and reference hardware, initially with tablets from Foxconn. We have to make the hardware available before the software is final, to make it possible for contributors around the world to help us complete the build of Firefox OS for tablets.

This is a logical extension of Mozilla’s strategy and philosophy.

“Our goal is to give users more choice and control in their online lives and to give developers freedom to build and distribute software however they want,” explained Mozilla COO Jay Sullivan in a recent Engadget interview at CES.

The program is aimed at developers who want to work with Firefox OS, Firefox OS localizers, and testers/bug fixers. Here’s how it will work:

  • The program will start in the coming weeks, when we will share more details about how contributors can apply to receive a reference tablet.
  • We will work together to complete the tablet version of Firefox OS.
  • We will provide guidance on where we need contributions to complete the tablet version of Firefox OS.
  • Nightly builds will be offered for developers to keep up to date.
  • All program details will be posted on the Mozilla Hacks blog in the coming weeks.

“Once we have completed work on Firefox OS for tablets with the help of this contribution program, we’ll get ready to share it with the world,” said Asa Dotzler, director of Firefox OS Participation.

So stay tuned for more updates on how to get involved in the program!

Some of this information comes from Asa Dotzler’s recent post on the Mozilla Hacks blog and this recent Mozilla announcement.

 

New Year’s Resolutions? We have an app for that!

Jenny

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It’s January—the time of year many people establish New Year’s resolutions. On the Firefox Marketplace, we have an app for that. (We have several, actually.)

If you’re an aficionado of this tradition, chances are that at least one of your resolutions is health-related. If so, you’re not alone.

Sadly, the optimism (or determination) with which we set these goals often fades. In fact, research from Scranton University (described in this Forbes article) suggests that just 8 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually achieve their goals.

That research focuses on Americans, only. (Perhaps the rest of the world is better at keeping resolutions?)

What if you had an app or two to help you with your health-related resolutions? No matter where you are, or how successful—or not—you’ve been in the past, you might find that an app is just the thing to help you keep up with all those good January intentions.

Check out some of these free apps on the Firefox Marketplace:

BloodPressureDB helps you chart your blood pressure quickly and easily. Keep it for your own reference, or share it with your doctor.

wger Workout Manager helps you manage your exercises and workouts as well as weight and diet plans.

Run Recorder, a GPS-based app, displays information to help you keep track of your activity, such as elapsed time, distance traveled, your average pace and current speed.

Cuerpo sano (in Spanish) provides information on various teas and other infusions, food, sports, meditation and more.

Personal Trainer offers cross-fit, weight training and yoga workouts at different levels (beginners, intermediates, etc.).

Check out these and many other apps in the Health & Fitness section on the Firefox Marketplace.

If you like these, be sure to share your thoughts by rating them!