back to article The phone OS that muggers wouldn't touch is back from the dead

Dead phone platforms are coming back to life at MWC in 2018 – like a zombie feature phone apocalypse. Firefox OS was the talk of Mobile World Congress five years ago as the wealthy Californian nonprofit announced an ambitious licensing initiative... and a $25 handset. I will admit I was scathing. "It's the sort of phone left …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    Wasn't Kai the name of the undead assassin in Lexx? Basically, already dead, didn't stop moving.

    1. James 51 Silver badge
      Alien

      Yes, but he required protoblood to keep moving. So that's where Blood Drive got the idea from.... we are living in the dark universe after all.

    2. 0laf Silver badge
      Alert

      Lexx.... Eva Habermann

      I'm sorry I've come over all funny all of a sudden

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Lexx..

        I have to admit, I would be tempted to answer a call "Yo! Weh-Yo."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lexx..

          TRT,

          Surely, it needs to be the full chorus :) :)

          Yo A O, Hom Var Ray,

          Yo A Ra, Jerhume Brunnen G

          Way Ro Way, Ro Hanna Ro,

          A Way Ro Ra, Jay Hanna Ray

          Yo A O, Hom Var Ray,

          Yo A Ra, Jerhume Brunnen G

          Yo A O, Hom Var Ray,

          Yo A Ra, Jerhume Brunnen G

          Yo A O, Hom Var Ray,

          Yo A Ra, Jerhume Brunnen G

          Yo A Ra, Jerhume Brunnen G

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        "I'm sorry I've come over all funny all of a sudden"

        And as Kai would be likely to say: "The dead do not come over all funny."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lexx? Vague memories of that bizarre low-budgetish green-screen-and-CGI sci-fi thing showing through the notoriously poxy analogue reception of early-era Channel 5...

      Also, doesn't "KaiOS" sound too much like "chaos" for its own good?

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Joke

    Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring

    Banana Phone

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring

      You have a-kela on line 1...

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring

      That's actually about the same colour as my first ever phone back in days of 'people's phone' and 50p a minute calls ontop of the contract. It also weighed more than any other phone ove ever had but this was in the early 2g days... I wonder if my parents still have it?

    3. Oh Homer
      Devil

      They should call it ...

      The Banksy Phone.

      Ring, ring!

      What?

      Ring, ring!

      What?

      Say what one more God damn time!

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    If you really want to stand out in the crowd

    then get one of these bright yellow phones.

    I dare not think what people will think of you when you pull one out (of wherever you keep your phone and hopefully not next to that 'other' banana).

    Paris because it is clearly not 'blingy' enough for her.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you really want to stand out in the crowd

      Well it would certainly be a conversation starter.. or pickup line "Would you like to see my big curved one!"

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: If you really want to stand out in the crowd

        Excuse me while I whip this out

    2. horse of a different color

      Re: If you really want to stand out in the crowd

      Definitely a phone you keep your eyes peeled for

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    So Symbian will remain dead.

    Except as a fond/bad memory.

    1. David Given
      FAIL

      I used to program for Symbian. I sincerely hope that it's not just dead, but buried at a crossroads with a stake through the twisted nugget of hate that passed for a heart.

      In fact... hand me that shovel, will you? I think I need to go dig it up, just so I can bury it again. Just to be sure.

  5. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Finally.

    A phone that isn't a generic slab with (generic or otherwise) android.

    Dull, dull, dull dull, accountancy dull.

    I'm kind of tempted to get one - although I have been kind of holding out hoping for a 'disco' 3310 brick-style.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Battery life

    and run – presumably for ages – as a mobile hotspot.

    Doubt it, the limiting factor there will be the radio and the not the CPU. Want a mobile hotspot with good battery life then buy a dedicated one.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Battery life

      "Doubt it, the limiting factor there will be the radio and the not the CPU."

      Indeed. There's a reason this phone boasts about a 17 day standby battery life, but can only manage a decidedly average 9 hours talk time. Feature phones are great at lasting a long time because most of the time they're not really doing anything to use the battery. The 4G and wifi chips will be basically the same as in any other phone, but here are only attached to a 150mAh battery, so try hammering them and it will probably end up much worse off than a regular smartphone.

  7. 0laf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I'd get a bright yello stinker banana phone as a holiday phone. I won't leave it lying about if it's that colour.

    I'd have liked the option of horrific green. That's my normal go to colour for devices I need help not to forget

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      I'd have liked the option of horrific green. That's my normal go to colour for devices I need help not to forget

      A nice luminous dayglow green - even if it only glows when it's ringing - you'd not only never forget, you'd easily find it - we could call it the 'Orville'

      That was the problem with the Lumia line, they didn't.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      So you want an unripe banana phone?

      1. aerwidh

        Perhaps it's still in beta?

  8. StripeyMiata

    I had a FireFox OS phone that a mugger probably would have wanted

    I used to own a LG Fx0 - https://gadgets.ndtv.com/lg-fx0-2233

    It was see-through gold and one of the only few phones in the last few years I have owned that had people regularly ask "what is that". The other one is a Amazon Fire Phone.

    The phone was lovely, but FireFox back then even though I was on 2.2 still felt slow and buggy. Ironically the Firefox browser itself was one of the worse things about it.

  9. Hairy Weasel

    90% there...

    "It can run over two weeks on a single charge. It can do Outlook push email and Gmail, and Google Maps. And Facebook and Twitter. And VoLTE calls and run – presumably for ages – as a mobile hotspot. That's as much modern phone as a lot of people need."

    90% there. Banking and public transport apps are the two major ones missing. Maybe when banks and public transport switch away from apps towards PWA? Or would this OS not support those?

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: 90% there...

      Would do the job for some older relatives of mine, all they need on a phone is calls, text, email (gmail specifically) and a browser as that's all they mainly* use on their androids, despite gazillions of apps being available.

      * Only other app I am aware of any of them ever using is mapping, and they all have car satnavs so they only used phone maps to walk to a location in unfamiliar town / city & that's rare use case for them.

      So they (and I assume plenty of other older folk) ideal target for Feature Phone "Plus" - OK for people who don't need many "extras" but have not quite hit the fine motor control issues of only being able to use a Doro style phone

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: 90% there...

        Golf course apps, FTW!

      2. Radio Wales
        Unhappy

        Re: 90% there...

        You miss the point of your elderly relative 's dilemma

        I wanted a 'smarter' phone for some basic needs without having to cough up for stuff I didn't need so purchased a lightweight Samsung.

        Trouble was, it had so much bundled crapware there wasn't any room for more than two or three apps that I wanted. It was always 'Out of memory' despite having a 16Gb SD in it.

        Eventually went in the drawer along with the previous cutting edge Nokia phones I'd had that in the end, didn't actually do anything useful.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: 90% there...

      Most public transport apps have a web alternative, and many of the transport apps actually aren't that good.

      Mapping and IM would be the major issues. WhatsApp does have a web interface, but only by connecting to a phone running the app..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 90% there...

      > Banking and public transport apps are the two major ones missing.

      You what?

  10. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Dear Mister Simon Sharwood...

    Amazingly feature phones continue to outsell smartphones in Asia. Strategy Analytics estimated almost 400 million were sold in 2017 worldwide. Nokia moved over 13 million feature phones in its most recent quarter, and given its historical leadership, you would think this was worth a further punt.

    Would you like to appollogize for that "evolutionary dead end" comment from the other day, or would you rather choke on the taste of crow?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Dear Mister Simon Sharwood...

      I doubt it'll keep him awake at night.

      And 'Apologize' has one P and one L.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dear Mister Simon Sharwood...

        > And 'Apologize' has one P and one L.

        And that's how he spelled it. Just not exactly one /p/ and one /l/.

        1. Mellipop

          Re: Dear Mister Simon Sharwood...

          Hahaha, truly of a functional mindset.

          Learn Haskell. Change the world with a true bare metal VM:

          http://uhsure.com/halvm3.html.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        At Lord Elpuss...

        Sorry for that, I can never remember how many of each to use. Kind of like the a's & n's in banananananananananana... =-)p

  11. NanoMeter

    Another colour please

    I want it in original colours, or black. I'm sure there's a market for third party housings.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Another colour please

      Nokia used to be famous for a dark finish that looked either greenish or purple depending upon the a flexible of the light.

      They need to bring that back.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Another colour please

      It's already available in black.

  12. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Android was fine in 512MB..

    I had an Xperia Pro up until a few years ago, it worked fine up to Jelly Bean, and Gingerbread that it shipped with was very fast. Kitkat coincided with app bloat, and it became too slow to realistically use multiple apps at the same time. Facebook was a major culprit in hogging resource, unsurprisingly.

  13. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Leave Android? YES!

    With every iteration Android (like most Google products) becomes less useful and more encumbered with stuff I neither need nor want. And let's face it, 98% of apps are less than useful.

    Once you've got email, text messaging, maps, and a browser I'm pretty much covered. Not being tied into the stifling Google omniverse is very appealing, as is "less is more."

    My preference for Linux is rested firmly on my ability to have only what I want and need on a computer, and I would love that my phone, which many days is my primary computing device, could be the same.

  14. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Are you happy to see me ...

    ... or is that a Nokia in your pocket?

  15. Martijn Otto

    Sailfish

    I have been using a Sailfish device. The hardware is vastly underpowered, but the phone is actually quite responsive. I have been quite impressed with it. Only thing you notice is when you run an app using the Android Compatibility (because there is no native app available) is that those Android apps are horribly slow.

    1. Wil Palen

      Re: Sailfish

      You should get the new Sony Xperia X with Sailfish then, butter smooth. And I'm still amazed to see regular updates arriving, even for the older models. That's something the competition just can't equal.

  16. EveryTime Silver badge

    For years I carried a flip phone and a WiFi-only smartphone (no plan).

    It was a great combination, mainly due to the flip phone. I could call a friend or redial in about two seconds. The phone was dropped and scratched many times, with only cosmetic damage. A charge could last most of a week. It cost so little as an add-on to a family plan that I never was quite sure which family member was paying for it that year.

    Then one day I lost the flip phone (between the car seat and tunnel, it turned out). I activated the smart phone. Now I'm paying far more, carrying a power bank/wall brick/cable everywhere, and always fiddling with something. I can't count on my phone doing simple things, such being an alarm clock, because the battery may have died from unexpected use or weak signal. And some forced-install carrier app is always turning itself on and spamming me.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Avoid Alcatel at all costs

    Alcatel recently pushed an "important security update" on to users devices which weaponized the factory installed system apps.

    The system apps are now streaming advertisements with audio from Shanghai TenCent and scanning the users WIFI and Bluetooth connections.

    Users on XDA Developers site are livid and vowing to never purchase another Alcatel device.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Avoid Alcatel at all costs

      Have you got any more background on that?

      I have an Alcatel tablet (which like all present-day Alcatel consumer tat is actually the "Alcatel" brand being used under license by TCL). But I haven't come across anything like that yet.

      Edit; mentions of the "Idol" line here, but not the Pixi I own. At any rate, I'll be avoiding buying another Alcatel if this is the case.

  18. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    And in other news, the Librarian was on his way to get one of these yellow banananananana phones.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge
  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll keep using a brick. No ios, no android, lovely.

    http://www.gadgetking.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/the-brick.jpg

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'll keep using a brick. No ios, no android, lovely.

      You use a brick? Life must be rough.

      /trollface

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I love my brick!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That KaiOS thing

    Is that open source / free software? Their FAQ seems less than straightforward about it:

    > we’ll make the source code available to the extent required by the applicable open source licenses. [my emphasis]

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: That KaiOS thing

      What is not straightforward about that statement?

      They will adhere to any open source licences. Simples.

  21. aberglas

    Javascript will kill it

    The idea of a simple, cheap phone is appealing, and 500K should be more than enough for a phone and a bit of browsing. But sadly, the latter is not what it used to be.

    Browsing modern web pages means executing ever larger globs of JavaScript, that, even when "compiled", requires a lot of grunt to operate. And all the features of HTML5 aint going to fit in any small device anyway.

    So yes, it would be possible to build a simple, cheap, low powered device. But it won't support modern JavaScript websites. So will be useless in practice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Javascript will kill it

      Absolutely. The average size of a webpage is way over 1MB now... I used to craft websites with tiny code in 1993, well optimised graphics, html compressed, and I'm just amazed at how huge single page views have become. You couldn't even look up your train times with one of these, not quickly anyway, unless the CPU was very fast, which I doubt very much. Maybe all mobile device browsers should come with a "Request Low Memory Usage, Non Overstuffed With Crap Designed To Leak My Data And Make Every Website Look Exactly The Same Except For The Colour Of The Big Stupid Looking Buttons - Site", just below "Request Desktop Site".

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Javascript will kill it

        Or just perhaps developers should stop writing shit Javascript websites, and make things go a bit faster by actually being good at their jobs?

      2. detritus

        Re: Javascript will kill it

        I noticed that a client's website was loading slowly so downloaded it and ... oh my God, 52Mb!

        Mostly over-sized images, of course, but because it was on a well-known Website-Maker, it also featured 2Mb of Javascript that did... who knows. The class definitions for the body tag alone weighed 8Kb.

        It's like no one gives a shit any more.

      3. Dave559 Bronze badge

        Re: Javascript will kill it

        There is a web developer who actually specialises in creating lightweight front ends to unnecessarily bloated websites, and indeed the excellent https://traintimes.org.uk/ is one of his.

  22. Christian Berger Silver badge

    What it needs would be a "secret" way to install your own applications

    Essentially a simple API to access the network stack as well as in- and output devices. That way you could port something like mosh and use this device as a mobile terminal.

    1. Mellipop

      Re: What it needs would be a "secret" way to install your own applications

      Erm, that would be http://webassembly.org/

  23. MacroRodent Silver badge

    accessibility

    It has a keypad. Good! After watching elderly relatives struggle with smartphones (even a supposedly simplified Doro), I am convinced phones with keypads and very simple UIs have a long future, with our aging population.

  24. DougS Silver badge

    "complexity and notification overload of the modern Android experience"

    Seems like it would be easier to strip the stuff you don't want out of Android than starting fresh with a new OS that has never proven itself in phones. Maybe if you strip enough out it'll run acceptably in 512MB.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: "complexity and notification overload of the modern Android experience"

      @DougS The problem is that Android is a sprawling mess of millions of lines of code. Stripping out 'unnecessary' stuff is a horrendous job, and there is still no guarantee it will be any more reliable than something written from scratch (albeit based over the Linux kernel which handles all the complex stuff).

  25. SamX

    After the introduction of JIO, the new mobile 4G-only VoLTE network in India launched by the country's richest man, 4G feature phones gained popularity suddenly. They offer unlimited data (1GB per day at full 4G speed, reduced to slow Kbps speeds after) and unlimited calls for ~£5 per month.

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