My review of the Geeksphone Peak with Firefox OS

I wrote in September that I had pre-ordered the Geeksphone Peak+ with Firefox OS and why I did so. Unfortunately the Peak+ was delayed and in October it turned out the delay would be longer than expected. At that point Geeksphone offered those who had pre-ordered the Peak+ to send them the original Peak instead, which had become available again.

Because I didn’t want to wait much longer, I accepted this offer. I received my Peak the next day on 22 October, after it was shipped from Spain to my address in the Netherlands in less than 24 hours. I also got a refund because the Peak had a lower price. Initially I was disappointed in Geeksphone’s communication of the delay. I learned about the delay through the order status on their website rather than an e-mail which they could have sent, but the way the handled this restored my trust in them.

The Peak smartphone

I think the hardware is very adequate for a phone which is sold for € 150. I haven’t compared it with the Android phones at the same price point, but if I look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 of my brother or my dad’s iPhone 4 I don’t get the feeling my phone is deficient. Sure, the Galaxy and the iPhone cost over three times as much and have better hardware, but I’m satisfied with it.

But there are a few things which I would have liked to see differently. The iPhone 4 for example measures 115,2 by 58,6 by 9,3 mm and has a 3,5 inch screen with a resolution of 640 by 960 pixels. The Peak measures 133,6 by 66 by 8,9 mm and has 4,3 inch screen with a resolution of 540 by 960 pixels. I like how the iPhone 4 fits in my pant’s pocket, but the slightly larger Peak is a bit more noticeable. I would have preferred the iPhone 4’s slightly more compact dimensions and higher amount of pixels per inch.

When I took off the Peak’s back cover to place the battery and SIM card I feared I would break it, but it’s sturdy enough. The quality of the enclosure won’t win awards either, but it’s good enough for me. What worries me more is that the Peak only gets half of the full reception quality in my home, while my former dumb phone would always get full reception quality. However, in practice I’ve never experienced problems with the reception during phone calls.

The Firefox OS software

Version 1.1 of Firefox OS does the basics right and I haven’t seen it crash. However, being an operating system in its infancy, it doesn’t have much good apps. For example, Here Maps which is included by default doesn’t have turn-by-turn navigation. EverNav does, but if you want to use it you to have log in, which is something I don’t want. I’m surprised no one has built a good map app based on OpenStreetMap yet. It would have been useful if a flashlight app and an app for taking notes were included by default, but they aren’t available yet either.

I often use the 9292 website, which is popular for planning trips with the Dutch public transport. Because Firefox OS hasn’t been introduced in the Netherlands yet it’s unsurprising they don’t have an app for Firefox OS. This isn’t an issue as a Firefox app doesn’t need to be much more than a simple manifest file which redirects to a mobile website. Unfortunately 9292 doesn’t detect the Firefox OS user agent and redirect you to their mobile website like it does for Android smartphones. You can visit the mobile website manually and than add it as a favorite to your home screen, but it doesn’t display 100% correctly in Firefox. And the favicon used for the home screen uses a very low resolution, so it’s not a pretty sight. I’ve already sent them a message to inform them of these problems.

I intend to build my use of the phone around ownCloud, which would allow me store my calendar and contact data with my own web host. This way, I don’t need to use services like Google Calendar and the big companies can’t poke their noses into my personal data. GNOME also supports synchronization with ownCloud, which allow me to work easily with the same data on my PC, laptop and smartphone.

It’s already possible to synchronize the calendar with ownCloud if you follow these instructions (in French). However, synchronizing the contacts with ownCloud using CardDAV is not yet possible though, all Firefox OS offers at time is synchronization with Facebook.

This and other issues I’ve noticed have been filed at Mozilla’s bug tracker, of which the first two were filed by others and the last four by me:

  • Bug 859306 – Sync contacts with carddav
  • Bug 901218 – [Peak] Back camera does not take photos in full resolution : 1.2M instead of 8M pixels
  • Bug 934092 – can’t set locale separately from language
  • Bug 934094 – “order by last name” setting doesn’t take surname prefix into account
  • Bug 934097 – alarm doesn’t trigger when the Peak smartphone is turned off
  • Bug 934099 – Firefox OS doesn’t use delta updates
  • Bug 934115 – m.9292.nl website displays two arrows in a drop down menu

The first bug is most important to me. If it’s also important to you, you might want to vote for the bug report.

7 thoughts on “My review of the Geeksphone Peak with Firefox OS”

  1. I’m also in the Netherlands and in the same boat.

    Everything looked pretty good, as you mentioned some things about the software is still a bit new.

    Which is fine. But I’m starting to get a bit worried. I’ve not seen any updates for Firefox 1.2 from Geeksphone. Even though it was released. If the process isn’t to complicated I wouldn’t mind doing my own upgrades.

    The problem is there are bugzilla reports where upgrading makes it impossible to use the WiFi and mobile network with phones from Geeksphone: http://forum.geeksphone.com/index.php?topic=5835.0

  2. Haven’t really used the GPS yet, I just know it doesn’t work indoors. Which isn’t uncommon for GPS devices. If I remember to do so, I’ll do that in the next few days.

    Is there any other device on the market yet which is a high(er)-end FirefoxOS phone than phones like the ZTE Open ?

    Not that I’m thinking of ditching my GeeksPhone yet, just trying to keep my eyes open for open platforms.

    Tizen isn’t shipping, Jolla is shipping in Europe and Neo900 seems at first sight less capable hardware and more expensive (but proper open hardware). Non of which can run FirefoxOS out of the box as far as I know.

    I’m happily surprised with how well FirefoxOS works. I’m a big OpenWeb supported, so it’s a good fit for me.

  3. I’m also interested in a higher-end Firefox OS phone. I know about news [1] from May 2013 that Sony intends to make such a phone, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for that. For now, I’ll stick with my Geeksphone Peak like you.

    Thanks for mentioning the Neo900, I thought OpenMoko was dead. Looks interesting, but I hope they could slim down the Neo900, it seems to be rather thick.

    Also, for those who wonder why we two don’t consider Android to be open, this [2] is a nice read.

    [1] http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9239043/Mozilla_s_Firefox_OS_will_also_appear_on_high_end_phones
    [2] http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by-any-means-necessary/

  4. [2] is exactly the reason why and it’s not going to improve, it’s going to get worse I think.

    I forgot about Sony, thanks for the link.

    And obviously the the reason for the bulkiness of the Neo900 is the keyboard.

    There is one system I forgot to mention, which got a lot of attention, which is the Ubuntu Touch system. They have found a manufacturer and what I’ve heared people mention so far is 2015.

    People will probably be able to get the Peak working with newer versions if Geeksphone doesn’t do it, it will take work though.

    I’m just hoping it won’t be you or me that needs to do the work. ;-)

    It should be pretty simple to hack your FirefoxOS phone, I read the Firefox OS Simulator add-on for Firefox includes adb the Android Debug Bridge which you need to talk over USB to your phone.

    Have you had a chance to try that ?

  5. I’m a bit reluctant towards Ubuntu phones. I used Ubuntu on my PC in the past but switched to Fedora because I thought they didn’t play so well with the rest of the free software ecosystem (Unity and Mir). And they don’t have such a good track record with privacy (the Amazon integration in Unity)

    As for using adb, I can tell you it works conveniently. I’ve used it a few times already to try an unstable release of Firefox OS on my Peak and to fix the GPS configuration.

  6. Yeah, I can understand that. I was a Debian user and moved to Ubuntu and now a Debian user again.

    I didn’t have time yet to try adb, so I tried it today, seems that the current stable: Firefox 26, Firefox OS Simulator Add-on and Adb Helper Add-on are already so new they don’t work with the Firefox OS 1.1 on my Peak.

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