Spain’s Geeksphone is a scrappy little manufacturer that started off making Android handsets for open-source cognoscenti before becoming the first creator of Firefox OS developer devices. On Thursday it announced it will be bringing both of those worlds together with a smartphone called the Revolution that will run either operating system — or both, if you’re an “advanced user”.
This is the latest stage in what we may term a rapid evolution of Geeksphone’s roadmap. The company’s Peak Firefox OS handset went on sale in April and barely 3 months later Geeksphone took it off its virtual shelves, encouraging people to buy the souped-up Peak+ instead. Now those who already pre-ordered the Peak+ are being offered the Revolution at the same €149 ($203) price, which will be just over half the price others will pay.
As well they might be — on Thursday Geeksphone also had to inform those keen Peak+ pre-orderers that they will never get their phone. Having pushed back its delivery date from September, the company admitted that “very serious problems arose in the components supply chain in Asia that have been impossible to avoid”:
“Although we expected a complex situation, the reality exceeded the worst scenario. This was compounded by the decline and cessation of activity (in domino effect) of numerous suppliers and other independent OEMs. We adopted multiple measures in order to have confirmation from all suppliers to start production later this November. But the current reality makes this situation no longer possible.”
In particular, Geeksphone’s Chinese manufacturing partner Cellon seems to have failed the Spanish company “due to multiple internal problems.” Realizing that it wouldn’t be able to begin production until at least January, Geeksphone called the whole thing off.
Those who pre-ordered the Peak+ can now get all their money back, get $20 back and receive the lower-specced Peak instead, or wait for the Revolution (for how long, we don’t know).
Details about the Revolution are thin on the ground for now, but we do know it will cost just south of €300 – we know this because Geeksphone told wannabe Peak+ customers that getting the Revolution for the same €149 price represents a “near 50 percent discount”. We also know it will have a “high-performance processor” and that it will be possible to use either Android or Firefox OS, but not together.
According to Geeksphone co-founder Javier Agüera:
“We are very excited about this new device. Once again we will revolutionize the world of mobile network. We are also confident that we will surprise everyone by its very high performance and it’s very competitively priced.”
The Revolution does sound intriguing, because it will probably be the most high-end device yet to run Firefox OS — the earliest commercial units have been quite low-end, as the phones are mostly destined for emerging markets.
That said, those who want to play around with Firefox OS apps in tandem with Android can already happily do so. As these are just HTML5 web apps we’re talking about, Android users can just install the Firefox browser and have a dig around its marketplace.
Interestingly, Geeksphone seems to have included Firefox OS in this unit as an afterthought, if anything. “The device can be ordered with Android operating system or Mozilla but also for advanced users can be installed a ROM on the Android to use Mozilla,” a spokeswoman told me today.
“The intention was to launch on Android but given the experience gained [by] Geeksphone in Open Web terminals they have decided to give the users the option to choose between either system.”
Does this bode ill for Firefox OS? Hard to tell at this point — it may just be that developers would rather pick up a sub-$100 real-world Firefox OS phone made by ZTE or Alcatel than a special developer device. We’ll only really know how Mozilla’s operating system is doing when we see sales figures.
UPDATE (7.50am PT): It seems a branding issue may also be at play here. Geeksphone tells me only manufacturers “associated with carriers” get to use the Firefox OS name, so Geeksphone is actually using the old Boot2Gecko project name instead. This probably explains the semi-pivot back to Android.
As I’ve noted many times before, carriers seem quite keen on the OS as an alternative to Android and iOS, and on Thursday Mozilla said the phones were available in 13 countries, with more coming soon.