Firefox OS Successor: Mozilla and KaiOS announce partnership - gHacks Tech News

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Firefox OS Successor: Mozilla and KaiOS announce partnership

Firefox OS, formerly known as Boot2Gecko, was Mozilla's attempt at establishing a mobile operating system. First designed as an open alternative to the rising Android and iOS operating systems, then with a focus on connected devices instead.

Mozilla announced the end of commercial development of Firefox OS in 2016 and to release the code as an open source project.

KaiOS Technologies picked up the source and used it as a central component for the company's KaiOS operating system. The company had some success with the operating system as it is used on "more than 120 million devices" in "over 100 countries" according to KaiOS Technologies. KaiOS focuses on feature-phones, a market that Mozilla did not really entered when it worked on Firefox OS.

KaiOS is the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones with more than 120 million devices shipped in over 100 countries. KaiOS-enabled devices require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience. This includes the KaiStore with over 400 apps such as Google Assistant, WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, and Google Maps.

KaiOS is based on HTML5 and other open web technologies and supports 3G/4G LTE, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC.

KaiOS Mozilla Features

Mozilla and KaiOS Technologies announced a partnership this week that will benefit both companies. KaiOS is based on a relatively old version of Mozilla's Gecko engine; version 48, released in 2016 is still the base of the operating system. While the technology works fine for the most part, important features and developments such as TLS 1.3, WebAssembly, or Progressive Web Apps, are not supported by the current version.

The partnership will change that as Mozilla and KaiOS plan to introduce these new features in the mobile operating system. All changes will be released as open source according to the press release on the KaiOS website.

A list of improvements has been published on the site:

  • Optimized OS performance for apps, websites, and services
  • Enhanced device APIs and feature compatibility
  • Upgraded internet security and connection speeds via TLS 1.3
  • Additional hardware-optimized technologies
    • WebAssembly for more optimized web apps
    • WebGL 2.0 for advanced graphics and 3D games
    • WebP, AV1 for new image and video codecs
  • Additional modern web language support
    • Advanced CSS for better web experience
    • Async JavaScript functions for enhanced app responsiveness
    • Progressive web app support for improved browsing experience and ease of advanced apps development
  • Improved device stability and ease of obtaining certification for mobile carriers and OEMs

Apart from support for new web technologies, users of KaiOS devices will also benefit from improved performance, reliability, and security.

Now You: Are iOS and Android enough or would you like to see additional mobile operating systems entering the market and becoming successful? (via Sören)

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Firefox OS Successor: Mozilla and KaiOS announce partnership
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Firefox OS Successor: Mozilla and KaiOS announce partnership
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Mozilla and KaiOS Technologies announced a partnership this week that will benefit both companies by updating the "Firefox" components in the KaiOS operating system.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Kincaid said on March 14, 2020 at 9:34 am
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    This sounds great. No need to call it a feature smart phone. More like an optimized smart phone.

    1. Marko said on March 23, 2020 at 10:47 pm
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      3rd world ads optimized :(
      kaiads.com

  2. Amit Roy said on March 14, 2020 at 9:47 am
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    No iOS and Android are not enough. I would like to see additional mobile operating systems entering the market and becoming successful?

  3. allen said on March 14, 2020 at 9:50 am
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    It’s funny. People buy “feature” phones because they don’t want “features” (as in, data). They just want voice (and sometimes text–receiving mostly [like the good ole pagers]). For the most part they don’t want a camera either. The fewer extraneous features a phone has, the better they like it. This isn’t really going to impress the people who want a simple, basic phone for making calls with a phone that they only carry around because pay phones just aren’t a thing anymore.

    1. Victor said on March 14, 2020 at 12:36 pm
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      Allen, I think you may have missed the point of KaiOS. In America feature phones may have a very niche market, but it seems in emergent countries there are lots of people that can only afford a feature phone. So KaiOS made feature phones have the same functionalities as their “smart” counterpart, giving access to the mobile internet, apps, etc, to the “next billion” consumers.

      In that context, it does a lot more sense than in developed countries, right?

      1. CKing123 said on March 14, 2020 at 7:37 pm
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        It is also better for keeping the web open. Had things gone in Google’s directions, Chromium would have been the only browser dominating the space. But, since Apple requires all iOS browsers to use WebKit, Chromium and WebKit both dominate the rendering engines, and so developers test for both WebKit and Chromium and gives a non-Chromium engine a voice (see Apple’s decision to limit certificate expiration to 1 year starting September 2020). If Gecko takes off in KaiOS, then Mozilla too have a voice in decisions related to the web. This is only going to keep the Web open (and KaiOS has 130 million devices, which is clearly dwarfed by the mammoth Android and also iOS, but it still has a significant share of market in developing countries, where iOS does not even matter as Android and KaiOS top the market)

      2. Anonymous said on March 15, 2020 at 11:46 am
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        Low spec android phones are really cheap in developed countries. They are below $100 and some can reach just below $40. Just checkout Nokia 1 for example.

        They need the phones just for Whatsapp for almost free messaging. It’s ironic that in developed countries SMS costs per message sent.

      3. null said on March 20, 2020 at 9:23 pm
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        100 usd might cost a lot in 3rd world countries. Also you are forgetting about the how long the phone is on until the battery dies.
        Imagine yourself at Mongolia or Sub Saharan Africa. You need a phonr that will be turned on for few days.
        Kai OS phones are usually well known for battery life too.

  4. Sorryno said on March 14, 2020 at 9:54 am
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    This is great, finally we see some really viable alternatives to Android and IOS! /e/, Kaios, PineOS and more are coming! Read the other day where someone said running a quite secured Phone is “Like being back in the 90’s!”. That’s exactly what I want, where I have control!

    1. Iron Heart said on March 14, 2020 at 11:37 am
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      It will never be an alternative to iOS and Android, and that’s not even its goal. If that was its goal, it would fail even more quickly, since it doesn’t have a strong app ecosystem.

      And it slurping none of your data – I wouldn’t be so sure about that. The devices it runs on being feature phones doesn’t mean that there can’t be any privacy violations. I mean, these devices connect to the Internet, right? And the OS is complex enough to allow data analysis, as well.

      1. Anonymous said on March 15, 2020 at 5:44 am
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        “it doesn’t have a strong app ecosystem.”

        Most apps are either spyware trash or clones of other apps with few users. You could remove 90% of them and you wouldn’t be missing anything. How many clones of Angry Birds do you need? Popular apps could easily be ported if the hardware is compatible and the OS supports OpenGL and the other multimedia standards used by Android and iOS. We’re not talking about Microsoft’s DirectX here. There’s a growing demand around the world for a secure mobile OS that isn’t controlled by Google, Apple, or Microsoft.

      2. Iron Heart said on March 22, 2020 at 11:06 am
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        @Anonymous

        Even the popular and needed apps won’t be ported to KaiOS, let’s be real here. And no, we don’t need a more private alternative to Android. Android is open source and there are Custom ROMs which are already very private:

        https://grapheneos.org/

        There are also more privacy-friendly browsers than Firefox on mobile:

        https://www.bromite.org/

        And I wouldn’t be so sure about Firefox OS being very private (or “secure”, as you would put it), take a look at the comment of @jern:

        https://www.ghacks.net/2020/03/14/firefox-os-successor-mozilla-and-kaios-announce-partnership/#comment-4456787

  5. KopiJahe said on March 14, 2020 at 10:06 am
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    @Allen, sometimes we need to update the phone of our elderly, but some of them can’t cope with operating iOS or android, so KaiOS is a neat stopgap, as it supports the new LTE signal and WhatsApp for cheaper and realible mean of communication.

  6. Iron Heart said on March 14, 2020 at 11:24 am
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    Failure 2.0 incoming. It failed years ago, why should is succeed now? They are again diverting resources from their main product, great strategy.

    1. Flotsam said on March 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm
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      FirefoxOS isn’t a failure. It’s used on my Panasonic TV and very successfully so.

      1. Iron Heart said on March 14, 2020 at 12:50 pm
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        @Flotsam

        Firefox OS was originally designed for phones, and in that market it failed miserably. Panasonic uses it in its TVs, but they are paying for development on their own and receive no development aid whatsoever from Mozilla, it is essentially a fork at this point. And what market share does Panasonic have in the TV market again? They don’t even sell TVs in the US anymore…

      2. Flotsam said on March 15, 2020 at 1:44 pm
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        @Iron Heart, Yuliya and all the other usual suspects.

        Lots of assumptions in your replies and all wrong, as always. I don’t use FirefoxOS as a smart TV operating system. I use it as a TV operating system. There’s a big difference but your troll reflexes kicked in and went for the obvious. Please try harder next time.

        By the way, Iron Heart, FirefoxOS was never just for mobile phones. As the docs say, it’s “an operating system for smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and other connected devices”.

      3. Iron Heart said on March 15, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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        @Flotsam

        > Lots of assumptions in your replies and all wrong, as always.

        I don’t recall any of my comments being factually wrong in the past. If so, please show me. If not, please stop smearing me.

        > I don’t use FirefoxOS as a smart TV operating system. I use it as a TV operating system.

        Firefox OS is a smart operating system, whether or not you have disconnected it from the Internet doesn’t change this basic fact. Dumb assertion.

        > By the way, Iron Heart, FirefoxOS was never just for mobile phones. As the docs say, it’s “an operating system for smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and other connected devices”.

        Show me one relevant product with Firefox OS installed that is not either a phone or a Panasonic TV. Good luck, and don’t forget to mention sale figures if it exists.

      4. Klaas Vaak said on March 14, 2020 at 1:10 pm
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        @Flotsam: to quote Martin above

        Mozilla announced the end of commercial development of Firefox OS in 2016 and to release the code as an open source project.

        That does NOT sound like a success to me, your Panasonic TV notwithstanding.

      5. Yuliya said on March 14, 2020 at 9:19 pm
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        >It’s used on my Panasonic TV and very successfully so
        I’m sorry, but “smart TVs” are running the absolute dumbest operating systems ever witnessed by humanity. All of them. It would be better if these companies would just sell a panel, with video input and audio outpud, and people would buy the “smart” part separately.; but I guess how would you then convince people to upgrade the panel, afterall there’s only so much you can do to a panel to make it look good – only one way, make it accurate.
        As for moz://a’s os – complete trash. We’ve already got Linux, *BSD and Android. Fork them, use them. Done.

    2. Allwynd said on March 14, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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      LOL agreed, Mozilla seem to be failing at everything. First they ruined their desktop browser, then they launched a failed mobile OS that even they don’t know who is the target audience, now they do it again – for an audience that don’t care about this crap.

      People who buy phones with buttons buy them specifically because they want to do the “Hello, goodbye” stuff and nothing else. They don’t use internet or read e-mails on their button phones.

      1. Tom said on March 14, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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        You failed with your comment because it’s too easy to see that you’re trolling. Since I don’t read the name Yuliya in any other comment – are you Yuliya with a new name?

      2. Iron Heart said on March 14, 2020 at 6:11 pm
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        @Tom

        That Firefox OS was continued due to low market adoption in 2016 is a FACT, not trolling. And no, @Yuliya is someone else, although it is pointless to discuss usernames and real identities in a comment section where anyone can adopt any username for each new comment.

      3. Klaas Vaak said on March 15, 2020 at 6:06 am
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        @Iron Heart: +1

      4. eebrah said on March 14, 2020 at 3:47 pm
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        I actually live in a market where a products like what KaiOS is offering are used a a primary phone. People do want some “smart” features on their dumb phones, people actually like being able to whatsapp and facebook on devices with multi-day battery life.

        KaiOS is barely pushed in developed markets and there the target is different, in the developing world, KaiOS is is a platform people use to get on the internet and participate in online communities, people are social on these dumb-phones.

      5. Allwynd said on March 14, 2020 at 8:45 pm
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        @eebrah

        I don’t know what country you are from, but from what I know some African countries have it pretty rough and even there, people can afford cheap smartphones, be it brand new or used (2nd/3rd hand).

        From what I know about countries like Nigeria, people there buy a smarphone and a portable Wi-Fi router they keep with them at all times and the phone is connected to that router and that’s how they roll.

        So I can’t really think of a place that’s so “developing” that they would opt for button phones over smartphones. The cheapest brand new smartphones cost as low as $80 and that’s not a lot of money.

      6. Anonymous said on March 15, 2020 at 6:57 am
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        @Allwynd

        If you Google “feature phone sales” you’ll find a ton of articles about how globally feature phone sales have grown while smartphone sales have slowed. Apparently they’re still especially big in India- according to this article (https://www.forbesindia.com/article/leaderboard/smartphone-sales-slow-long-live-feature-phones/56153/1), feature phones accounted for 43.3% of total mobile phone shipments in India as of late 2019.

        I’m sure that smartphones will eventually kill off feature phones entirely, but it seems that at least for the time being there’s still a lucrative global market for them.

    3. Anonymous said on March 14, 2020 at 3:21 pm
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      Just like the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, never try again”.

      1. Iron Heart said on March 14, 2020 at 7:35 pm
        Reply

        @Anonymous

        Always depends on how humiliating your first failure was, and whether or not the chances to succeed have increased.

  7. Anonymous said on March 14, 2020 at 11:38 am
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    The Firefox OS had this design philosophy that the OS is like a browser, because they were a browser company making an OS. This was reminiscent of Chrome OS (“Google announced the project in July 2009, conceiving it as an operating system in which both applications and user data reside in the cloud: hence Chrome OS primarily runs web applications.”) and didn’t smell good. We need more, not less, clear-cut distinction between what is local and under our control and what is remote service integration and remote code. Our devices must not become mere terminals under remote control of Google and others.

    Another point, let’s have a look at their privacy policy.

    https://www.kaiostech.com/privacy-policy/

    “We also use your personal information to help us create, develop, operate, deliver, and improve our […] advertising”

    “we may collect:

    Non- personal data such as language, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where one of our products is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our […] advertising.”

    “knowing someone using your computer or device has shopped for a certain product or used a particular service helps us make our advertising and email communications more relevant to your interests.”

    Conclusion:

    “KaiOS Technologies and Mozilla partner to enable a healthy mobile internet for everyone”

    “healthy” according to their own standards, sure.

    1. Klaas Vaak said on March 14, 2020 at 1:12 pm
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      @Anonymous: +1

      1. MarylandUSA said on March 15, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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        I love Firefox for Windows. But Firefox for Android is lame: Seeing, then picking, a bookmark requires three or four steps each time.

    2. Sidney said on March 14, 2020 at 3:19 pm
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      One of the biggest share holders of Kai OS is a particially state-owned Chinese company.

    3. gazoo said on March 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm
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      @Anonymous: well said.

      Lots of people don’t realize that the parasitical Google has also entrenched itself into the OS. KaiOS was very happy to call them partners after their $22 million dollar investment. They also call Facebook partners.

      If the Indian-based telecom operator Reliance Jio owns 16% of the company after their $7 million investment (source: wikipedia), I’m guessing that Google owns a tad over 50% with their $22 million investment.

      KaiOS essentially took Firefox OS and turned it into feature spyware. Given that it’s only a feature phone, the end-user is very limited in what they can do to protect their privacy. Given that it was running an old version of Gecko, it was probably not nearly as secure as users imagine it was.

      I’m not sure what Mozilla is getting out of this deal. The lack of transparency hardly ever translates into anything positive (for the modern consumer).

      Maybe the work they’re putting into this will translate into the rebirth of FF OS (because they desperately need their own ecosystem) – but that’s wishful thinking on my part. They even walked away from using their own tech on smart TVs.

      1. gazoo said on March 23, 2020 at 3:41 pm
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        > I’m not sure what Mozilla is getting out of this deal.

        I kept thinking about this and, I’ll admit, this sounds like a bit of a conspiracy but I’ll toss it out here:

        Feature phones in less developed areas are a huge market. These phones also represent gateway devices: eventually leading to upgrades to alternative OSes (such as Android).

        I can’t help but feel that Google (as an investor) would have loved to support KaiOS and modernize it. It would have looked odd, it might have brought anti-competitive cries from others – leading to a closer look at the KaiOS-Google relationship.

        This is the conspiracy part: Google turns to their other partner, Mozilla. Google’s money is what keeps Mozilla afloat. They “ask” Mozilla to do the work. At the behest of Google, Mozilla complies (when do they ever so no?).

        So what does Mozilla get out of this? Possibly more money from Google at their next search deal. Watch for this. Firefox’s market share keeps decreasing and more money makes little sense otherwise.

        It doesn’t sound so far-fetched but considering that Google basically owns both Mozilla (their privacy “good guys”) and KaiOS, it seems like a good backdoor to keep government regulators at bay.

        KaiOS (who keeps on taking in partners and investors) clearly do not have the cash to buy Mozilla’s cooperation. Mozilla has absolutely no incentive to divert resources to help a feature-phone company located half-way around the world with their (spyware) business. Mozilla still can’t figure out how to run their own (top-heavy, management-heavy) business without Google.

        Like I said… pure conspiracy but there’s a logic to it that’s hard to escape.

    4. jern said on March 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm
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      @Anonymous +2

      Win10 demonstrates how an OS hardwired for telemetry can bypass browsers and browser add-ons that attempt to protect privacy. In 2019, MS became the third company to pass a market cap of $1 trillion. That kind money gets peoples attention.

      Wikipedia…
      As of February 2018, KaiOS Technologies has partnered with Airfind, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bullitt, Doro, HMD Global, Micromax, NXP, Spreadtrum, Qualcomm, Jio, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Orange S.A…In June 2018, Google invested US$22 million in the operating system.

      Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on March 15, 2020 at 6:08 am
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        @jern: +1

  8. Abbas Abdul Wahab said on March 14, 2020 at 12:05 pm
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    The day when my Nokia 8110 4G can do printsreens and log in to CIMB Clicks account is the day I will salute this partnership.

  9. Douglas Fairnbank said on March 14, 2020 at 2:03 pm
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    Believe it or not, some people think spending $800 on a mobile phone is pure insanity. I know right.

  10. Stan said on March 14, 2020 at 2:13 pm
    Reply

    What happened to the $50 MozPhone ?

    “Tonight on ‘It’s the Mind’, we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before”

  11. Gerard said on March 14, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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    Anything to free us from the likes of Google and other huge ICT multinationals, please now!

  12. acypher said on March 14, 2020 at 6:23 pm
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    My wife has an AT&T flip phone with KaiOS. It is the worst OS I have ever encountered. It was impossible to import contacts because both of their import features simply do not work. I exchanged emails with their incompetent support staff for two weeks without success. They eventually said “We will continue investigating the issue with the general Contacts sync”.

  13. clake said on March 14, 2020 at 7:26 pm
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    A cheap flip phone (burner) they sell here for 5 to 20 usd has kaios. It is an odd combination, though: quadcore msm8909, only 512 MB ram, lte, 320×240. Even so, that is quite a step up in processing power from the old j2me devices,

  14. anona said on March 15, 2020 at 4:21 pm
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    What web browser is KaiOS using? I’d imagine it’s an unbranded version of the 2016 version of mobile Firefox?

    While I don’t care about KaiOS and don’t like Mozilla as a company, I do hope that they get some market shares so that Gecko remains relevant and all web developers feel compelled to support Gecko in addition to Blink and Webkit.

  15. Dingo said on March 16, 2020 at 3:36 pm
    Reply

    CloudShit OS

  16. Kevin said on March 16, 2020 at 10:01 pm
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    There is certainly need of alternatives of Google and Apple closed ecosystems which gather too much personal data. They have all your personal information, emails, location etc. We need open source priacy friendly alternatives. I am using /e/ from e.foundation because it is basically an ungoogled android, and my private data and location is not transferred to Google at all. The best part is I can still run Android apps but more privately. Privacy is important and I think Mozilla can be a player which provides private mobile OS too.

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