Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

IMG 9244 520x245 Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

Apple announced new Retina display-equipped MacBook Pro laptops at its event last month, as well as the launch of the latest version of OS X, Mavericks. For this PC user, it was enough to finally make the jump from Windows to Mac for the first time.

Almost everyone I know slowly switched to Mac in college, but I stuck it out with Windows. For a long time I thought it was the best choice of platform simply because purchasing a Mac seemed to be extortionately expensive compared with buying a PC desktop or laptop. I was wrong.

The Good

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After booting up for the first time it stood out to me that there wasn’t a longwinded setup process, nor was there any pre-installed junk on the machine. No advertising links on the desktop, no “free” Norton antivirus and best of all no drivers to install. The machine was ready to go out of the box, which is a nice change from setting up a Windows PC.

The applications that are bundled with Mavericks are pretty fantastic, Mail and Calendar work great. Messages integration with iMessage is perfect – especially if you have an iPhone – as is the Notes application and Reminders, which all work well together. For the last year I’ve been using Windows 8, which is a great OS but the bundled ‘modern’ applications aren’t anywhere near as well-rounded comparatively and really require a touchscreen to make them useful, so having beautiful built-in apps is a nice change.

Unified notifications and the Notification Center are well-built pieces of functionality that leave me wondering why Microsoft still hasn’t added anything similar to Windows yet. I’m bad at clearing alerts from it, but at least I can catch what I’ve missed easily rather than going hunting for it.

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Spotlight search is extremely powerful and gives you access to everything on the computer in a second. It’s lightning fast and the indexing engine behind it is extremely fast, whereas I’ve found Windows’ search to be slow and generally disappointing (especially when searching large folders of documents).

On the productivity front, it’s liberating to be free of Microsoft Office altogether. I’ve never been particularly fond of the slow, bloated feel of the desktop applications and barely use many of the more advanced features. The OS X mail application works with my Microsoft Exchange email, Pages can open any Word documents I’m sent and Numbers is perfectly fine with Excel spreadsheets. Occasionally there’s a snag converting a document but it’s nothing Google Drive can’t fix.

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Spaces are literally changing the way I work on my laptop, too. They’re great for helping separate projects from each other or work apps from personal apps. I keep one open with Mail, Twitter and other social networks and others for work and just switch between them as required. Being able to separate work applications from personal ones is powerful for helping focus on the task at hand.

I’m extremely impressed with power management more than anything else. Apple says that the 15 Retina MacBook will last around eight hours on battery and have found that Apple’s estimates are pretty accurate; I can get just over 8 hours when using Safari instead of Chrome for browsing the web and avoiding heavy energy draining applications. Mavericks makes this easy by pointing out which applications are using ‘significant energy’ in the battery menu.

I’ve never had a Windows laptop that’s managed to get such extreme battery life out of a single charge. It’s changed the way I work; I no longer need to carry a laptop charger to the cafe when I do remote work.

IMG 9244 Switching from Windows to Mac: What I learned

One of the biggest concerns I had with switching to Mac was that the broad collection of games I’ve gathered wouldn’t work. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many exist for Mac, especially with Steam’s recent push to get app developers to write for both Windows and Mac. A good half of my collection has an official Mac version of their game, but for the other half I’ve taken to running them in a virtual machine, which works surprisingly well.

In my very unscientific tests, I was able to install Civilization V in a Parallels virtual machine and play at full graphics quality without any issues with frame rate, which was impressive. I’d guess other games such as first person shooters wouldn’t work quite so well, but there’s always Apple’s own Boot Camp to help with that.

It’s often said that Apple devices ‘just work’; something I’m finding to be true with OS X. AirPlay is especially powerful and works perfectly if you have other Apple devices (like an Apple TV) for quickly duplicating the screen with the TV for watching a movie. Other simple touches in OS X, such as having a centralised contacts directory that other applications can access makes using other applications seamless.

The bad

There are some oddities that are painful at first. I struggled to figure out how to rename a folder (after becoming accustomed to using F2 in Windows to do it) and only discovered how after pressing the enter key to open a folder resulted in it being renamed. There’s also the jumbled keyboard keys – instead of CTRL, for example – screwing up 20 years of shortcuts that two decades of muscle memory will struggle to forget.

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The other thing that I found confusing is the way that applications are installed. On Windows, everyone is accustomed to using a setup wizard but I’ve found it’s rare to encounter those on Mac. Instead, you have this odd metaphor where you mount a fake drive (DMG files) and then drag the app to the applications folder. Of course, this isn’t actually explained to you and at first I was just running everything out of my downloads folder.

That said, applications that are installed using the Mac App Store simply install themselves without requiring any drag-ad-drop or DMG mounting. Obviously this is Apple’s preferred method of distribution but I’ve found many application developers aren’t using it yet.

I’m still yet to figure out how to manage windows properly without Windows’ “snap” functionality which allows you to drag an application to the side of the screen and it will automatically take up half of the screen. The OS X “maximize” button doesn’t seem to actually work properly and infuriatingly tends to just stretch an app up and down. There is a full screen button, indicated by two arrows on the upper right of a window, which essentially maximizes the window but hides all others behind a type of ‘stage’ view.

I also ran into trouble with Boot Camp since it doesn’t support Windows 8.1 yet and was unable to install it. Apple is notoriously slow at updating to support new releases. In the end, I got it working by installing Windows 8 then upgrading to 8.1.

Read on for the best Mac apps I’ve discovered so far…

Applications

Having become accustomed to Windows’ options, this was perhaps the hardest part of switching across. I didn’t know every great app off the top of my head anymore, nor is there a solution like Ninite to install all of the basics I required. Now that I’ve settled in and found a few, I have come to the conclusion that the quality of applications on Mac compared to those on Windows is much higher in general, especially in the UI/UX department.

Developers seem to put more time and thought into how users will use them and the community surrounding many of them is extremely supportive, often willing to pay a good price for a quality application.

I’m only using a handful of apps so far, but here’s the ones I’ve fallen in love with:

Airmail

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I’ve fruitlessly searched for a good quality email application for years on Windows but have never found it. Outlook is terrible and the alternatives such as Thunderbird really aren’t that great.

Airmail is the first email application that I actually love using, especially since it’s got full Exchange ActiveSync support on top of proper Gmail integration. It works great and is a steal at just $1.99 on the App Store or for free if you don’t mind using a slightly unstable beta.

Airmail

Twitter for Mac

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After religiously using Metrotwit for years on Windows, it was time to find something new. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Twitter’s official application for Mac; it’s really good. Not only is it good, it’s also free on the App Store!

Twitter for Mac

Bartender

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It’s a bit strange that Apple doesn’t really offer a sanctioned way to hide applications from the menu bar, I quickly found it cluttered with icons I didn’t want to be seeing all day long. Thankfully, there’s Bartender which allows you to hide icons in a submenu or remove them altogether which helps manage clutter.

Bartender provides a free trial for four weeks but then requires a $15US one time purchase.

Bartender

Anvil

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It doesn’t have ton of features but it’s extremely useful for local web development. Anvil helps manage multiple development sites on your local machine by creating local ‘.dev’ websites you can access. Rather than mess around with config files, Anvil does the work for you and is completely free.

Anvil

Sublime Text 3

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When it comes to writing code or simply editing text, the consensus seems to be that Sublime Text is the best tool for everything and I’d agree with that statement. It’s simple but extremely powerful.

Sublime Text 3 has a free, unlimited evaluation but you’ll be nagged occasionally unless you buy a license for $70 USD.

Sublime Text 3

Brackets

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I’ve been using Brackets on Windows ever since the first publicly-released builds, and since it’s built in CSS + HTML, it’s a truly cross platform app. Brackets is an up and coming code editor for building any sort of web application. It’s supported by Adobe and I couldn’t recommend it enough, especially since it’s free.

Brackets

Transmit

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On its homepage, developer Panic calls Transmit the “ultimate” FTP application and I couldn’t agree more. It’s extremely powerful and does so much more than just FTP, with S3 and other cloud storage supported too. It’s the best FTP app I’ve ever used, I didn’t even hesitate to buy it.

Transmit has a free trial but a full license is $34 US.

Transmit

Cloudup

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I find sharing files with others a little painful, but Cloudup is the perfect solution for that. If you want to quickly share a photo, video, application or anything else, Cloudup is the best tool bar none. Because it’s based on NodeJS, it’s lightning fast and you can actually send a link to your file before it’s even finished uploading. Even better, with OS X’s awesome built in screenshot tool ( + Shift + 4) it automatically uploads screenshots as you make them and copies the URL onto your clipboard.

Recently acquired by Automattic, Cloudup is invitation-only until it launches, but we’re giving away invites to the first 500 readers who sign up using this link. If you miss out, Cloudapp is a similar tool that’s also free.

Cloudup

Parallels 9

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If you’re a Windows refugee like me, you’ll want to buy Parallels’ virtualization software to run any applications or games that aren’t available on Mac. The VM runs in its own “space” when in full screen mode but you can also choose to run Windows apps on the Mac desktop natively using Coherence mode, which I love. I chose Parallels over VMWare Fusion for better graphics performance and more frequent updates.

Parallels is $79 US and is well worth the money.

Parallels 9

Going forward

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There’s lots of other modifications I’m learning about right now for OS X such as dot files, so keep an eye out for future posts on my journey from PC to Mac. Now that I’ve switched, I don’t think I could ever go back.

Proven is proving the case for applying for jobs on mobile

helpwanted 520x245 Proven is proving the case for applying for jobs on mobile

Proven is on a mission to bring the job hunt to mobile, and it is beginning to see success with both employers and candidates.

The candidate app, which is available on both iOS and Android, helps notify job hunters when positions they’re qualified for crop up on Craigslist and SimplyHired, and then quickly send off an inquiry with a cover letter and resume attached. The app for employers (iOS and Android) lets decision makers post jobs to Craigslist and then manage and sort candidates as they respond.

 Proven is proving the case for applying for jobs on mobile

To be honest, looking for work isn’t an activity that I would naturally do on a mobile device. I’ve always envisioned the process as one that’s performed hunched over a desktop or laptop with a cup of burnt coffee in hand. However, Proven founder Pablo Fuentes told TNW that, when he got out of the office and talked to seekers, many of them responded that they do use their smartphones to look for work.

Proven didn’t start out aiming to build mobile apps for employer and candidates. Fuentes founded the company in 2009 while at Stanford Business School with the aim of using text messages to help people get jobs. The startup eventually pivoted into a staffing agency before almost running out of cash in 2011.

Fuentes then changed course yet again and began building the Proven apps. The service is especially popular among administrative, food service and hospitality, retail and healthcare businesses and employees.

In that sense, Proven operates in a different part of the job market from LinkedIn. By way of comparison, Fuentes claimed the average job turnover for LinkedIn users is 6-8 years, while Proven users find new positions roughly every 12-18 months. Job candidates using Proven are part of a more mobile workforce that moves between jobs regularly, so looking for work on mobile devices has turned out to be a good fit for them.

Earlier this month, LinkedIn introduced the ability to apply for jobs on its own mobile apps, noting that 30 percent of its users view openings on a mobile device. Rival Indeed.com also allows users to apply for jobs directly from within its apps.

Proven’s ability to help candidates find and apply for jobs just minutes after they appear on Craigslist offers a significant advantage to its users. On the other side of the process, Proven’s employer tools help managers quickly flip through the list of applicants and surface better candidates. Prior to the arrival of the mobile employer app, Proven offered a Web version.

 Proven is proving the case for applying for jobs on mobile

Rather than view Proven as competing with other job search services, Fuentes see the company as vying with other mobile apps, such as Angry Birds, for people’s time.

“We want to make people think about their job search when they’re just hanging out,” he said. “We want to be the de facto way for which people apply and hire using a mobile device.”

Thinking about a job search while hanging out actually sounds kind of stressful when I think about it, but I blame that sentiment largely on my own archaic habits. Moving to mobile devices represents a foundational shift in the accessibility of information and resources in virtually all fields, including the hiring process.

Currently, Proven boasts 150,000 monthly actives and nearly 500,000 downloads of its app. Fuentes wasn’t able to share exactly how many people have found jobs through Proven, though he did mention he’s received plenty of success stories from users.

Proven currently makes its money off of affiliate traffic on its candidate app, but it’s also planning to introduce premium features for employers at some point.

The mobile job search market is still getting settled, so Proven still has a ways to go before it’s secure in its position, but it’s definitely proving the concept.

Image credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Nokia’s X family of Android-forked devices targets price-conscious customers in growth markets

Nokia11 520x245 Nokias X family of Android forked devices targets price conscious customers in growth markets

The most exciting, and bizarre, of Nokia’s announcements today at the Mobile World Congress belonged to the much-rumored Nokia X handset – and a surprise addition of another two peers, the X+ and XL – all of which run an operating system based on Android.

The devices are targeted at the “affordable smartphone” segment of the market and run the Nokia X OS platform – a forked version of Android that includes the Fastlane UI found on Asha devices.

The Nokia X’s hardware itself is aligned with its ‘affordable’ smartphone tag, offering a 1GHz dual-core processor, 4-inch 800 x 480 pixels IPS display and a 3-megapixel fixed focus camera on the rear. There’s also 4GB of on board storage and 512MB RAM.

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However, clearly the most notable thing about the device is the Nokia X software platform, which will run many standard Android apps.

In fact, Nokia told TNW that only three APIs have been changed, so if a developer isn’t making use of these, no changes are needed at all.

However, as the Nokia X is not an ‘Android’ device in the truest sense – it doesn’t have Google Play certification – apps need to be loaded onto the device from Nokia’s own app store, which will have a special section for apps that run on devices in the Nokia X family.

The word ‘family’ there is a telling one – this won’t be the only device to ship under the Nokia X branding and running the custom OS, despite the fact that Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia’s device business is expected to close by the end of this quarter.

“X signifies the cross over between three worlds: Android apps, Nokia design heritage and Microsoft services. It’s a family of affordable smartphones…today we’re talking about the first one, but there will be more [in 2014].”

In addition to providing largely unfettered access to Android apps, there are also a few exclusive apps like Mix Radio and Here Maps pre-installed on the device.

Other than loading apps via Nokia’s app store, users will also be able to download them from third-party app stores like Yandex or side-load an APK directly onto the device from a computer.

Where, when, how much?

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While it’s aimed primarily at developing markets, Nokia confirmed to TNW that the Nokia X will be a global handset, but with some omissions, namely: North America, Korea and Japan. So, there’s a chance you could see it land in the UK and Europe at some point, but if you live in North America and are interested, it looks like you’re not in luck for now.

“In North America we’re remain extremely focused on Lumia and generally speaking, Lumia remains our primary smartphone strategy.”

For other markets, the phone is due to go on sale next month, priced from 89 ($122) before taxes.

How did this happen??

Nokia told us that launching an Android-derived phone fits neatly with Microsoft’s ambitions to break into emerging markets and bring the next one billion users online.

“The essential reason in Microsoft being interested in Nokia mobile phones and not just Lumia is that they are also [looking to] connecting the next one billion [people] to the cloud; to their cloud services like Skype and Outlook and such.

Our strategies are very much aligned, what we bring to the table is a very wide reach into these growth markets, to price points and consumers that typically know the Microsoft brand but might not have personal experience of it simply because they could not afford a product or service before.”

So, although the idea of Microsoft supporting devices that run an Android-based OS might seem a bit unusual at first, when considered in the context of locking one billion people into using its cloud services, it makes a little more sense.

Visit our MWC 2014 page for more coverage

Following a recent fatality, Apple publishes Chinese web page encouraging use of official chargers

154438180 520x245 Following a recent fatality, Apple publishes Chinese web page encouraging use of official chargers

Following two back-to-back accidents in China believed to be iPhone-related, Apple has added a page to its China website dedicated exclusively to informing consumers about its chargers.

A message at the top of the page states that Apple has always placed the safety of its consumers as a foremost concern, and that all of its products, including the iPhone and iPad, must go through rigorous testing for safety and reliability.

The passage then reads (translated from the Chinese):

When you charge your iPhone or iPad, we suggest that you use all USB power adapters with correspondingly-labeled USB cables. These adapters and cables can be purchased as individual items from Apple and authorized Apple retailers.

Below the message, the page features detailed pictures of the power adapters for some of Apple’s latest devices, with specifications for the each adapter’s corresponding power cord and red arrows pointing to the official Apple guarantee labels on each device.

AppleAdapterChinaPics 730x332 Following a recent fatality, Apple publishes Chinese web page encouraging use of official chargers

The appearance of the page, which is unique to Apple’s China site, is almost certainly in response to two life-threatening incidents in China purportedly involving counterfeit Apple device chargers. Earlier this month Ma Ailun, a 23 year old woman from Xinjiang, died tragically from electric shock when she allegedly used her iPhone 5 while connected to an unauthorized charger. Just days after that, a man from Beijing fell into a coma after allegedly inserting a third-party charger into his iPhone 4. Both incidents made international headlines.

Following Ma’s death, Apple issued a statement expressing condolences to the Ma family, and pledged to investigate the matter and cooperate with authorities.

By publishing the webpage, Apple is making a concerted effort to show support for its customers in a year in which it received several towel-whippings from the Chinese media. The company came under scrutiny in April, when the People’s Daily (China’s foremost party-mouthpiece newspaper) issued reports accusing the company of shirking on its warranty policy in China. The incident prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a formal apology.

In its latest earnings report Apple revealed that its revenues in China dropped 14 percent year-on-year, but this statistic is best understood as a temporary lull. The company remains bullish towards the Middle Kingdom, with Tim Cook stating earlier this year that China is Apple’s most important market, and that the company intends to double the number of Apple stores in the country within two years.

Top image credit: Feng Li/Getty Images

YouTube-rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video-recording app to encourage user-generated content

video1 520x245 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

French video-sharing service Dailymotion has launched a video-camera app for iPhone users, as it looks to encourage more users to upload their own content.

The Paris-based company claims to be the second biggest video-sharing service on the Web behind – you guessed it – YouTube. Following the collapse of a much-rumored Yahoo acquisition earlier this year, France Telecom’s CEO promised to invest 30-50m in Dailymotion, a company owned by France Telecom’s subsidiary Orange.

Whether a dedicated recording app was always on the cards isn’t clear, but it’s an interesting move from the company and brings it into line with YouTube which also has a Capture app.

How it works

Dailymotion Camera was designed in-house and, given its simplicity, it’s clearly aimed at everyone – even those with a rudimentary grasp of smartphone technology.

It has a record/pause/resume button which does exactly what you’d expect, and when you’re done you click the ‘tick’ button.

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Photo 25 07 2013 11 17 30 220x330 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

You can then trim the clip to your desired size, choose a filter (if you want), and then upload. You will of course have to connect your Dailymotion account, while you can also connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles too.

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d21 220x391 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

You can manage multiple video clips recorded separately, which can be ordered into a final deliverable. You can also access videos directly from your camera roll.

“UGC [user-generated content] is an important part of our video library, but many of our 115 million users have not had the skills or tools to document their worlds – preferring to view content than create it,” says Cedric Tournay, CEO of Dailymotion.

“We want to encourage this to change by providing a free, simple tool for any user – UGC and professional – to easily produce and upload top quality video content.”

Dailymotion Camera is available to download for free now, and this is in addition to the existing app for viewing videos. An Android version is in the pipeline, we’re told, but no definitive date has been set for that.

Dailymotion Camera | App Store

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Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock

European Commission accepts Penguin’s proposals to scrap Apple ebook agency agreements

154977547 520x245 European Commission accepts Penguins proposals to scrap Apple ebook agency agreements

The European Commission has accepted book publisher Penguin’s proposals to scrap all of its existing ebook agency agreements – including its deal with Apple, most importantly – and refrain from adopting any similar partnerships for the next five years.

Penguin, along with competitors Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck, were all criticized for working with Apple and damaging the European ebook market by switching to an agency model.

This allowed the publisher, rather than the retailer, to set the sticker price seen by consumers in digital storefronts. Given that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of each sale regardless, this suited both the publishers and iBookstore vendor just fine. It also prevented other retailers, such as Amazon or Google, from undercutting these prices.

It differs from the wholesale model, whereby retailers are able to negotiate with publishers for the general rights to an ebook and then sell it at whatever price they like. The European Commission has concluded that Apple may have been trying to control ebook prices – a breach of antitrust rules in the European Union.

Under the new agreement, a two year “cooling-off” period will be instigated, by which all retailers will be able to discount Penguin ebook titles as they see fit.

The book publisher is also banned from using the so-called Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause – which meant publishers had to price ebooks on Apple’s services at least as low as the cheapest price offered by any other retailer – in all necessary renegotiations.

Joaqu n Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for ebooks”.

A similar antitrust case in the United States came to a close in May this year when Pearson, Penguin’s parent publisher, confirmed it would pay $75 million in consumer damages. A US federal judge has since ruled that Apple truly did conspire to raise the price of ebooks across the market.

Apple has since confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision. “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” company spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.

“We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”

Image Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Geeksphone’s Peak+ Firefox OS smartphone looks to capitalize on consumer interest, rather than developers’

Mountain Peaks 520x245 Geeksphones Peak+ Firefox OS smartphone looks to capitalize on consumer interest, rather than developers

Spanish mobile startup Geeksphone has started selling a new version of the Firefox OS-based Peak, called the Peak+, which is aimed at consumers, rather than developers as earlier models were.

The device was announced on Thursday and will set back wannabe Firefox OS device owners 149 (excluding taxes) to add their name to the day one pre-order list.

The first handsets are set to start rolling out in mid-September, although if you wait until then to buy one the price will likely be higher as the company is touting the 149 deal as a time-limited offer, though it wasn’t saying exactly what the full price will be when they go on sale from September 15.

peak fullbody 730x517 Geeksphones Peak+ Firefox OS smartphone looks to capitalize on consumer interest, rather than developers

Key specs include a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 4.3-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel camera on the rear and a 2-megapixel on the front for video calls or ‘selfies’. It also has 1GB of RAM to keep it all ticking along, pretty much the only under-the-bonnet spec change .

Things aren’t so hot on the storage side of things, with only 4GB on board, but it does have a microSD slot for cards up to 32GB and also includes 25GB of online cloud storage, delivered through a deal with fiabee.

The device follows the release of the Keon and Peak handsets a little earlier in the year, both of which run the open source, HTML 5-based Firefox OS.

However, while both devices sold out of the online store very quickly, they were in fact intended for developers that wanted to start building and testing apps for devices using the platform before the first retail handsets made it to market.

In announcing the Peak+, Geeksphone has recognized that consumers also want to see what all the fuss is about with the new platform, but not compromise on consumer-friendly features like a decent camera or processor, or in this case a slight jump in RAM.

While the specs might not scream high-end (they’re not), Firefox OS is primarily aimed at emerging markets and there are very few handsets available. For a mid-range handset, it’s essentially the best-specced Firefox OS handset you can order today.

Update: After publishing this, a Mozilla spokesman got in touch with the following message:

“Today, Geeksphone announced the pre-sale of a new device based on Boot to Gecko technology. We want to clarify that this new phone that was announced is based on Boot to Gecko technology with pre-release software, but is not a certified or supported Firefox OS device.”

Well, that clears that up then.

Featured Image Credit – Getty Images