Mozilla, the makers of the open-source browser Firefox, continued their campaign to enter the smartphone market by announcing the launch of the Firefox OS-powered handset, the ZTE Open, in US and UK markets.
Embodying their ethos of open technology, the new device will be sold unlocked for just £59.99 via eBay and is aimed at “the first time smartphone user”. The early handsets will also hopefully attract developers, allowing them to experience the Firefox OS platform for the first time.
For Mozilla, the ZTE Open and its ilk are a smart move for two reasons. Firstly, those users making the switch from feature phones for the first time are a somewhat easier sell than persuading users of high-end models to take a chance on a new entry into the market.
Secondly, the use of a web-based OS looks ahead to a convergence between mobile devices and more traditional computers, powered by the internet. It’s the same reason that Google’s future depends on the success of the Chrome browser on both PCs and mobile devices.
Of course, at £60 users will only be getting a budget-grade phone. The ZTE Open features a 3.5-inch screen, 256MB of RAM, a 3.2-megapixel camera and a single core 1GHz processor. The phone has already launched in Spain, costing €69 and bundled with €30 of pay-as-you-go credit.
The main selling point for the handset is its use of Firefox OS – Mozilla’s ‘web-first’ operating system for mobile devices. The OS is built entirely using HTML 5 and open web technologies, which Mozilla hopes will allow more developers to transfer their internet-based tools and apps onto the Firefox OS ecosystem.
The new handsets already include a number of big-name applications via the Firefox Marketplace including eBay, Wikipedia, Huffington Post, Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.
Mozilla promise that “there won’t be any local apps or features because these devices are general, unlocked global variants targeted at developers and early adopters around the globe.”
Dr. Li Gong, Mozilla Senior VP of Mobile Devices said, “Mozilla is dedicated to moving the Web forward as a platform for innovation and building products that people love. […] With a great potential user base, we know that even more developers around the world will create their apps with new APIs to stimulate an inspiring new wave of innovation.”