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Firefox OS kickstarts battle for the bottom with €39 smartphone

ZTE Open offers a basic smartphone experience that makers hope will challenge Android & Apple

James Vincent
Monday 01 July 2013 17:13 BST
The ZTE Open is the first public handset to be sold with Firefox OS
The ZTE Open is the first public handset to be sold with Firefox OS

Browser-makers Firefox have begun their challenge to the giants of the mobile industry in earnest with the Spanish launch of a €39 handset.

The ZTE Open has only a 3.5-inch screen, a 1Ghz single-core processor and 256MB of RAM, but Mozilla aren't looking to take over the top-end of the market. Instead they want to go after the still-expanding segment that are moving from feature phones to smartphones for the first time.

The handset actually costs €69 but comes bundled with €30 pay-as-you-go credit and 4GB storage card. Customers can also choose to sign up for a two-year contract, paying €2.38 per month. After its launch in Spain, handset-makers Telefonica will expand to emerging markets, including Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.

The Open will use Firefox's mobile operating system (Firefox OS), a HTML-based, open-source platform that supports Twitter, Facebook, and Nokia's HERE maps with offline functionality. There is also an "adaptive app search" that Mozilla claims "transforms the phone to meet your needs at any moment":

"For example, search for your favourite music artist and get results to buy your favourite song, concert tickets or even listen to your favorite song instantly. Making it possible for you to create these one-time use or downloadable apps on demand gives you a completely customised experience and helps you get the exact content you want, when you want it."

Although Mozilla is aiming at a different market to the current duopoly holders Android and iOS, they'll still need to win favour in similar ways, especially though apps. PCWorld reported on a survey conducted with developers regarding Firefox OS, where 25% of respondents said they were "very interested" in the new platform - way behind the 87% and 78% for iOS and Android respectively.

Despite this, Firefox OS has seen significant support from telecoms, who see the platform as away to wrest power over the mobile market away from Google and Apple. As well as support from Telefonica, carriers Telenor and Deutsche Telekom are also on board, and hoping to spread the platform across Eastern Europe.

"Consumers should not be locked to any one system but have the choice to consume the content they want and the flexibility to be able to take it with them when they change devices," said José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chief Operating Officer of Telefónica. "We believe that smartphones need to be more open and that the Web is the platform for making this possible."

Whilst BlackBerry and Microsoft's struggles have shown how difficult it is to challenge Android and iOS, the backers and fans of Firefox OS believe that by targeting new entrants into the world of smartphones, the company will be able to find a significant toe-hold in the market, dislodging the competition in the process.

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