Mozilla To Introduce Firefox Smartphone
July 2, 2013

Mozilla To Bring Low-Cost Firefox Smartphones to Limited Markets

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

While Google's Android and Apple's iOS control 90 percent of the worldwide mobile smartphone market, open-source developer Mozilla is slated to roll out its first two Firefox smartphones in limited markets soon. The company announced on Tuesday it would release the first two handsets running the open-source HTML5 operating system - the ZTE Open and the Alcatel One Touch Fire - in Spain.

"We are honored to partner with Telefonica and Mozilla to launch our first Firefox OS phone, the ZTE Open," said Dai Wenhong, VP of ZTE Corporation. "Packed with powerful features, it's a totally new experience for smartphone users. As one of the top five smartphone manufacturers in the world, ZTE is devoted to provide more options for global customers and let everyone enjoy splendid life via advanced technology."

Mozilla is a nonprofit organization dedicated to Internet openness and is looking to develop a handset that shuns the concept of an app store. ABI Research predicts low cost smartphones could account for 46 percent of smartphone shipments by 2018, up from 28 percent last year.

"As the feature phone segment continues to lose its battle for relevance, the low-cost smartphone has become the tool for operators seeking to drive increased data revenues," said ABI Research senior analyst Michael Morgan

Telefonica-owned Movistar announced that the ZTE Open smartphone would go on sale beginning this week. This debut model will cost around $90 and come with almost $40 in credit for prepay customers.

Mozilla is looking to bring its open framework-based devices, which run HTML5 apps, to lure people away from low-cost alternative handsets running Android, Asha and Windows Phone. These Firefox OS-powered devices will go on sale in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia. While the ZTE Open will arrive this week in Spain, Alcatel's One Touch Fire will soon debut in Poland via Deutsche Telekom.

In addition to those handsets from ZTE and Alcatel, Huawei and LG have also announced upcoming devices, while Sony will reportedly debut a new handset next year.

While Mozilla has looked to introduce these as affordable alternatives to Android and iOS devices, the devices aren't completely barebones. The handsets still offer smartphone functionality, including the ability for users to make calls, send messages, email and surf the web. The devices will also include cameras, while the Firefox OS further includes built-in social features including Facebook, Twitter and HERE Maps with offline capabilities.

The Firefox OS also offers a new concept for smartphones, including an adaptive app search that allows users to customize the phone experience without the need to download specific apps.

"The launch of Firefox OS marks an incredibly exciting time for the Web. Firefox OS powers the first smartphones built entirely on Web technologies and will stimulate an inspiring new wave of innovation for the Web," Jay Sullivan, Mozilla Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement on the company's blog. "We are proud to deliver an experience for first time smartphone users that will delight them and really put the power of the Web in people's hands."

While the Mozilla handsets will be available in limited markets for now, sales in the United States could come at a later date. Computer World reported Sprint is the prime candidate to sell a Firefox OS device. However, Sprint has refused to comment.

"Operators, OEMs, and developers are growing ever more interested in the emergence of a truly viable alternative mobile platform that offers them new economic opportunities independent of today's incumbents," said John Jackson, Research Vice President for IDC. "Such a platform will have to meet challenging requirements in terms of robustness, scale, and openness."