Mobile Devices

ZTE's Firefox OS Smartphone Will Sell For $80

Firefox OS-based ZTE Open will soon be available via eBay to customers in the U.S. and U.K.
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Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE plans to begin selling its own Firefox OS phone through online auction website eBay in the U.S. and in the U.K.

The ZTE Open, running Mozilla's open-source Firefox OS, will be available in one color, orange, and will list for $80 in the U.S. and 60 pounds in the U.K. No release date has been specified but the company says it will begin taking orders on Friday.

The ZTE Open is presently available in Colombia, Spain and Venezuela through Spanish mobile operator Telefonica. But the ZTE phones offered through eBay won't be affiliated with a specific mobile operator. Deutsche Telecom recently began offering Alcatel's Firefox OS-based One Touch Fire handset in Poland and plans to expand availability to Germany, Greece and Hungary shortly.

Wenhong Dai, VP of ZTE, said in a statement that his company is dedicated to bringing convenience and options to global consumers and that he expects the ZTE Open to attract more developers to Mozilla's Firefox OS and Web apps.

[ Who are the leaders in the new mobile Web? Read Google, Mozilla Lead Web's Mobile Renaissance. ]

Li Gong, Mozilla senior VP of mobile devices, expressed similar sentiment in a blog post. "Mozilla is dedicated to moving the Web forward as a platform for innovation and building products that people love," he said.

Whether Firefox OS and the Web technology on which it is based can win the loyalty of mobile customers remains to be seen. To date, the dominant smartphone operating systems, Apple's iOS and Google's Android, have won fans by relying on applications written using native code rather than Web technologies like HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

But it's possible that price will matter more to phone buyers than technology. Mozilla's strategy for Firefox OS has been to work with handset makers and mobile carriers to offer phones in markets where the leading smartphones tend to be too expensive to have broad appeal.

As if to address concerns that affordability means lack of features, Mozilla insists that Firefox OS "includes all the things people expect from a smartphone," such as telephony, instant messaging, email and a camera, along with integrated support for Facebook and Twitter. In place of Apple Maps or Google Maps, ZTE Open buyers will find Nokia Here maps. Firefox is the default Web browser and additional Web apps can be obtained through the Firefox Marketplace.

The ZTE Open has a 480-pixel-by-320-pixel 3.5-inch screen and is powered by a 1-GHz Cortex-A5 processor and 256 MB of RAM. It's capable of 3G connectivity and also supports Bluetooth 2.1. A microSD slot allows memory expansion. It has a 3.15-MP rear camera and comes with accelerometer, ambient light and GPS sensors.