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Hands on: ZTE's entry-level Open phone with Firefox OS

updated 11:49 am EST, Mon February 25, 2013

ZTE and Alcatel target emerging markets

High-end smartphones typically dominate the news at Mobile World Congress, leaving us surprised by the amount of attention garnered by Mozilla's Firefox OS. Earlier this week we checked out Alcatel's One Touch Fire, and today we had a chance to try out ZTE's Open. Both are geared for emerging markets, focusing on maximum features from basic hardware via an operating system built from web standards.

Alcatel's phone and the Open are so close in hardware design that we wouldn't be surprised if it was actually the same device with only modest tweaks to the plastic housing. Both are relatively small handsets, thicker than many current high-end devices and with smaller displays.

A Mozilla representative stressed that Firefox OS aims to simplify application development, enabling someone to build an app based on HTML5, CSS or JavaScript, without requiring special coding for proprietary platforms. ZTE and Alcatel appear to be hoping the approach will help reduce costs in emerging markets where smartphone use is still relatively low. A Telefonica spokesman noted that only 18% of mobile users in Latin America have switched to smartphones, leaving an opportunity for entry-level devices with lower price tags.

The Open is not a particularly fast phone, relying on a single-core processor, but it does provide all of the core smartphone functions. Firefox OS offers a full web experience, an important aspect when considering how the Open and the One Touch Fire will appeal to customers.

We know Firefox OS handsets will be cheaper than the phones typically subsidized by carriers in the US, Europe and other market, but Alcatel and ZTE have yet to answer the big question: how low is the price, exactly? If these phones retail for around $100 or less, we can see the platform quickly becoming popular. If the price is closer to $200, however, it would be difficult to see why the Open or the One Touch Fire serve as viable alternatives to existing Android handsets.



By Electronista Staff
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