ZTE and Alcatel launch new devices as Mozilla shows off Firefox OS Flame and targets $25 smartphones
Chinese manufacturer ZTE has launched the ZTE Open C and ZTE Open II at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, while Alcatel has revealed the Onetouch Fire C, Fire E and Fire S smartphones, alongside the Fire 7 tablet.
Although these devices all use powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, Mozilla has not abandoned its plan to provide entry level (cheap) phones on low-power chips. The organisation says these devices show the platform is capable of running on more powerful hardware, but has also reiterated its goal of pushing the boundaries of entry level smartphones and wants to see Firefox OS running at every price level.
“We’re pleased to see the Firefox OS ecosystem grow so quickly as users, developers and partners come together to experience and build the future of mobile experiences,” says Andreas Gal, Mozilla’s vice president of mobile.
At MWC, Mozilla will be showing off the Firefox OS Flame, a 4.5-inch reference smartphone that allows developers to test their applications in a real environment. It is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, making it ideal for testing out intensive applications and games, while its RAM capacity can be altered from 1GB to 256MB to see how apps would work on less powerful hardware.
Developers will also receive nightly releases and contribute to the overall development platform, while Mozilla has also provided an indication of what will be included in the next update of Firefox OS. More customisation options, such as ringtones and home screens, will be added, as will enhanced navigation, easier sharing of content, support for LTE and Dual SIM, as well as Firefox accounts.
Mozilla has also revealed that Spreadtrum has created the first WCDMA and EDGE turnkey reference designs for Firefox OS, as well as the SC6821, the industry’s first chipset for $25 smartphones, and that it is working with Deutsche Telekom to develop privacy features for the platform.
Smartphones running Firefox OS are now available in 15 countries, a figure which is set to increase during 2014. Telefonica will launch in eight more territories – Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, while Deutsche Telekom is set to expand to Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro.
With the number of operators around the world now lending their support to Firefox OS increasing to 21, IDC predicts that the volume of smartphones shipped running the operating system will increase by six times this year.
“Firefox OS is off to an amazing start. We launched our first smartphones in July, and have since expanded into fifteen markets,” adds Jay Sullivan, chief operating officer of Mozilla. “People in Latin America and Eastern Europe have eagerly upgraded from their feature phones to Firefox OS smartphones and now have rich access to the Web and apps. Sales have far exceeded our targets.
“But 2013 was just the beginning. In 2014, we are differentiating our user experience and our partners are growing the portfolio of devices. We are also enabling a whole new category of smartphone, priced around $25, that will bring even more people around the world online.”
Firefox OS is just one of four open source operating systems hoping to make an impact on the smartphone market, with Ubuntu, Sailfish OS and Tizen all making a play at MWC this week. However the launch of new devices, coupled with the prospect of a $25 smartphone has analysts optimistic about Firefox OS’ future.
“Ovum was somewhat sceptical of the chances for Firefox OS at the start of 2013, but it is hard not to be impressed by the progress it has made over the last 12 months,” says Nick Dillon, senior analyst at Ovum. “It has gone from having prototype software and no commercial hardware or solid commitments from mobile operators to having three devices available across 14 countries and seven mobile operators.
“Although the company is yet to announce any sales figures, it has revealed that there have been 425,000 unique visitors to the Firefox OS Marketplace since July 2013. This demonstrates at least a promising level of interest from consumers, and certainly more than the other alternative OSs can currently claim.”
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