ZTE Open ready to launch for $90 as the first Firefox OS smartphone

By Alexandra Burlacu | Jul 02, 2013 12:11 PM EDT

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The ZTE Open is the first Firefox OS smartphone and is ready to make its debut on Tuesday, July 2, with a very attractive price tag.

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The inexpensive Firefox OS handset will launch in Spain on Telefonica for a €69 ($90) price tag, which includes €30 ($39) as pay-as-you-go credit. This is the first step of a broader move, as phone makers and network operators aim to use Mozilla's open source operating system to grab some of that mobile market dominated by Apple and Google.

If €69 ($90) is not affordable enough, interested customers can also purchase the ZTE Open on a two-year contract for €2.38 *($3.10) per month. Firefox OS aims to compete with Android and iOS and by the looks of it, it stands a good chance. The ZTE Open is far cheaper than most of the newest Android and iOS handsets out there, but its specs are not all that impressive either.

The ZTE Open is definitely not for those looking for a high-end, top-of-the-line device. This smartphone has a 3.5-inch touchscreen with a modest 480 x 320 resolution, a 3.2-megapixel camera, 256MB of RAM. In terms of storage, the ZTE Open comes with only 512MB of flash memory on board, but has an included 4GB micro SD card for additional memory. In other words, it's for the budget-conscious or first-time smartphone buyers.

"We're excited about dynamic app search," Telefonica's digital director of open Web services Yotam Benami tells CNET, referring to the function that finds apps and pages on the Web instead of on an app store. "It's a very personalized experience. You can interact with Web apps in the cloud. The entire user experience is more simple and streamlined. Many users are frustrated with the complexities of Android."

While the ZTE Open is the very first Firefox OS smartphone to make its debut, it will not be the only one. Telefonica will soon launch another entry-level phone, the Alcatel One Touch Fire, in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.

In addition to Telefonica, other carriers such as Telenor and Deutsche Telekom will join the party, launching Firefox OS phones in Central and Eastern Europe and Poland, respectively. OEMs on board with Firefox OS, meanwhile, include Sony and LG Electronics, while plenty of carriers worldwide are ready to sell the handsets.

"The current dynamics of the mobile ecosystem are problematic for OEMs, for developers, for end users, and for carriers," adds Benami, referring to the fact that Apple and Google control the mobile market place, their operating systems and the app stores that distribute software. "Firefox resolves many of these issues."

Competing against Apple and Google will definitely not be an easy task, but Firefox OS phones might get an edge in emerging markets, as many potential customers look for cheap smartphones with decent specs and features. If anything, it's a new mobile operating system and a new experience, and that's bound to make at least some consumers curious enough to give it a try. 

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