[Updated Aug 13] — ZTE says it will soon begin sales of an unlocked version of its Firefox OS-based ZTE Open handset on eBay US and UK for $80, following its launch in Spain, Venezuela, and Colombia. In related news, Samsung is once again rumored to be slowing Tizen OS development, and Mozilla released a new version of the Firefox for Android Beta with WebRTC real-time communications support.
Rising Android smartphone vendor ZTE continues to test the market on another Linux-based mobile operating system: Mozilla’s Firefox OS. The Firefox OS-based ZTE Open will go global with a release coming “soon” to eBay’s U.S. and U.K. online stores, starting at $80 and 60 Pounds, respectively. The phone is unlocked, so it can be used just about anywhere, and is available only in orange coloring.
Coming soon to eBay: ZTE’s unlocked $80 Firefox OS phone
The unlocked orange model offers preloaded Facebook and Twitter apps, the Nokia HERE mapping application, and of course, the Firefox Web browser and access to the Firefox Marketplace app store. Here, users can download apps, including eBay, Badoo, Terra, Kayak, The Weather Channel, TMZ, AOL, Wikipedia, CNNMoney, Huffington Post, TIME, Airbnb, Time Out, and SoundCloud apps.
The ZTE Open was the first commercial Firefox OS phone to ship, when it was launched in Spain by Telefonica in early July. On Aug. 1, Telefonica announced that it had begun selling the phone along with its similarly spec’d Firefox OS cousin, the Alcatel One Fire, in Colombia and Venezuela. The One Fire was originally launched in Poland by Deutsche Telekom.
The ZTE Open offers relatively low-end features like a single-core, Cortex-A8-based Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7225A processor and a 3.5-inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen. Additional features include WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS, and a 1200mAh battery.
Those looking for a more powerful Firefox OS phone can check out the Geeksphone’s unlocked Peak+ smartphone (pictured at the right). The Peak+ has a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8225 system-on-chip, with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of flash, and a microSD slot. The 4.3-inch IPS display offers 960 x 540-pixel resolution. Additional Peak+ features include both 8- and 2-megapixel cameras, a full suite of wireless features and sensors, and an 1800mAh battery. Pre-sales are still available for 149 Euros ($198), with shipments promised in October.
Samsung delays Tizen again?
No sales figures have been released on the first batch of Firefox OS phones, but the latest ZTE Open release would suggest that ZTE is seeing a positive response. Meanwhile, there’s more evidence that one of the other major Linux mobile OS contenders on the horizon — the Linux Foundation’s Intel- and Samsung-backed Tizen — is being delayed. In early July, Samsung confirmed to an i24news.com reporter that the first Tizen-based phones would be pushed back two months to the fourth quarter. A new report from DigiTimes, citing industry sources, says that Samsung “has slowed down the development” of Tizen, but is not giving up on the platform.
According to the story, Samsung is concerned that a major switch to Tizen at this point could benefit Android rivals like LG, HTC, Sony Mobile, and Huawei at a time when Android continues to grow and dominate the market. Android represented 79.3 percent of second-quarter global smartphone sales and 62.6 percent of tablet sales, according to recent reports from IDC. DigiTimes did not mention any specific delays for the first Tizen devices, so it could be they will still ship as planned in the fourth quarter, despite an overall slowing of development for the platform.
Update on Aug 13, 2013: On the other hand, Tizen Indonesia reports that Samsung may be planning to introduce its first Tizen smartphone in October in Japan, France, the US, China, and Russia. The Tizen handsets will be provided by NTT DoCoMo in Japan, Orange and France Telecom in France, Huawei in China, Sprint in the US, and other mobile operators that are members of the Tizen Association, says the website. The information is attributed to unspecified Korean sources.
Firefox for Android Beta refreshed
Mozilla’s strategy for Firefox OS hinges in part on the continuing success of the Firefox browser, which plays a central role in the HTML5-oriented OS. A new Firefox for Android OS beta was released on Aug. 9. The key new feature is support for WebRTC real-time communications technology, providing peer-to-peer communications between mobile devices.
New WebRTC DataChannels, PeerConnection, and GetUserMedia components provide for device-to-device video calls and file sharing on devices that support such features using technologies such as NFC. The WebRTC components are demonstrated in the new Firefox for Android Beta with an NFC Bump feature for sharing browser tags by tapping phones together, as well as a Quickshare feature for defining sharable services. Other new Firefox for Android Beta features include an updated Reader and Reading List functions, and improved language support. The beta app is available for download from Google Play here.