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$25 Firefox phone heading for India

Jun 11, 2014 — by Eric Brown 1,094 views

Mozilla said that Spreadtrum’s $25 Firefox OS phone will soon be carried by Intex and Spice in India, and it also signed up Taiwan-based Chunghwa Telecom.

It seems only fitting that the country that brought us the $25 tablet should also be the first to try out the $25 smartphone. While Datawind’s Android-based Aakash 2 (UbiSlate) actually sold for $38, Indian government subsidization dropped that closer to $25 for schoolchildren. It remains to be seen whether Spreadtrum will enjoy similar discounts from Indian carriers Intex and Spice to keep its budget Firefox OS phone at the promised $25. Perhaps tellingly, there was no $25 price mentioned in Mozilla’s latest announcement.

New Spreadtrum prototype for $25 Firefox OS phone (left) and earlier prototype (right)
(click images to enlarge)

Mozilla and Spreadtrum demonstrated a prototype of the latter’s unnamed $25 Firefox OS phone at Mobile World Congress in February. Spreadtrum said it would develop a variety of 3G WCDMA and 2G EDGE turnkey designs running the Linux- and HTML5-based OS, including a Firefox OS phone based on a Spreadtrum chipset called the SC6821. Mozilla said the phones would sell for as little as $25.


At the time, Mozilla and Spreadtrum mentioned Norway’s global provider Telenor, as being interested, as well as two Indonesian carriers: Telkomsel, and Indosat. Yet now Mozilla says the budget phones will first be heading to Indian providers Intex and Spice “in the next few months.” The companies will be showing off a new prototype at Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai, June 11-13.

In addition, Chunghwa Telecom announced it will introduce Firefox OS phones this year in Taiwan, bringing the total of carrier partnership for the open source, mobile Linux platform to 22. So far, Firefox phones from ZTE, Alcatel, and others have sold primarily in Latin America and Europe, but this year the budget, web-oriented phones are moving into a variety of Asian markets as well. Sales figures have been kept under wraps, but the regular addition of new carrier and vendor partners suggests the platform is performing reasonably well.

Last month, ZTE’s Open C phone shipped to often fairly negative reviews. Now, Mozilla says the previously tipped ZTE Open II and Alcatel OneTouch Fire E will ship later this summer. The Open II, which will launch in Latin America, will be demonstrated for the first time at Mobile Asia Expo.

ZTE Open II (left) and Alcatel OneTouch Fire E
(click images to enlarge)

The Open II is more like the original, barebones ZTE Open than it is the Open C. It has a dual core, Snapdragon MSM8210 system-on-chip clocked at 1.2GHz, but offers a smaller, 3.5-inch, 480 x 230-pixel touchscreen. The 118 × 61 × 10.5mm 3G phone ships with a lowly 256MB RAM and 2GB of flash memory, and offers a lower-spec 2-megapixel camera.

The Alcatel OneTouch Fire E has a slight edge over the Open C and is significantly more advanced than the Open II. It builds on a dual-core Snapdragon with 512MB RAM, 4GB flash, and a 4.5-inch, 960 x 540 IPS screen. The 3G phone offers a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, as well as a webcam.

The Fire E specs are very close to the Flame, Mozilla’s first official developer’s phone. The $170 Flame, which stands out with its 8GB of flash, is now on pre-order, with shipments due very soon.

Like the other new phones, including the Open C, the Flame runs the new Firefox OS 1.3, which is said to improve performance. Firefox OS 1.3 adds support for POP3, NFC, and real-time streaming protocol (RTSP), and features an improved camera application, among other enhancements.

Firefox OS still out ahead

Mozilla’s Firefox OS still has a considerable head start on other mobile Linux providers (except for Android, of course). Samsung finally announced its first Tizen-based phone last week. The Samsung Z has fairly premium specs, especially compared to any Firefox OS phone, including a quad-core, 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of flash, and a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen. However, the only announced market so far is Russia, and Samsung’s main focus for Tizen now appears to be wearables, including its Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches.

Canonical’s “convergence” release of Ubuntu, which will fully support phones and tablets, as well as desktops, has been pushed until this October at the earliest. Meizu and BQ have both said they would ship Ubuntu smartphones by the end of the year. Last week, Dell announced Ubuntu as a dual-boot option with Windows on an Inspiron II 2000 hybrid laptop/tablet.

Meanwhile, Finnish dark horse Jolla today announced a fairly significant update to its Sailfish OS. Jolla’s modular, Linux-based Jolla phones are now shipping throughout Europe.

“With more accessible Firefox OS phones coming to India soon, and the addition of Chunghwa Telecom, Intex and Spice to our team of global partners, it is clear that momentum for Firefox OS is continuing to accelerate,” stated Mozilla COO Li Gong.

“The [Firefox OS] platform will give us an edge in upgrading buyers from feature phones to smartphones while making it affordable for the mass market,” stated Sanjay Kumar Kalirona, Business Head, Mobile, Intex Technologies (India) Ltd.

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One response to “$25 Firefox phone heading for India”

  1. jezra says:

    Sweet, a cheap smartphone with almost no way for the owner to update the browser when a security fix is released.

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