While the world at large gets excited about the latest smartphone offerings from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Nokia, these premium-priced handsets are out of reach of many people.
It leaves a potentially huge gap in the market if products can be made that punch above their weight – and price. You only have to look at the spectacular success of the Raspberry Pi in the PC sector to see what can be done.
The Mozilla Foundation, creator of the Firefox web browser, recently announced that its experimental mobile operating system will be called Firefox OS.
The New York Times has now published a few more snippets about how Mozilla plans to roll out the system by using inexpensive hardware.
From early in 2013 it will launch products in Latin America. After that its main target market will be other parts of the developing world, where typical big-name smartphones are way too expensive for most of the population.
However, it’s fair to say that there will always be people who want a decent affordable phone no matter where they live, so it if succeeds in its launch territories, we hope it goes global.
Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs told the New York Times that the phones would be “in the middle of the high end of the feature set, and the low end of the price.”
Its main carrier partner is Spain’s Telefonica, which has about 215 million mobile subscribers in Latin America. It also runs 6,500 stores worldwide and operates the O2 brand in Europe.
“We are looking at a $100 to $115 price point”, said Telefonica Digital’s Carlos Domingo of its planned Firefox OS phone, which works out at about £62 to £72.
It would have the kind of features expected of any smartphone, such as a good quality camera, accelerometer, a large touchscreen and, naturally, web browsing. Handsets will be pitched at pre-pay users who buy the phone outright and purchase a limited amount of usage upfront.
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Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile) is involved on the technical side of the project, as is chip-maker Qualcomm. The first manufacturers of the phones are ZTE and the TCL Corporation (Alcatel), both based in China.
Mozilla will have an appstore for users to add more features but it will be much more open than the Apple and Google equivalents. The Firefox phones will also use HTML5 to make it easy for content developed for the web to move over to phones and which would cut down the work time for app makers. The Firefox OS software itself will be free and open source.