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ZTE Open - Software, Apps and Verdict

By James Morris

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

ZTE Open: Software & Apps

The ZTE Open isn't really about the phone, though. At the moment, you are most likely to be interested because of Firefox OS, the Mozilla mobile phone platform formerly known as 'Boot To Gecko'. Avid Web lovers will remember how Mozilla Firefox took on a world dominated by Internet Explorer, with 80-90 per cent of the global Web users running the Microsoft browser in 2003. By 2009 Firefox had close to 50 per cent of the market.

Since then, however, usage has dropped under 30 per cent again, mostly due to Chrome's rise to dominance, with more than half the market. But the other looming elephant in the room is the rise to dominance of the mobile Web, with some predicting that more people will be accessing the Web via mobile devices than desktop ones by the end of 2014.

There are around seven billion mobile phones in use around the world, over two billion mobile broadband subscriptions - and just 700 million fixed broadband subscriptions. So the mobile future of the Internet is pretty clear.

ZTE Open

Mozilla's answer to this situation is Firefox OS. The key excitement here is that the phone interface runs essentially on a version of the Firefox browser throughout, so in theory you can create software for it by simply designing a web page. To underline this fact, Mozilla has created a simple app creation environment called Appmaker, where you can combine basic components to build your own custom apps. You can then publish them, after which they can be installed onto a Firefox OS phone's desktop - or an Android phone's, for that matter.

The phone comes with a range of a range of core apps out of the box, however. There are apps for email, contacts, calendar, HERE Maps, AccuWeather, Wikipedia, clock, calculator, video, music and YouTube. There is already a Marketplace for downloading new apps, which includes favourites like Cut The Rope, Candy Crush and SoundCloud, but not Spotify, Dropbox or Evernote. We only found one turn-by-turn navigation app too, although on the plus side, all these apps are free. We couldn't find a single premium app at all.

ZTE Open

So this is hardly an app-rich platform just yet, although the main needs are covered. The mail app will connect to Gmail with just your email address and password, but most other accounts require manual setup.

You can connect the calendar app to your Google calendar as well. The Contacts app can import from your SIM, but the Facebook import facility caused an invalid app id error, and wouldn't work. The clock has alarm functionality, but no timer or stopwatch. We had some trouble getting the music app to work, too.

Mozilla is clearly committed to developing Firefox OS, however. Version 1.1 has already been released, which adds MMS support, performance enhancements, a built-in music search and an API for push notifications. Annoyingly, ZTE hasn't enabled this update for the Open yet, or at least it wasn't working at the time of writing. This is a concern for a newcomer such as the Open, as there will likely be some important usability and feature enhancements over the next year, and it's essential for the success of Firefox OS that they are made available as quickly as possible on existing handsets.

ZTE Open

Should I buy the ZTE Open?

In a world where the most premium phones can cost in excess of £600, a handset for a tenth of that like the ZTE Open seems like an absolute bargain. However, if you really are on this kind of budget, at the moment a value handset like the ZTE Kis keeps your application options more open. Firefox OS is also still a little rough around the edges, with the touch keyboard being a particular sore point.

That doesn't discount the ZTE Open entirely, though. We have read quite a few negative comments about it from a user perspective. But if you buy into the whole Mozilla open Internet strategy, it's a mildly exciting precursor of what could be to come, particularly if the better-specified geeksphone models ever become readily available.

As an antidote to the "closed shop" strategy of the iPhone and the increasingly Google dominated Android, Firefox OS has the potential to keep the mobile Web as open as the desktop one has been. But right now it needs some more work, and a more capable handset to champion its abilities.

Verdict

The ZTE Open itself has some notable flaws, and Firefox OS still needs developing, but it's still a clear statement that Mozilla is starting to take the Mobile Internet seriously.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 8
  • Calls & Sound 7
  • Camera 5
  • Design 7
  • Performance 6
  • Screen Quality 5
  • Software 7
  • Value 10
Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

MattMe

November 7, 2013, 10:48 am

I have to question whetehr or not the specs are *that* important on this phone. If the device runs suffciently quick, without issue, as your review suggests, then why is the spec of the processor or RAM an issue?
The camera, maybe so, however I can't help but feel the review scores should reflect the price a little more closely. This (by today's standards) is an unbelievably cheap device, and a 5mp camera isn't exactly a concern at the price, is it?

Also, could you explain the cross-over between the Firefox and the Android apps please? You touch on it here, but my understanding is that Firefox OS would support Android apps.

Dr James Morris

November 7, 2013, 11:28 am

There isn't really an issue with the specs - except the screen and camera - other than the fact that you can get an Android device with similar specs for the same money, and for a lot of people that will be the better choice, until Firefox OS is a little more mature - and ZTE lets you update the Open, which currently they don't seem to have working.

MattMe

November 7, 2013, 11:41 am

Thanks for the reply. Which Android phone for the same price are you referring to? The Wildfire you mention in this article is £100+, isn't it? and from what I hear, they're not exactly amazing devices either.
The screen does sound a bit of a disappointment, definitely. and the keyboard issue, but at least that could be resolved with a software update (assuming other touch functionality was accurate).

So is there cross-over into Android with the app side of things?

MattMe

November 7, 2013, 11:44 am

I see the market for these cheaper devices getting huge soon. Really, who uses the capability of modern £600+ devices? Nobody I know. They play around with them a bit, then go back to using them for SMS, email, web browsing and checking the BBC news app. Personally, I think I'd rather buy a cheap phone, a tablet and a laptop for £600, rather than a new iPhone.

Dr James Morris

November 7, 2013, 11:51 am

I was talking about the ZTE Kis that I mention at the end of the review: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Dr James Morris

November 7, 2013, 11:55 am

Also, you can't run Android apps on Firefox OS, but you can run Firefox OS HTML5 apps on Android.

TheConciseStatement

November 8, 2013, 12:54 pm

I'll admit my bias right now - I'm a sucker for orange and that photo just made me go, "Ooh pretty!" A colour constantly rejected by Apple since it never sells well I might add, but if there was an orange iPhone I'd buy one yesterday. As this stands, 60 quid's worth a punt, no? Reminds me of the San Francisco, come to think of it.

ZerocoinZKProofs

November 8, 2013, 8:05 pm

For me orange is a holy color. Only wish they would sell Firefox OS phones for Bitcoin!

Daniel Richards

November 9, 2013, 4:49 pm

The great thing about Firefox OS apps is the range of APIs that Mozilla has opened up for use in web-based apps. On Android or iOS, HTML5 apps are still limited in accessing the core functionality of the phone, even using phonegap. I'd hope to see some very creative web-apps being developed in the future in part due to this interesting new platform.

phuque uguugle

April 28, 2014, 10:49 pm

The most beautiful thing about this phone is "NO EFFING ANDROID" hooray <:o) All android phones should be turned off with a hammer.(o:>

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