Mozilla has finally stepped into the mobile phone arena. Sources report that early this month, the mobile telecommunications provider Telefonica will begin selling the inexpensive ZTE Open smartphone, which runs the new Mozilla Firefox OS, to consumers in Spain.

This is a big step toward creating a potential fourth major player in the market, alongside Google, Apple, and Microsoft. But the strategy for Mozilla won’t be the same as the big three, at least not right away. Instead of trying to emulate the pomp generated by super-phones such as the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, the first Mozilla phone will be economical and somewhat subdued.

The Affordable New Handset

Stephen Shankland, a writer for CNet, explains that the ZTE Open will retail for only €69, the equivalent of about $90, which includes a €30 ($39) pay-as-you-go credit. What’s more, if users sign up for a two-year contract, then the phone is priced at only €2.38 ($3.10) per month.

That’s a lot cheaper than most of the Android, iOS, and Windows phones on the market. But there is downside to the low, low price: the performance of the phone may be underwhelming.

It Isn’t for Power Users

Anyone craving the fastest processor, highest definition screen, largest internal storage, and best camera will have to look elsewhere. That is not Mozilla’s game. Instead, Shankland reports that the ZTE Open features a modest 3.5-inch 480×320-pixel touchscreen, only 512 MB of flash memory, and 256MB of RAM. The phone also includes a 3.2 megapixel camera, he says, and memory can be boosted with an included 4GB microSD card.

Why Buy It?

Shankland quotes Yotam Benami, Telefonica’s digital director of open Web devices, as saying that Telefonica is looking to reach cost-conscious buyers and provide them with a smooth experience.

“The entire user experience is more simple and streamlined,” Benami says. “Many users are frustrated with the complexities of Android.”

It is the low cost, long battery life, and simplicity of features that Benami says will ultimately bring in customers.

Shankland also says there is a future companion to the ZTE Open, the Alcatel One Touch Fire, which will be released in Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia. European providers Telenor and Deutsche Telekom will soon be selling Firefox OS phones as well. The companies will release their phones in parts of eastern Europe and Poland, respectively.

Bonnie Cha at All Things Digital says Mozilla has more than 20 hardware and mobile providers it is working with across the globe. She said the phones are expected to hit the US in 2014, so be prepared. A new cost-conscious wave may be coming sooner rather than later.




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