Shenzhen, China — The first smartphone incorporating the open Firefox OS will become available in the U.S. for the first time now that ZTE said it will soon offer an unlocked ZTE Open smartphone direct to consumers on eBay.
The OS is designed to bring down the cost of smartphones by using HTML5 web technology to develop phone features and apps, accelerate the development of low-cost mobile apps that target small niches, and challenge the dominance of curated app stores from Apple and Google, inventor Mozilla has said.
ZTE’s Firefox phone lives up to the low-price promise. Unlocked and without subsidy, the 3G 7.2Mbps HSDPA smartphone will be available in orange for $79. ZTE didn’t announce a precise date.
The phone was recently launched by carriers in Spain, Venezuela and Colombia. It’s one of the first Firefox-OS smartphones available in the world.
The phone will operate in HSDPA mode in the U.S. 850/1900MHz bands and foreign 900/2100MHz bands.
ZTE VP Dai Wenhong said the price point makes it “ideal for cost-conscious consumers or those looking to upgrade to a smartphone for the first time.”
The OS will challenge the dominance of curated app stores, Mozilla said, even though Mozilla operates its own a Firefox Marketplace to sell apps. The Web APIs offered by Mozilla, the company contends, will enable developers to distribute apps directly with no need for gatekeepers such as Apple or Google.
Because the OS is built completely on open web standards, carriers and app developers will also be able to easily tailor the phone’s interface and develop localized services for a variety of consumer interests, Mozilla added.
Because all Firefox phone features are developed as HTML5 applications, the Firefox OS also makes it possible for downloadable apps to access the underlying capabilities of phones in the same way that only native applications previously do on other phone OSs, the company added.
In the Open, ZTE offers entry-level smartphone features, such as a 3.5-inch 320 by 480 touchscreen, 1GHz CPU, 256MB of RAM, 3.2-megpixel camera and 2,100 mAh battery. It also features built-in social integration with Facebook and Twitter and location-based services such as Nokia Here maps with navigation and local transit and traffic information.