Ultra-cheap Firefox OS devices coming to India, Taiwan

Mozilla has joined the race for India's growing smartphone market.

A prototype of Mozilla's $25 handset
A prototype of Mozilla's $25 handset, on show at the MWC event earlier this year. Image: Stephen Shankland/CNET

With an eye on India's enormous number of feature phone owners, Mozilla has announced two new hardware partnerships to launch Firefox OS smartphones in the country.

Mozilla said it will launch the first Firefox OS handsets in India "in the next few months", with the help of its two Indian mobile device partners, Intex and Spice.

The new Firefox OS devices will join new low-cost smartphones such as the Moto G , Nokia X , and BlackBerry's Z3 — as well as handsets from local vendors such as Micromax — vying to encourage India's feature phone user base to migrate to low-end smartphones.

According to IDC, smartphone sales grew 181 percent year on year in India in 2013. Meanwhile, around 78 percent of the 250 million handsets sold in India last year were still feature phones.

Mozilla announced a partnership with Chinese chipmaker Spreadtrum this February to bring smartphones costing under $25 to markets such as India and Indonesia.

"The platform [Firefox OS] will give us an edge in upgrading buyers from feature phones to smartphones while making it affordable for the mass market," said Sanjay Kalirona, business head of Intex's mobile unit.

Intex currently sells a range of Android smartphones for between 4,000r ($67) and 9,000r ($151), competing with the likes of Nokia's recently-launched Android-based Nokia X, which retails for around $140. 

Dilip Modi, CEO of Spice, said he has "high expectations" for Firefox OS devices in India.

Mozilla hasn't announced the price of its upcoming Indian smartphones, although Spreadtrum vice president Xiaomao Xiao's commented that they would define "a new level in smartphone affordability".

Mozilla has also struck a new partnership with Taiwan's largest operator Chunghwa Telecom. The operator in February partnered with Chinese smartphone upstart Xiaomi to launch the Mi3

Mozilla now has 22 operator partners across the globe, including Telefonica, China Unicom, KDDI, and SingTel.

Despite widespread carrier support, it's still not clear how well the HTML5 "open web app" devices are selling in markets where they've been launched as sales figures have not been released.

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