Mozilla shows off $25 Firefox OS smartphone prototype

Mozilla shows off $25 Firefox OS smartphone prototype

Summary: While Apple is focused on spreading premium-prices smartphones across the globe, browser maker Mozilla has its sights aimed squarely on the low-cost smartphone market and has announced a deal for a chipset which it said will pave the way for $25 smartphones.

TOPICS: Mobility, MWC

While Apple is focused on spreading premium-prices smartphones across the globe, browser maker Mozilla has its sights aimed squarely on the low-cost smartphone market and has announced a deal for a chipset which it said will pave the way for $25 smartphones.

Mozilla announced at Mobile World Congress that it is partnering with Shanghai-based fabless semiconductor company Spreadtrum to come up with reference designs of the low-cost Firefox OS-powered smartphones.

CNET Gallery: Mozilla's $25 Firefox OS smartphone prototype

Spreadtrum has announced WCDMA and EDGE turnkey reference designs for Firefox OS as well as the industry’s first chipset for US$25 smartphones, the SC6821, that redefines the entry level for smartphones in key growth markets. 

And there's interest in these devise, with Mozilla claiming that global operators such as Telenor, Telkomsel and Indosat, and ecosystem partners such as Polytron, T2Mobile and Thundersoft are expressing interest.

At Mobile World Congress, Mozilla is showcasing its new developer reference phone, the Firefox OS Flame.

Mozilla shows off $25 Firefox OS smartphone prototype
(Source: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Also unveiled was the spec for the reference Firefox OS Flame, which is quite impressive:

  • Allwinner A31 (1.2GHz); Cortex-A7 Quad-core, PowerVR 544MP2
  • 4.5-inch screen (FWVGA 854×480 pixels)
  • Cameras: Rear: 5MP / Front: 2MP
  • 3G UMTS quad-band (850/900/1900/2100)
  • 8GB memory
  • 256MB -1GB RAM (adjustable by developer)
  • A-GPS, NFC
  • Battery capacity: 1,800 mAh
  • Wi-fi: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, Micro USB

While the spec of the cheapest devices is likely deviate somewhat from the above – which is aimed at developers – it can't deviate too much if the handsets are to run the apps that the developers end up creating.

"In six short months, Firefox OS has more than established itself in the very markets it aimed to address," said John Jackson, VP of Mobility Research, IDC.  "Today’s announcements underscore the platform’s rapid maturation and growing ecosystem  benefits. New products, tools, categories, partners, features, and extraordinarily compelling price points will reinforce Firefox OS’s momentum into 2014. IDC expects year-on-year Firefox OS volumes will grow by a factor of six times in the smartphone category alone."

CNET Video: LG's first Firefox phone

Firefox OS is already available in 15 markets on three devices, but Mozilla want to expand this significantly, by entering into the Latin American markets. Also, Deutsche Telekom plans to sell models in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia and Montenegro.

On top of that – and potentially more lucrative for Mozilla – Chinese network ZTE is also planning to add two new Firefox OS-powered models to its lineup, and says it expects to shift one million of the phones by the end of the year.

Also unveiled are two reference specs for tablets.

VIA Vixen:

  • 7-inch 1024×600 HD LCD screen
  • 1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 processor
  • ARM Mali-400 Dual-Processor GPU
  • 8GB storage
  • 1GB RAM
  • Cameras: Front 0.3 MP, Back 2.0 MP
  • Wi-fi: 802.11 b/g/n

Foxconn InFocus:

  • 10-inch screen (1280 x 800 pixels, 24-bit color)
  • A31 (ARM Cortex A7) Quad-Core 1.0GHz w/ PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
  • 16GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • Cameras: Rear 5MP/ Front 2MP
  • A-GPS
  • Battery capacity: 7,000 mAh
  • Wi-fi: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, Micro USB

While Mozilla's moves in the smartphone and tablet markets are unlikely to cause much more than a raised eyebrow at Cupertino the Android device makers should be a lot more worried. While Mozilla currently lacks much in the way of an ecosystem for Firefox OS, a new player could make the share of the revenue pie that the various device makers pull in smaller. 

Topics: Mobility, MWC

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A 25$ smartphone?

    Can't see anything wrong with this, as long as you know what you're getting.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • I would defintely get one as a standby

      Ram U
      • Same here

        If nothing else, it might be good to see what Firefox OS is all about. Reading is one thing, but seeing it myself is better.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • agreed

          they charge from 35$ to 50$ for returning the phone.

          These Can be really compared with NOKIA ASHA phones they have similar price.
  • The real story is the cheap chipset

    There is no doubt that the portable device OS market is oversaturated - not to mention very confusing to industry decision makers let alone consumers.

    I suspect that a lot of emerging market telcos will be interested in partnering with handset makers using Spreadtrum chipsets (Mozilla just defined the market price) but using an OS with an available skillset (Android?). Mozilla could always open up free engineering colleges to create a biased workforce - something I think all the big players should consider rather than bemoaning the lack of a qualified workforce. (An obligation I feel they owe the nation/planet if they insist on keeping their profits offshore.)

    Spreadtrum, thanks to the Mozilla announcement, has a new mousetrap. The world will be beating a path to THEIR door.

  • Hope they do well

    We need an open source alternative to Android so good luck to them.
  • AA or AAA batteries

    would be nice. I am sick and tired of proprietary
    batteries. Every new device should not mean yet
    another proprietary battery to deal with.

    I would also pay a bit more for an external
    media storage slot.
    • AA or AAA batteries

      The cynic in me would say that's part of how they will make money. But that would be nice if I could go to the local Radio Shack for relatively inexpensive rechargeable batteries.
  • Unlocked? No-contract?

    Is the $25 with the phone unlocked, no-contract, or with 2 year agreement?

    I assume it is unlocked or else it wouldn't really be new to have a $25 on contract smartphone.
  • The specs are impressive

    These are essentially similar to the specs of the first Samsung Galaxy. Which was a flagship device just 3 years ago. So for the target market of India and China, it's an absolutely terrific phone. Now, you have to see whether it can handle the load of the apps. Apps have also evolved in 3 years and are much bigger than they used to be. We'll have to wait and see how resource hungry the Firefox OS apps are.
    • If you look at programming language comparisons

      In programming language comparisons, Java used to beat Javascript across the board. With recent improvements in Javascript efficiency by browser developers, Java still outdoes Javascript for speed of execution but not for memory efficiency. Now, all of the memory efficiency in the world means nothing if your application is poorly written. But a well-written Javascript application should require less memory than an equivalent well-written Java application. In a cheap device like the Firefox OS Flame, I suspect Javascript is a better choice for that reason. A Javascript application that runs slowly within the 256MB or 512MB memory limit is better than one that doesn't run at all because it needs more than 512MB of RAM.
  • The best thing about the Firefox OS smartphone... that it should maintain performance for a much longer period of time than a device-based OS smartphone would. The higher device cost and greater susceptibility to degraded performance over time will prove IMO to be the Achilles Heel of device-based operating system smartphones (and for that matter tablets and laptops).

    The real question now is when is Google going to release chromephones (and chromepads) to compete with Firefox OS devices. I also wonder if Mozilla will try to enter the tablet, laptop, and/or desktop niches to compete with chromebooks and chromeboxes (not to mention the various device-based OS tablets, laptops, and desktops available).
  • This could be the

    answer to the horrible button-laden TV remote controls we have to suffer with. At $25 you could package one of these into each Flat Screen TV and keep the price the same...
    Tony Burzio
  • Mozilla shows off $25 Firefox OS smartphone prototype

    I want to put a question up here: Is the smartphone in general the device to govern future mobile communication? The price should be no longer the key-point, but comfortable operation of such devices is a main factor.
    As good as smartphones might be, there is still a limitation of the screen size and that makes not very easy to operate.
    The mobile communication industry now has the problem to really get a useful, easy to operate and advanced new tech strategy packed in an attractive design product, which blows the market.
  • Can one install Firefox web browser extensions?

    On Firefox OS?
    Rabid Howler Monkey