Meet Flame, Mozilla's $170 Firefox OS phone for devs

Mozilla's developer device, Flame, shows off it's ambitions for mid-tier smartphones. But if they arrive at that price, do they stand a chance against the Moto E?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Flame, Mozilla's developer device. Image: Everbuying
Flame, Mozilla's developer device. Image: Everbuying

Mozilla and its hardware partner T2Mobile have released a new Firefox OS reference device called Flame, available to pre-order at $170.

Mozilla might be focusing its efforts on delivering low-cost phones aimed at connecting the next billion people, but it's also nudging its handsets up the smartphone food chain, as it flagged up this February with the announcement of the Flame, whose specs plant it in the low- to mid-tier range.

After months of waiting, devs can now sign up to get the device when it's released. Since it's only meant for Firefox developers, rather than the public at large, it will ship with the latest bugs-and-all Nightly build of Firefox OS.

However, according to Mozilla's director of Firefox OS participation, Asa Dotzler, the device is a sign of what consumers can expect this year.

"The Flame is representative of the mid-tier phone hardware Mozilla and its partners are targeting over the coming year. It was designed for our developer and contributor community, so we worked with the manufacturer T2Mobile to keep the price as low as possible. We're excited that we are able to bring a high-quality reference device to our developer community at an affordable price," Dotzler wrote in a blogpost.

The website of T2Mobile, a Shanghai-based mobile maker, indicates the company also makes a Firefox OS tablet called the Fire Book and a smartphone called Fire that closely resembles Alcatel's own Fire-branded device range.

Mozilla hasn't said which company is behind tablets being distributed under its Tablet Contribution Program — an initiative to speed up the arrival of Firefox OS tablets that will see contributors given a reference design slate — but earlier this month Dotzler said that program had been delayed due to the Flame launch.

Mozilla opened the tablet program in January to iron out bugs in the OS and map out feature gaps between Firefox OS and rival products.

A quirky feature of the reference device's specs is its "adjustable" RAM, which can be shifted between 256MB and 1GB, to allow developers to test different configurations. Besides that, the device ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2GHZ dual-core processor, 4.5-inch 854x480 pixel screen, and a five-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and flash coupled with a front facing two-megapixel camera.

The dual-SIM 3G device comes with 8GB of onboard memory, expandable up to 32GB through the microSD slot, and a 1,800 mAh capacity battery.

While the Flame is likely to bear a resemblance in specs to devices that non-developers can expect to see before too long from Mozilla's carrier and device partners, it will be interesting to see how any consumer version of the handset is priced, given the stiff competition at that tier.

Motorola recently launched the low-end Moto E, which at $129 comes in well under the Flame and offers nearly identical specs to Mozilla's reference device — that is, 4.5-inch 540x960 display, a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of available internal storage, MicroSD card slot up to 32GB, 3G support and a 1,980mAh battery. Obviously, it's running Android KitKat too and consumers benefit from apps available in Google Play. 

Developers can pre-order Flame at everbuying.com for $170. According to the site, the pre-sale period is only between 27 May and 10 June, with deliveries expected to arrive within four weeks. The device won't be available in Japan.

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