MWC 2014: Mozilla unveils $US25 Firefox OS smartphone, new developer devices

Mozilla has unveiled a Firefox OS chipset that retails for just $US25, along with new reference devices and tools for developers, LTE/4G support and a raft of new models at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

In collaboration with Chinese chip maker Spreadtrum, Mozilla unveiled a new chipset dubbed the SC6821m, which it claims is the first smartphone chipset to retail for $US25.

The SC6821 includes support for WiFi, Bluetooth, FM radio, a camera and a HVGA touchscreen and is aimed at persuading featurephone users in emerging markets to switch to a smartphone.

Spreadtrum’s vice president of software development, Xiaomao Xiao, says the new chip will allow manufacturers to build smartphones for the cost of a featurephone:

“By integrating Firefox OS support with our smartphone platforms, we are providing our customers with flexibility and choice in how they develop and design their smartphones as well as access to the increasingly rich base of HTML5 applications that are available on this platform.”

Mozilla claims that a number of carriers in emerging markets, including Telenor, Telkomsel and Indosat, have already expressed interest in the technology.

Aside from the low-cost chipset, Mozilla also announced a number of new devices running Firefox OS including a tablet, new developer reference tools and devices running the platform.

ZTE announced two successors to its ZTE Open smartphone, dubbed the Open C and Open II, while Alcatel announced three new Firefox OS smartphones (the ONETOUCH Fire C, Fire E, Fire S) as well as a tablet called the Fire 7.

While limited information is available about the new smartphones, Mozilla is promising “higher performance” devices, including dual-core processors and higher resolution displays.

In terms of software, Mozilla has announced a range of improvements to the Firefox OS operating system over the coming year.

The features include “deep customisation” for mobile operators, a new universal search function, improved navigation for switching between apps, the ability to use NFC (near-field communications) to transfer files, 4G support and the integration of Firefox Accounts.

For developers, Mozilla has unveiled a new smartphone reference device called Firefox OS Flame, which includes a dual-core processor and 4.5-inch display.

Alongside the new smartphone, Mozilla has announced offering developers one of a limited number of Firefox OS tablets in a bid to find bugs in the platform on tablets and develop tablet-specific apps.

The reference devices include a 10-inch tablet with a quad-core processor from Foxconn, named the InFocus, and a 7-inch tablet from VIA named the Vixen.

Mozilla chief operating officer Jay Sullivan says the Firefox OS platform is gaining traction across a number of emerging markets.

“People in Latin America and Eastern Europe have eagerly upgraded from their feature phones to Firefox OS smartphones and now have rich access to the Web and apps. Sales have far exceeded our targets.

“In 2014, we are differentiating our user experience and our partners are growing the portfolio of devices. We are also enabling a whole new category of smartphone, priced around $US25, that will bring even more people around the world online.”

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