Those of you accustomed to paying several hundreds of dollars minimum for a new smartphone might scoff at the idea of a $25 shelf price for a new handset. But Mozilla’s presentation at the start of the Mobile World Congress has promised that for customers in emerging markets, this will soon be a reality.
Announcing that it will be releasing a number of new Firefox OS smartphones in partnerships with Huawei, Alcatel and ZTE, Mozilla also revealed plans for a $25 smartphone aimed at entry-level users in developing countries.
How is it possible?
The upcoming low-cost device is the outcome of a deal with Chinese chip designer Spreadtrum Communications, a company known for making chipsets specifically for low-end smartphones.
Despite the budget price, the new smartphone will still come with essential features such as a camera, built-in apps, media player and Internet browser – just on a smaller and less powerful handset.
The partnership with Spreadtrum could see success for Mozilla in the important Asian markets, where low-end smartphones are a major seller. Spreadtrum describes itself as enabling manufacturers 'to achieve faster design cycles with a lower development cost’, and it’s Spreadtrum's cheaper hardware that’s allowing Mozilla to launch its latest handset at such a bargain price point.
Spreadtrum’s chipsets only work on 2.5 Edge networks, meaning web browsing will be relatively slow. However, this does mean that the phone will be compatible with networks in Mozilla’s intended target area of emerging markets.
Mozilla's game plan
Mozilla has publicly committed to making quality affordable devices, to encourage customers in less developed markets to make the jump from basic feature phones to internet-capable smartphones.
The first Firefox OS phone was launched last year, and since then Mozilla has made in-roads in Latin American and Eastern European markets. The company hopes to expand in these regions throughout 2014, as well as extending into key markets in Asia and Africa.
Mozilla will need to establish itself now if it wishes to become a big player on the budget phone scene. Rivals such as Android will eventually take advantage of falling hardware costs for low-powered devices, meaning Mozilla could be facing some tough competition in the near future.
However, currently the Firefox OS runs on only 25% of the memory that Android requires, meaning Mozilla has a unique advantage so far if things come head-to-head.
The $25 Firefox OS phone won’t see a release in more affluent markets such as the US, UK and Australia. But it’s an indication that more low-cost devices could be on the way from other smartphone manufacturers in the near future.