WASHINGTON — The Firefox smartphone is getting its biggest launch, and biggest test. Chinese telecom giant ZTE announced plans Monday to sell a low-cost smartphone using the open-source Firefox operating system in the United States and Britain. ZTE said its Open Firefox OS phone will be sold through eBay in the U.S. for US$79.99 and 59.99 pounds in Britain. The phone, unlocked to allow use on a variety of mobile networks, uses the open source Firefox operating platform from the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which is aiming to break the dominance of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. “The global availability of the ZTE Open through eBay means that more consumers worldwide are now able, for the first time, to buy an affordable smartphone based entirely on open Web standards,” the Chinese firm said in a statement. “The ZTE Open is powered by Firefox OS, which frees developers, operators and consumers from the constraints of existing closed ecosystems by using the Web as the platform for all functionality and applications.” The statement said sales would begin “soon,” without elaborating. ZTE vice president Dai Wenhong said the company “is devoted to providing more options for customers globally and enabling them to live better lives via advanced technology.
“The ZTE Open offers customers a smartphone experience at an incredible price point, making it ideal for cost conscious consumers or those looking to upgrade to a smartphone for the first time.” The phone offered for U.S. and British consumers is orange in color, while a blue version has been on sale in Spain and Venezuela and a black version in Colombia. A blog posting by California-based Mozilla said, “We are excited that soon developers and curious, early adopters around the globe will be able to get their Firefox OS phone, just one month after the initial commercial launch.” Mozilla said the devices are “targeted at the first time smartphone user,” and allow consumers to get “the performance, personalization and price they want in a smartphone packaged in a beautiful, clean, intuitive and easy-to-use experience.” In June, Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision said it aims to hire up to 3,000 new employees to develop devices and software for Mozilla’s Firefox operating system. Hon Hai, better known by its trade name Foxconn and a major supplier to Apple, plans to produce five devices running on Firefox. The Firefox operating system uses applications on HTML5, a Web standard which operates across platforms, unlike those developed for specific systems such a Apple’s iOS or Google Android. Mozilla said its vision “is to create a more powerful, open Web, so as more browsers adopt the open Web technologies that power Firefox, Firefox OS and Firefox for Android, you will be able to take the apps you purchase with you across other platforms and devices.” The Mozilla Foundation, developer of the Firefox browser, claims to have at least 17 operators on board and plans to launch phones in Brazil, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland and Serbia.