ZTE announces 'Open', the world's first Firefox OS device

We reported yesterday that the first Firefox OS smartphones would be launching this year, and today, the very first such device was announced by Chinese manufacturer ZTE. 

The ZTE Open is the first in a series of such devices, which the company intends to market under the tagline "Be open, be free". But don't be under any illusions here: this launch handset isn't intended to be a kick-ass smartphone flagship by any means.

Indeed, much was made during today's press conference of the fact that this is an entry-level device, directed primarily at young people "who are keen to experience the very latest technology" and others on a limited budget. It's also said to be "ideal to make the move from feature phone to smartphone". 

But what exactly is on offer here? 

Measuring 114 x 62 x 12.5mm, the Open features a 3.5-inch HVGA (480x320px) display, along with 256MB of RAM, 1200mAh battery and 3.2MP rear camera. Additionally, you'll find A-GPS and Bluetooth 2.1 support, along with 802.11b/g/n wi-fi - and, of course, the Firefox OS. 

According to Brendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla and currently its Chief Technology Officer, there's a great need to "tear down the walls between apps and the web... Firefox OS brings the best of both together".

While the Firefox Marketplace has "thousands of apps", the Marketplace itself is essentially just a directory of standards-based non-native apps and resources built on HTML5, Javascript and CSS. As Eich himself said, "there are no native apps on Firefox OS... but millions of assets on the web, and these are capable, responsive applications". 

Among the apps already available on the wider web, and fully compatible with Firefox OS and the ZTE Open as a result of their standards-compliance, were Facebook, Box, Here, Pulse, EA, Twitter, MTV, Disney, Time Out, Airbnb and Cut The Rope - all of which have HTML5-based apps already on offer. 

ZTE and Mozilla have worked extensively with international carrier group Telefónica, which will be the launch operator for the Open when it launches this summer - first in Spain, Venezuela and Colombia, before spreading to other markets across Europe and Latin America. The relatively low adoption of smartphones in Latin America makes it a particularly attractive target for all three companies, with smartphone market penetration currently under 18%. 

Curiously, despite touting the low cost of the device, and repeatedly underlining how closely all three companies had worked together throughout its development, no information was available on pricing, with ZTE passing the buck, saying that it "depends on Telefónica's plan". 

None of the three companies would be drawn either on future plans for Firefox OS, other devices or availability, although it is known that a further 16 operators across the globe have already committed to offering handsets running the new operating system. 

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