MWC: Firefox smartphone manufacturers revealed

By Stuart Sumner
25 Feb 2013 View Comments

Mozilla has revealed that LG, ZTE, Huawei and TCL will all be producing handsets for its Firefox OS for mobiles.

In an event at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, it also said that 18 operators, including Deutsche Telekom and Hutchison Three Group - which owns the Three brand - would support the device.

The phones, which will launch first in Eastern Europe and the developing world, will be able to access a new app store exclusive to the Firefox OS, called Firefox Marketplace.

"Hutchison Three Group is supportive of the Mozilla initiative to provide an open approach to services for operators and to provide devices for entry-level smartphone users at a more affordable price," said Christian Salbaing, deputy chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Europe.

"We believe the introduction of Firefox to mobile devices will increase competition in operating systems, improve consumer choice and hopefully lower overall device costs, bringing smartphones and advanced services within the reach of more of our customers," he added.

Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum, praised the platform for the amount of support it already has.

"Firefox OS has achieved something that no device software platform has previously managed - translating an industry talking shop into a huge commitment from both carriers and hardware vendors at its commercial launch. Neither Android nor Symbian - the closest benchmarks in terms of broad industry sponsorship that we've previously seen - have rallied the level of support that Firefox OS has achieved so early in its development.

"That is a huge achievement for what, in fairness, has looked like an underdog among the plethora of alternative software platforms currently vying to power the so-called 'third ecosystem'. Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10, and Tizen all look like better bets on the surface. As such, the Mozilla Foundation and its early sponsors, especially Telefonica, deserve considerable credit."

He added that it is difficult to judge the system yet without experiencing it on commercially available devices.

"It is tempting to think that the platform's perceived neutrality, especially with regard to the ambitions and needs of mobile operators, has provided a clear motivation for such widespread support. But does that mean that Firefox OS is truly fit for purpose? The real acid test for Firefox OS and its long-term prospects is the quality of the software itself and the user and developer experiences that it fosters. However, it will be difficult to say whether it meets those needs sufficiently until we have seen retail devices. What is clear from the Firefox OS demonstration handsets that we have seen was that they are still some way from being market ready, being both slow and buggy.

"These issues must be overcome before Firefox OS devices find their way into consumers' hands. Even low-cost smartphones - the primary target market for Firefox OS - can't afford to hide behind price as a justification for poor performance. This is especially true at a time when upgraded feature phones, such as Nokia's Asha Touch and Samsung's Rex ranges, are gradually eating into the low-end Android market."

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