ZTE premiers Open, its first Firefox OS phone

Built around apps using HTML5, Firefox OS pitched as an alternative for low-end smartphones in developing markets

ZTE's first phone based on Mozilla's Firefox OS will go on sale in the middle of the year in Spain, Venezuela, and Columbia, where its maker hopes to boost smartphone penetration.

Firefox OS is being pitched as a better alternative for low-end smartphones in developing markets and is built around applications written using HTML5. For example, in Latin America smartphone penetration only averages 18 percent, according to Telefónica, which will sell the ZTE smartphone.

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The Open has 3.5-inch screen and a 3.2-megapixel camera, and it's powered by a 1GHz processor from Qualcomm. There is also 512MB of integrated storage and 256MB of RAM.

The phone will first become available in midyear, according to ZTE.

What it and other phones based on the Firefox OS will cost is still a bit of a mystery. Pricing hasn't been decided, according to He Shiyou, head of mobile devices division at the company.

On Monday, Geeksphone said the Firefox OS-based Peak and Keon will be available in its online store in the upcoming weeks. The phones are not meant for consumers, but are intended to allow developers to get acquainted with the OS.

The Keon has the same basic spec as the Open, but adds more storage and a bigger battery. The Peak is more powerful with its dual-core 1.2GHz processor. It also has a 4.3-inch screen and an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel camera on the front.

The phones have been developed with Telefónica and Mozilla. Again, no pricing was available.

In addition to ZTE, Alcatel One Touch, LG Electronics, and Huawei Technologies have also said they will start shipping smartphones based on Firefox OS this year. On Sunday, Mozilla previewed the first commercial build of the platform, and said that 18 operators are backing the OS.

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