The price points of first-generation Firefox devices are "at the $60-$100 level, on par with low-end Android devices," as Lam said. However, the $25 Firefox phone pitched by Spreadtrum and Mozilla is aimed at people who have never used smartphones before -- a market segment traditionally served by low-cost devices with minimal features.
Though the marketshare is gradually decreasing, 46.4% of mobile phones sold to consumers last year were still feature phones, according to recent figures from Gartner. That translates into roughly 838 million feature phones for consumers, who could be persuaded to try a very low-cost, Firefox OS-based smartphone.
Mozilla's Firefox OS is "an operating system well suited for this segment," Jovin said. "First-time smartphone users find it intuitive to have everything -- from a browser to apps -- on a seamless web platform." No switching from apps to the web is required. Moreover, the low-memory Firefox OS environment enables $25 Firefox OS phones access to Android KitKat-level of applications -- which are out of reach for entry-level Android phones.
Lam also said a $25 smartphone (at retail) would bring the smartphone experience to developing markets traditionally served by the ultra-low-cost segment. "Think of it as direct competition to the $20 Nokia 105 feature phone."
The Nokia 105, a voice-and-text feature phone, is priced at $20. It runs on Nokia's Symbian Series 30 OS and offers support for text message, an alarm clock, an FM radio, reminders, and a few simple games, like Sudoku.
But it can't surf the web.
Chip vendors supporting Firefox
Mozilla is gaining support from a number of operators, handset companies, and silicon vendors.
Sravan Kundojjala, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told us both Qualcomm and Spreadtrum currently support the Firefox OS. "Recently, we have seen a dual OS (Android/Firefox) Geek Phone based on Intel's Z2560, so [there are] three vendors now supporting Firefox OS."
To maintain a certain level of experience on Firefox OS-based devices, Mozilla banded together with a number of operators and chip companies to launch the Open Web Device Compliance Review Board (CRB) in December. Its members include Deutsche Telekom, LG, Sony, Mozilla, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Alcatel, Telefónica, Telenor, KDDI, ZTE, and Spreadtrum.
When the CRB was launched, Mozilla said in a press release that its goals were "encouraging API compliance as well as ensuring competitive performance" and providing "a full open Web experience to both users and developers." By validating that a set of specs works properly on hardware, the CRB is meant to help device OEMs and carriers decrease time to market and the OEM costs associated with compatibility testing.
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