Mozilla Aims Super-Cheap Firefox Smartphone at India

by Matt Klassen on June 12, 2014

The Firefox revolution is officially here, as Mozilla is poised to unleash its low-cost $25 smartphone on one of the largest burgeoning smartphone markets in the world: India. As CNET writer Stephen Shankland explains, “Two Indian companies, Intex and Spice, will build a super-cheap $25 Firefox OS phone based on a processor from Chinese company Spreadtrum and start selling them in the next few months.”

While there’s little that one might say about the $25 Firefox smartphone in terms of features consider this to be a paradigm altering announcement nonetheless, as Mozilla may be the first smartphone provider to finally initiate a mass transition from the ubiquitous feature phone to the smartphone in the 2/3s developing world.

“The platform will give us an edge in upgrading buyers from feature phones to smartphones while making it affordable for the mass market,” said Sanjay Kumar Kalirona, head of Intex’s mobile business, in a statement.

Of course releasing low-cost phones in a developing market is a huge risk for Mozilla, as building for the budget market with a quantity-over-quality approach will always mean razor thin profit margins, not to mention the fact that Mozilla will still have to invest in growing the app ecosystem that smartphone consumers of all stripes are clamouring for.

There’s no question that Mozilla’s Firefox OS has the capability of dominating the mobile market in the developing world, as its Web-based apps give developers a platform with “openness that’s not present in the mobile-technology ecosystems that have coalesced around Android and iOS.” But first Mozilla needs to convince developers of the benefits of programming for a Web-based OS, as opposed to pouring resources into developing native apps for the two incumbents.

What this means, briefly, is that Mozilla still has a steep hill to climb as it looks to tap into a low-end market that’s been largely ignored by the top end smartphone developers. But that said, the non-profit organization is confident that its super-cheap phones will strike a chord not only in India, but around the world, as it’s not only consumers in developing nations who are cost-conscious or who crave true affordability.

In fact, despite not being as flashy or feature packed as the top end Android or iOS devices, Mozilla is confident that its affordable Firefox line-up, including its $25 budget smartphone, will still bring a significant ‘wow’ factor to developing markets, the same shock, I suppose, that horse and buggy users felt during the advent of the automobile; sure the first car isn’t much to look at when compared to today’s vehicles, but it was nevertheless a huge upgrade on the extant transportation of the day.

As I’ve said many times before, as a global traveller I’ve always been surprised by just how far feature phones and other such antiquated mobile technology has reached, as from rural farmers in Asia to Bedouin nomads in the Middle East, everyone, it seems, has some sort of phone. What Mozilla is attempting to do with the production and release of its $25 Firefox smartphone in India is to change that reality, making the phone in everyone’s hand in the developing world no longer a feature phone, but a Mozilla-branded smartphone.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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