Orange announced a $40 “Klif” Firefox OS phone for Africa, and Mozilla says it’s working with Verizon Wireless and others on Firefox OS feature phones.
There’s still no evidence that Mozilla’s HTML-focused Firefox OS has made much of a dent in the world smartphone market, where it has been focused on low-end devices sold primarily to emerging markets. Yet, Firefox OS still leads the way among upstart, Linux-based mobile operating systems, and will soon be available in more than 40 markets, this year, on a total of 17 smartphones, according to its latest stats. Meanwhile, the very first Tizen (Samsung Z1) and Ubuntu (BQ Aquaris E4.5) phones have only just shipped, and Jolla’s Sailfish OS based Jolla phones are still mostly limited to Europe.
(click to enlarge)
Even if Firefox OS isn’t taking the world by storm, it’s been enjoying enough success to encourage dozens of carriers and a smaller number of vendors to continue to risk new launches. For example, Cherry Mobile recently introduced the Ace, the first Firefox OS phone in the Philippines. The simple, single-core phone appears to be the same low-cost Spreadtrum design used by the Firefox OS Intex Cloud FX and the Spice Fire One Mi-FX 1 in India, and it’s priced similarly at 1,499 Philippines Pesos ($34).
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Mozilla announced the latest Firefox OS phone, a 35-Euro ($40) “Orange Klif” model built by Alcatel OneTouch (TCL Communications). The Klif will be carried by Orange in African countries including Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Cameroon, Botswana, Madagascar, Mali, The Ivory Coast, Niger, and Kenya. The phone will also be sold in Jordan, Mauritius, and Vanuatu.
(click image to enlarge)
Orange will offer the phone with data bundles of up to 500MB per month for six months. The Klif will ship with localized content such as Star Africa, as well as Arab-language content.
The 3G-ready phone runs on a dual-core, Cortex-A7 MediaTek MT6572 system-on-chip. It otherwise sticks to typical low-end features like a 3.5-inch HVGA (480 x 320) capacitive touchscreen, 256MB RAM, 512MB flash, and a microSD slot.
The dual-SIM Klif is further equipped with GPS, 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth, and FM radio. The 98-gram, 112 x 62 x 12mm phone has a 2-megapixel (interpolated VGA) front-facing camera and a 1300mAh battery with 6.2 hours of 3G talk time.
Mozilla to smarten up feature phones with Verizon, KDDI, LG U+
Africa was the last major continent to be breached by Firefox OS, although in North America, the phone hasn’t made it north of the Rio Grande. Now, Mozilla is working on a 2016 release in the U.S. market, as part of a deal with Verizon Wireless. This does not appear to be the higher end phone one might expect, but rather one or more variations on a feature phone.
Verizon, KDDI in Japan, and LG U+ in Korea announced they will work with Mozilla to develop flip-phone, slider, and slate form-factors that will use Firefox OS to add some smartphone-like features to a basic feature phone. These are said to include “fun applications, content, navigation, music players, camera, video, LTE, VoLTE, email, and web browsing.” Rosemary McNally, VP, Device Technology at Verizon referred to the initiative as “creating a modern, simple and smart platform for basic phones.”
Stated Li Gong, President of Mozilla: “We’re excited to work with operator partners like KDDI, LG U+, Telefonica and Verizon Wireless to reach new audiences in both emerging and developed markets and offer customers differentiated services.”
In Japan, flip-phone sales have continued apace throughout the smartphone revolution, but they have faded fast in the U.S. and Korea. Some use flip-phones as a secondary phone, however, or as a companion to a higher end tablet.
The KDDI testimonial for the partnership does not refer to feature phones so much as the popularity of its first Firefox OS phone, a KDDI Fx0 slate that’s one of the more advanced Firefox OS phones around. The LG-built Fx0, which went on sale in Japan in early January, is notable for its transparent back cover designed by Tokujin Yoshioka. The over-$400 phone is based on an LG G3 model, and features a 4.7-inch screen with 1280 x 720 resolution.
The Fx0 has a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2GHz, plus 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, NFC, LTE, and a 2,370mAh battery. Both 8- and 2.1-megapixel cameras are available.
As we reported last week, KDDI will also offer an unusual, disc-shaped Runcible smartphone that runs Firefox OS under a custom, minimally disruptive GUI. The carrier invested in Monohm, the Berkeley, Calif. based startup behind the Runcible.
(click image to enlarge)
In addition to its partner announcements, Mozilla revealed some new features coming to Firefox OS. These include Improved performance and support of multi-core processors, as well as “enhanced privacy features,” says Mozilla. Other new features will include additional support for WebRTC, right-to-left language support, and an NFC payments infrastructure.
Finally, Mozilla released a beta version of Webmaker, a free, open source mobile content creation app. Webmaker is available for Android, Firefox OS, and “via a modern mobile browser on other devices in over 20 languages later this year,” says Mozilla.
The Orange Klif will go on sale in the second quarter in 13 countries in Africa and elsewhere for 35 Euros ($40). More information may be found at this Alcatel OneTouch Orange Klif product page. More on the Klif and Mozilla’s other announcements can be found at the Mozilla blog.