In Barcelona today, Mozilla announced its Firefox OS plans for the next year. The highlight: plans for a line of smartphones starting at $25 each, bringing HTML5-powered smartphones to billions of people who can't afford more expensive devices.
Central to this plan is a partnership with Chinese fabless semiconductor designer Spreadtrum. The company has designed a trio of chipsets built around the ARM Cortex A5 processor.
While a $25 smartphone might be a step down from the high-powered phones of Samsung and Apple, Mozilla is positioning its new products at an audience that currently only has feature phones. As such, it's not a step down, it's a step up.
Alcatel One Touch Fire E
2014 will bring a wide expansion in the number and availability of Firefox OS handsets on the market. Alcatel and ZTE are both expanding their range of Firefox OS phones from the single models they each currently sell. Alcatel will have three new handsets, ranging from the low- to mid-range. The highest specced, the One Touch Fire S, will include a 1.2GHz quad core processor and a 4.5 inch 960×540 screen, and the lowest, the One Touch Fire C, will have a 1.2 GHz dual core processor and a 3.5 inch 480×320 screen.
ZTE Open C
ZTE is also launching a pair of phones, both at the lower end of the market, with 1.2 GHz dual core processors, and either a 4 inch 800×480 screen or a 3.5 inch 480×320 screen.
Huawei is a newcomer to Firefox OS, launching a handset called the Ascend Y300.
VIA's 7 inch reference tablet
Firefox OS is also going to launch on tablets. Mozilla and hardware companies have put together a pair of tablet reference designs, a 7 inch design from VIA and a 10 inch design from Foxconn. Alcatel went a step further and announced the One Touch Fire 7, with a 7 inch 960×540 screen and 1.2GHz dual core processor.
To help push Firefox OS up more toward the mid-range, Mozilla is also producing a developer reference model, the Flame, with a 1.2GHz dual core processor and a 4.5 inch 854×480 screen. Being a developer model, this has a unique developer-focused feature: the amount of RAM usable will be adjustable from 256 to 1024MB, so that devs can see how their apps perform with different memory configurations.
Firefox OS will also get some software updates this year to introduce a slightly new look and feel. Mozilla also announced integration with PhoneGap/Apache Cordova to make it easy for devs to convert HTML5 content into apps. Google has similarly launched a beta of PhoneGap integration in Chrome on Android, to enable HTML5 apps for Chrome OS to be run on Android.