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ZTE Open Firefox OS phone not coming to UK until 2014

ZTE Open

Emerging markets only for Firefox Fone

Mozilla has finally unveiled the first phone running the Firefox OS, and it’s nothing flashy; the ZTE Open is a budget smartphone with a low-resolution screen.

This is no surprise, as the phone is aimed mainly at emerging markets such as Brazil and Poland, with a SIM-free price of less than $100. There’s one Western European country that will get its hands on the Firefox experience this year, though, as Spain’s Telefonica network (which owns O2) will also carry the handset this year.

However, it’s bad news for UK customers. No UK networks will carry the ZTE Open, and according to Firefox, none are likely to until 2014. When pressed on whether it would be easy to buy the ZTE Open SIM-free in the UK, the answer was a straight “no”. UK users are going to have to wait a bit longer for their Firefox OS fix.

This is a shame, as Firefox OS is an interesting operating system. Our hands-on time with the handset showed a complete OS which ran reasonably smoothly, and we found the Firefox app model particularly interesting.

Mozilla is keen to stress that, while there is a Firefox Market, this is purely for the convenience of the end user as a place for apps to be collected and rated. Mozilla is also keen for users to be able to download apps straight from the developer, so “removing the gatekeeper” from app distribution.

It’s also possible to try out apps before you commit to downloading and installing them. This is due to the fact they’re built in HTML 5 – loading an app is not much different from loading a web app, such as Gmail. If you like the app, you can install it to the phone’s local storage to make it faster to load and available offline. It’s a useful way to keep your phone clear of rubbish if you like to try out lots of apps.

Firefox OS shows a lot of promise, but the company seems keen to concentrate on emerging rather than mature smartphone markets. We recommend looking to the ever-enterprising hacking community – someone’s bound to port Firefox OS to your device at some point.

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