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ZTE Open Firefox OS

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First thing first, you have to really lower your expectation for not simply saying this phone is crap. It is not on the same league as the iPhone 5S or any flagship Android phone. It’s on the opposite end of the spectrum, a dirt cheap entry level smartphone targeting kids, poor people in developing countries or those who are still using a plain old not-so-smart cell phone.

I got an used ZTE Open from eBay for only $10, the shipping costs more than the phone. For $25 in total I paid for the phone, I think it is a very good deal. I definitely would not pay $70 for a new one. Actually unless you find a cheap unused one, I would not recommend getting the ZTE Open now. Although the ZTE Open is only 1 year old, its hardware spec is worse than my 3 years of first generation Galaxy S. The worst of all is ZTE no longer actively supporting this phone, there is no OS update from ZTE, you will have to build your own OS. The newer model ZTE Open C is a better choice if you want to try out the Firefox OS.

The only reason I get this phone is to try out the Firefox OS, an alternatively OS other than iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The interesting thing about Firefox OS is every apps is implemented in Web technology, there is no native compiled code. The ZTE Open comes with Firefox OS 1.01, and ZTE provides an update to 1.1. That’s the end of the official upgrade path, from this point onward, the user is on his own. I followed the instruction on the internet (xda developers) and upgrade my phone to 1.2 and then 1.3, which is the latest stable-ist release. Upgrading the OS is pretty straight forward, similar to flashing a custom OS into an Android phone.

My first impression of Firefox OS is so-and-so. I am not sure the sluggish response is due to poor software or poor hardware of my phone. All the basic feature is there, making phone calls, surfing the web, GPS, Wi-Fi, maps and it even comes with an app store. You won’t find your popular Android or iPhone apps there yet, but in theory any mobile website can be repackage as an Firefox OS app as long as it can run offline. Firefox OS is still not mature enough for serious use. The basic core features are usable, but it still lacks many user friendly features, such as copy-and-paste. If you just need a phone to make phone calls, check emails and looking something up from the web, it is not a bad choice. The 1.3 build I use has some annoying little bugs, such as no sound on my headphone when listening to FM radio, the keyboard always shows capital letters. I am sure those little bugs will be fixed in future releases.

Mozilla foundation has announced a $25 Firefox OS phone in the WMC this year. With this super low price tag and when the OS is more mature, I can see Firefox OS may get a place in this smartphone war. At least it has better chance to survive than Blackberry OS and Windows Phone.

My ZTE Open is now officially the guest phone in the house with a 7-11 pre-paid SIM card. It’s good to have a spare phone laying around for my parents or anyone visiting Vancouver.

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