If you’re at all like me and have been itching to get your hands on a funky new Firefox phone but unfortunately don’t live in one of the nine countries currently selling them, well today’s your lucky day. ZTE, the Chinese company that makes the Open Firefox phone, has just taken the rather unusual step of selling its handsets directly through eBay, to anyone in the world.
For a major mobile phone maker this is quite an irregular move, as these companies usually just sell their hardware through carriers to avoid the hassle of dealing with consumers directly. However, in the case of the Firefox device which is super cheap for something that amounts to a smartphone it does make sense – with the devices priced at just $79.99 on the US eBay.
In a statement, ZTE’s Vice President Dai Wenhong said that the idea was to get more Firefox phones into the hands of consumers:
“It is great honor to launch the ZTE Open Firefox OS phone worldwide through eBay. ZTE is devoted to providing more options for customers globally and enabling them to live better lives via advanced technology. The ZTE Open offers customers a smartphone experience at an incredible price point, making it ideal for cost conscious consumers or those looking to upgrade to a smartphone for the first time.”
Mozilla has also given its consent to the move, even though it previously stated that Firefox phones would only go on sale in nine countries to begin with. In a blog post on its site, Mozilla elaborated on ZTE’s announcement, saying that the Open phones wouldn’t come with any localized features or apps, unlike those that are sold through carriers in countries like Spain and Poland. The phones will also be unlocked, which means they’ll be ideal for developers wanting to build apps for the Firefox OS, as well as early adopters.
To date, neither Mozilla nor ZTE has said anything about how many of the Firefox devices they have sold, so it’s too early to say if this move is due to slow sales. Alternatively it could be that carriers have been slow on the uptake – in most countries where the phones have been released, telecoms companies have only offered one model so far, either the ZTE Open or Alcatel’s One Touch Fire. For example, while ZTE’s Open has been released (or is just about to be released) in Colombia, Spain and Venezuela, in countries like Hungary, Greece, Germany and Poland, Alcatel’s handset is the only one on sale at the moment. By selling its devices on eBay, those curious about the Firefox OS will now have a choice.
However, if ZTE’s move really is because consumers or carriers just haven’t shown much interest in Firefox OS, then it could be a rather ominous sign. If it can’t get off the ground in countries where smartphones have minimal penetration, what chance does it have in the US?
Thankfully though, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Carriers have, at least publicly, been extremely positive about pushing Firefox OS as they’re desperate to break the monopolistic stranglehold that Google and Apple have over them.