The Mozilla Foundation's aim to create a Firefox OS for mobile devices was not to take a quixotic tilt at the top end of the smartphone market. Instead, it hoped to provide an alternative that would enable the delivery of low-cost, but still smart, devices to places where smartphones are still a significant purchase.
That plan looks to be working in India, where local outfit Spicephone has just announced it will offer the nation's first Firefox-OS-powered phone for Rs 2,299 (US$38, £23).
That's not a bargain basement price for a phone in Asia: your correspondent has spotted US$30 Androids in Cambodia and Taiwan. But Spicephone's home-grown Android handsets start at Rs 4,299, placing the “Fire One Mi-FX 1” at the bottom of its range where Mozilla thinks, in the nicest possible way, it belongs.
It is a basic phone with a 3.5in touchscreen (320 x 480 pixels). There's no 3G, so users have to make do with Edge, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Photos won't look great on the 2Mp rear-facing camera and the 1.3Mp model up front won't excite the selfie-conscious. The CPU hums along at just 1GHz. Two SIM ports are possibly the most exciting feature.
Reports suggest the phone will ship with several Indian languages ready to roll, a significant addition in a polyglot nation in which several languages other than Hindi are spoken by tens of millions of people.
Spicephone sees the handset as a stepping stone for those who want to buy something better than a feature phone, perhaps even a feature phone like the new US$25 Microsoft Nokia 130.
Indian media report that in the next few days the Fire One will find itself undercut by another Firefox OS handset selling for under Rs 2,000.
Even after that debut, Mozilla's mobile spawn will still have a tiny presence in India. But it will be in play, with a position and price between feature phones and “full” Android smartphones, and with enthusiastic backers. Empires have been built with less. ®