MWC: will the £25 Mozilla smartphone catch on?

MOZILLA has shown off a prototype for a smartphone that will cost just $25 (£15). The phone will be aimed at the growing market in the developing world. 

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mozilla – a company known primarily for its internet browser Firefox – announced a new partnership with Chinese chip designer Spreadtrum Communications that it believes will make smartphones that cost less than $25 a real possibility.

"We're working with [Spreadtrum] to break through the $50 barrier, which is hard," Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich told CNET's Stephen Shankland.

The phone will be aimed at "cost-sensitive" markets such as India and Indonesia, CNET reports. The device will not be as powerful as top-end smartphones, but will be able to access mobile internet and be able to run apps, which regular "feature" mobile phones cannot do.

"These solutions expand the global accessibility of open web smartphones to first-time and entry-level smartphone buyers by reducing the time and cost required for handset makers to bring these devices to market," said Spreadtrum.

The new phones will run Firefox OS, and, according to Mozilla, could bring an end to feature phones. "The combination of Firefox OS with Spreadtrum's entry-level smartphone platforms has the potential to dramatically extend the reach of smartphones and the Web globally," said Dr Li Gong, Mozilla Senior Vice President of Mobile Devices and President of Asia Operations.

Devices running Firefox OS are already available in 15 markets on three different devices, but Mozilla hopes to expand rapidly, by entering the Latin American market, ZDNet reports. Even more lucrative could be the company's push into East Asia where Chinese network ZTE plans to add two new Firefox OS-powered models to its line-up, which experts believe could generate one million sales by the end of the year.

However, many observers predict that Mozilla ultra-cheap smartphone will not have an easy ride. "It will face stern competition from bigger, more established brands," the BBC says.

Shankland of CNET agrees: "Today, Apple's iOS and Google's Android dominate the market for smartphones and tablets," he says. "It's hard to compete against an incumbent that's got millions of users, hundreds of thousands of apps, and few signs of the complacency that can open a door for challengers."

MWC 2014 preview: Bendy screens, mini phones, super cameras

17 February

TECH nerds rejoice! Mobile World Congress is finally here, and 2014 promises to be a bumper year for new phone launches, with most of the big players expected to unveil flagship models at the Barcelona conference. So what can we look forward to now that the conference is underway?

Check One 2

HTC blasted its way back into the mobile phone premier league at last year's MWC with the launch of the HTC One. Techradar said it was their "top pick" of 2013 and called it "the phone that the likes of Samsung and Apple have been aspiring to". Can they launch an update just 12 months later? Rumours anticipate the arrival of an HTC One 2 (or M8 or Two, depending on which sources you believe), but some, including Techradar, think that the phone may actually launch after the conference is finished. Leaked images suggest that the handset may have a curved polished metal finish, and a double camera to assist with low-light image capture and improved depth of field. The HTC One 2 may also be joined by a One 2 Mini, designed to succeed the company's One Mini, Expert Reviews reports. The phone may include a MicroSD slot for expanded storage and is expected to have a generous 5-inch screen.

Samsung gets the bends?

The most hotly anticipated phone of 2014 is the Samsung Galaxy S5, which senior executive Dong-hoon Chang said would be made of a "new material". Some believe this could mean a flexible display or a curved design, but Sammobile, a website dedicated to Samsung news, says the company actually intends to follow the lead of its great rival Apple by making the Galaxy S5 available in both plastic and metal. Last year Apple released new iPhone models with a top-of-the-range metal iPhone 5s and a slightly cheaper plastic 5c. But will the phone arrive in time to be unveiled on the conference floor? Expectations are running high that the announcement could come today.

LG just can't help itself

There is a fine line between teasing and revealing, as Miley Cyrus – and now LG – have shown. Over the past few weeks, the company's PR unit has been teasing news of an upcoming launch, but the latest post on the LG Facebook page pretty much confirms they will be launching a G2 Mini. With the conference underway the first hands-on reviews are coming through. So what can the new phone do? One of its more appealing qualities is that it shares the rear-mounted controls of its larger sibling – the volume rocker and unlock button are shifted from the front of the device to just below the camera on the back. The smartphone also boasts a not-terribly-mini 4.7-inch display with a 720p resolution, plus a quad-core processor, and an 8-megapixel camera, proving that good things can come in small packages.

A strong Finnish?

For many mobile users of a certain vintage, the name Nokia still evokes an emotional response. Many 90s kids cut their teeth on a Nokia mobile, and the Finnish company has begun clawing back some lost ground. At MWC 2014, Nokia has launched its first family of Android phones, the BBC reports. The  X, X+ and XL will all run Android, replacing the Windows operating system they have recently adopted – and despite Microsoft's intention to buy Nokia's mobile division. Analysts have called the announcement a "perplexing strategic move," the BBC reports.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

As well as the launch of sober high-end phones, MWC is also known for demonstrations of new quirks and oddities. Last year Hapifork demoed a digital fork to help you lose weight; this year the iPot will help amateur chefs improve their cooking with the help of their smartphone. There will also be no shortage of new wearable devices according to PC World, and virtual reality is set for a comeback as the Oculus Rift drifts ever closer. · 

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