Firefox OS-based smartphone could lower costs at bottom market

Mobile phone operators have increased efforts to bring internet services to the average South Africans through cheaper communication gadgets.

Until now the local smartphone industry had been dominated by Android and iOS operating systems.

However, smartphones that use this type of operating systems are mostly expensive – even the lower-end ones are still out of reach for  the average person.

High-end models like Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge, which allow users internet connectivity, cost several thousand rand.

However, there is good news.

MTN has introduced cheaper Alcatel OneTouch Fire E smartphone, which is a Firefox OS-based smartphone.

Alcatel with its OneTouch Fire E is planning to make its presence felt in the burgeoning South African smartphone industry.

Placed in the ultra-low cost category, the Firefox OS-based cellphone provides customers with freedom to surf the internet with no walled gardens like those found on the Android and iOS smartphone such as Samsung and iPhones.

Firefox OS and Firefox Marketplace, Mozilla – maker of the Firefox browser – are driving efforts for “open” mobile ecosystem.

Firefox OS also delivers the exceptional security, privacy, customisation and user control that users have come to expect from the Firefox Web browser.

The Alcatel OneTouch Fire E will be available on prepaid for R1699 or on contract for R89 per month on the MTN MyChoice 25 package.

President of Mozilla Li Gong says that his organisation built Firefox OS as part of Mozilla’s mission to put “the power of the web in people’s hands”.

“We are excited to see MTN launching the first Firefox OS devices in South Africa, enabling millions more people to access the mobile web at an affordable cost,” says Gong.

The Alcatel OneTouch Fire E smartphone is based on a cross-platform HTML5, which provides solid features and encourages innovation from app developers.

Already MTN South Africa is tapping into this.

Larry Annetts, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN South Africa, says having a smartphone based on the Firefox operating system means the company can deliver more unique product innovations.

“For example, the phone can be easily set up for four of the 11 official languages, namely English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Xhosa,” explains Annetts.

“MTN will incorporate other languages in future versions of the phone. This means that our customers can choose the language they are most comfortable with and get a more naturally appealing connected experience,” he says

Alcatel OneTouch Fire E smartphone entrance won’t be easy

The South African industry is already flooded with a number of Android-based smartphones.

Both MTN and Vodacom have also successfully brought their own-branded Android smartphones to the local market, which retail at less than R600.

In January 2014 MTN – South Africa’s second biggest mobile phone operator – started retailing its own-branded Steppa 1, which has become the second biggest selling smartphone in the country.

In August 2014 South Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator Vodacom introduced an entry level smartphone, Vodacom Smart Kicka, as part of its strategy to connect the country.

Vodacom shipped more than 170 000 own-branded tablets in the last quarter of 2014, according to a report from global research firm IDC.

“South Africa is a country of early adopters of the latest smartphone trends and I am convinced they are going to love the Alcatel OneTouch Fire E smartphone now available from MTN,” says Ernst Wittmann Southern Africa Country Manager for Alcatel OneTouch.

The sleek design of the Alcatel OneTouch Fire E may entice South Africans to consider buying it and those who can’t afford the high-end smartphone may see it as an alternative.

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