Mozilla, the developer of the Firefox web browser, has tied up with handset makers Intex and Spice to bring smartphones priced at USD 25 (Rs 1,500) to India in the next few months, a move that may redefine the "ultra-affordable" mobile phone market in the country.
Spice said the Firefox smartphones will be launched in July. Spice phones will have the Firefox Marketplace with applications such as Pinterest, LINE, Facebook and Twitter.
Mozilla showcased a smartphone prototype costing as little as USD 25 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, targeting developing countries including India and China. The Firefox operating system devices will compete with phones using Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows platforms.
"Mozilla is dedicated to putting the power of the web in people's hands, and Firefox OS frees consumers, developers, mobile providers and manufacturers from the limitations and restrictions of proprietary platforms," Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Li Gong said in a statement.
With more accessible Firefox OS phones coming to India soon and the addition of Intex and Spice to the team of global partners, it is clear that momentum for Firefox OS is continuing to accelerate, he added.
"The platform will give us an edge in upgrading buyers from feature phones to smartphones while making it affordable for the mass market. This will propel our devices to be much more than a way to use the web, but take the engagement further and develop the web as a mobile platform," Intex Technologies Business Head (Mobile) Sanjay Kumar Kalirona said.
The association will enable it to develop "unparallelled smart devices" on the latest Firefox OS platform, he added.
Dilip Modi, co-founder and CEO of Spice, said the firm has high expectations from this partnership.
"These phones will be affordably priced to ensure everyone can enjoy and experience the power of the Firefox OS phone," Modi added.
Smartphone sales in the country grew almost three-fold to over 44 million in 2013, buoyed by affordable devices made by local firms such as Micromax and Karbonn, according to research firm IDC.
In the first quarter of 2014, 17.59 million smartphones were shipped in India compared with 6.14 million in the same period of 2013.
While Samsung is the category leader with a 35 per cent market share, Micromax had 15 per cent, Karbonn 10 per cent, LAVA 6 per cent and Nokia 4 per cent in Q1, IDC said.
Low-cost handsets prices less than Rs 5,000 and smartphones not costing more than Rs 7,000 from Asian handset makers including Huawei, ZTE, Micromax and Karbonn have been driving growth in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa.
SMARTPHONE 2 LAST
Handset makers in the country believe India is on the cusp of a digital revolution as consumers switch from feature phones to smartphones at a scorching pace.
Various reports suggest that the next billion population accessing the Internet for the first time will do so on their phones instead of personal computers.
Also, the next 100 million connected users are expected to demand mobile content and services in local languages across a range of smart devices at an affordable cost.
Companies such as Microsoft, which acquired Nokia's handset division, are also targeting the affordable smartphone category aggressively, estimating it to be a USD 50 billion annual opportunity.
Other devices with Firefox OS to be available globally include the ZTE Open II and the Alcatel OneTouch Fire E.
The ZTE Open II has dual-core processors for better performance and will be available in the coming months in Latin America.
The Alcatel OneTouch Fire E has a dual-core Snapdragon processor with 5MP camera and 4.5-inch qHD screen for higher resolution.