Firefox OS to help Orange boost smartphone use in Africa

Mozilla's OS is the best option for super-cheap smartphones, but more apps are needed

Orange is hoping a sub-US$40 bundle of a Firefox OS smartphone with calls, messages and data will help boost smartphone usage in Africa and the Middle East.

On the same day that Samsung Electronics and HTC are announcing new flagship models, Orange is launching a smartphone at the other end of the spectrum. The Klif is a 3G smartphone based on Mozilla's Firefox OS platform. It has a 3.5-inch screen and a dual-core processor from MediaTek.

Firefox OS is an open source platform built around applications and a user interface written in HTML5, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript, and Mozilla Foundation is pitching it as a cheaper and more open alternative to Android and iOS. Orange says it was the only platform to meet its requirements on both price and a good user experience. For now, Android can't get quite as low, according to Orange.

One thing Orange would like to see more apps, which is a challenge for Firefox OS as well as any other new platform trying to challenge Android's and iOS's dominance.

Smartphone penetration in African countries where Orange has networks is about 11 percent. So the product was developed because Orange needed a really cheap device to increase smartphone usage among customers who today use feature phone, according Guillaume de Riberolles [cq], an Orange marketing director.

Those who buy the $40 bundle will get up to six months of communication services, including up to 500MB of data per month. Orange is hoping that will make it easier to get started. After the six months are over, customers will be able to switch to a pay-as-you-go tariff, said de Riberolles.

The Klif is exclusive to Orange, will start shipping during the second quarter and was developed with Alcatel OneTouch. In addition to the above mentioned specs, the smartphone has also has a 2-megapixel camera on the back and 512MB of storage.

The Klif will be available in Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Cameroon, Botswana, Madagascar, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Jordan, Niger, Kenya, Mauritius and Vanuatu.

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