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With The Open, ZTE Aims To Get The Young And Adventurous Fired Up For Firefox OS

ZTE’s press conference yesterday didn’t really reveal anything we didn’t already know, but it at least gave us the opportunity to play with the Chinese OEM’s first Firefox OS-powered smartphone. The cost-conscious Open is apparently meant for “young people who are adventurers and want to try something new” (according to He Shiyou, head of ZTE’s Mobile Devices Division anyway), but how is it?
The Open’s 3.5-inch display is something of a mixed blessing here — it responds nicely to swipes and touch inputs, but its small size means that actions that require precision (say, banging out a text message) can be problematic if you have anything but the daintiest fingers. Color reproduction isn’t great and viewing angles are actually quite bad, but that’s to be expected out of such a price-conscious device.
On the plus side, the Open is actually rather pretty, in a pared-down minimalist sort of way. It’s a very round little thing, and the models on display here were swathed in a nice orange or blue soft-touch plastic (a not-so-subtle nod to Firefox’s emblem, methinks). A 3.2 megapixel fixed-focus camera rides high on the Open’s back, and image quality seemed to skew towards the underwhelming end of the quality spectrum.
To be quite frank, there really isn’t much to say about the hardware — like HP’s new Slate 7, it’s cheap and it works. But honestly, what else could you expect from a phone like this? If the images alone didn’t make it clear enough, the Open is a device meant to bust into emerging markets — it’s going launch first in Europe and Latin America starting this summer thanks to some help from wireless carrier Telefonica. There’s still no official word on price, but Mozilla engineering program manager Michael Treese told me that the bill of materials for ZTE’s Open comes out to “less than $100″ so I wouldn’t worry about going broke after buying one.
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