ZTE Open C hands-on: what does the Firefox say (about emerging markets)?
The Firefox OS-running ZTE Open C smartphone is the successor to last year's ZTE Open. This phone left a lot of room for improvement, both hardware and software-wise, so naturally, we were curious what the Chinese manufacturer's Firefox OS arm has been up to lately. Here are our early impressions.
On the left side, we have the volume rocker. On the right side, there is nothing to see, but plastic. On the top, we have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the bottom, there's the micro-USB port for data and charging. The back-cover is removable. As a whole, the device feels okay, and it's especially comfortable for single-handed use. This speaks of good ergonomics.
The ZTE Open C comes with a 4-inch TFT display. Its resolution is WVGA, or 480x800 pixels, which makes for a pixel density of 233ppi. That's a decent score for a screen this size. It's fair to say that, considering its low price point, the ZTE Open C's viewer looks good. Obviously, it's a bit washed out and grainy, but we've seen cheap phones do a lot worse.
Interface and software
The ZTE Open C runs Firefox OS 1.3 - the latest version of the operating system that's currently available. We spotted a better, faster multi-tasking implementation, which is a nice improvement, but as a whole, the system isn't brimming with new functionality. However, the phone feels much faster than that Alcatel One Touch Fire when we reviewed it, for example. This means that the bulk of the improvements might be under the hood.
Processor and memory
The ZTE Open C comes with a dual-core Qualcomm MSM8210 chipset, also known as the Snapdragon 200. Although this is Qualcomm's lowest 2013 CPU, paired with 512MB RAM (double that of the ZTE Open), it seems to handle Firefox OS well. Storage-wise, the Open C has 4GB of space (much better than the puny 0.5GB of its ancestor), and the space can be expanded via a microSD card. The battery capacity is 1400mAh (up from 1200), which means that battery life is now better. The ZTE Open C is complete by the usual set of Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi connectivity features.
On the back of the phone, we have a very basic 3MP camera. It doesn't feature auto-focus, nor flash. There is no front-facing camera to speak of. With many low-cost offerings lacking a front shooter, it seems that the emerging markets will be late to the selfie trend.
Overall, the ZTE Open C is a very unpretentious phone. While it's solid for a such a budget offering, there is plenty of work left to be done on Firefox OS before it becomes truly compelling. Mozilla's initiative to bring low-cost phones to developing countries is very commendable, but these customers too deserve a fine, polished mobile experience. Hopefully, Mozilla realizes this and is working to up the ante. While ZTE hasn't revealed the Open C's price, we expect it to hover slightly below or over $100. The Open C will be initially launched with Telefónica in Venezuela and Uruguay during the second quarter of 2014.