Have you been jonesing for a chance to play with Mozilla’s Firefox OS smartphone operating system, but you don’t live in one of the countries where it’s been launched over the last month or so? Well lucky you: ZTE will soon start selling its Open handset around the world through eBay(s ebay).
It’s a rather unusual tactic for a major phone manufacturer (and yes, ZTE is one of those, although its cheap phones are often rebranded by operators) to sell directly to the consumer via eBay. But it does arguably make sense in this case as the devices in question are super-cheap for smartphones: just $79.99 through eBay U.S. and £59.99 through eBay UK ($92.94 – remember tax is automatically included in UK pricing).
In a statement on Monday, ZTE VP Dai Wenhong said the eBay route would put Firefox OS devices in more consumers’ hands (in an exclusive orange color):
“It is great honor to launch the ZTE Open Firefox OS phone worldwide through eBay. ZTE is devoted to providing more options for customers globally and enabling them to live better lives via advanced technology. The ZTE Open offers customers a smartphone experience at an incredible price point, making it ideal for cost conscious consumers or those looking to upgrade to a smartphone for the first time.”
In a separate blog post, Mozilla noted that the ZTE Open devices sold through eBay wouldn’t come with any localized apps or features, as they are intended for sale worldwide. That said, they’re also unlocked, and Mozilla said this made them ideal for “developers and early adopters”.
Selling directly to the consumer or developer may be a reaction on ZTE’s part to the fact that operators are rolling out Firefox OS devices in many countries, but usually just one model at this early stage.
So, while ZTE is already getting distribution into Spain, Colombia and Venezuela through Telefónica(s tef), Deutsche Telekom’s European rollout for Firefox OS (Poland, Hungary, Greece and Germany) is based on Alcatel’s One Touch Fire handset. ZTE’s move this week means early adopters in Germany, for example, will have a choice of devices when it comes to Firefox OS.
There’s a small chance that it’s also a hedge against operators not being as enthusiastic about Firefox OS as they have promised, but frankly, if that turns out to be the case then the operating system is dead in the water anyway. Not to worry though: at this early stage, all the signs are positive that carriers really are pushing this as a way of breaking Google(s goog) and Apple(s aapl)’s duopolistic hold on the smartphone market.