Mozilla sets its sights on India, Indonesia with $25 Firefox OS phone

Hoping to tap into the large population that hasn’t yet made the move from feature to smartphone, Mozilla is aiming to bring a $25 phone to India and Indonesia. The company doesn’t actually make hardware but instead has been working on its Firefox OS software to power low-cost phones. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Mozilla COO Gong Li said the phones could be available this year.

Firefox OS Smartphoen

Phones running the Firefox OS are already available from carriers in Latin America and Europe but are priced higher. You can, for example, purchase a Firefox OS phone from ZTE on eBay for between $70 and $100. At $25 off-contract, the Mozilla-powered phones would cost similar to or not much more than a standard feature phone while providing some smartphone features. And by “some,” I mean the basics.

Unlike other mobile operating systems that focus on native apps, the Firefox OS offers apps built on standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. That means some popular apps, particularly those that are complex or tap deeply into the phone’s hardware, may never appear on a Firefox OS phone.

However, the handset does offer a minimum level of base smartphone features ranging from photo sharing, email and social network apps to mapping, games and media playback. And of course, Mozilla hopes that developers create even more apps using web technologies for its Firefox phones.

I have to give Mozilla credit for trying to get smartphones in the hands of more people at such a low price. And it couldn’t have picked better markets for the new handset; there are still hundreds of millions of consumers in both India and Indonesia that don’t have a smartphone due to budget constraints. The company will face a challenge, however, from Google Android(s goog) hardware partners trying to accomplish the same goal: to get their phones in the hands of as many people as possible by keeping costs down.