How Firefox OS smartphones from Intex and Spice are set to redefine market

A new front in India's entry-level smartphone market has opened up with local handset makers launching Firefox-powered devices. Intex Technologies and Spice, the Indian partners of US-headquartered Mozilla Corp, have launched smartphones based on the Firefox operating system at a time when local rivals Micromax and Karbonn are preparing to roll out affordable smartphones under the Google's Android One project.

Spice brought out its Fire One handset priced Rs 2,229, four days after Intex introduced Intex Cloud FX, priced Rs 1,999. Both players plan to roll out improved devices based on this web technology-based platform.

Fire One allows users to access apps directly without having to download them from an app store, like in Android phones. It also supports features like 'Adaptive App Search' or the 'Single-window Search', allowing users to find relevant information and apps immediately .

Prashant Bindal, chief executive officer of Spice Mobility, said the company expects huge traction towards Firefox devices and has decided to make available 20,000 Firefox devices next month itself.

Intex's business head for mobile phones, Sanjay Kumar Kalirona, said the company expects demand for its Firefox devices to touch 100,000 within the next 21 days, and about 500,000 in the next three months.

James Ho, senior director of mobile devices at Mozilla, told ET that the company is keen to partner more Indian brands. "We are making big changes to the OS, including 3G support, which will come to handsets over this year," Ho said.

Jane Hsu, director of product marketing at Mozilla, had said earlier that the company expects to tie up with a larger Indian brand by mid-September.

At the entry-level segment, handset vendors are wooing the millions of feature phone users in the country who want to switch to smartphones. "With the introduction of Mozilla and Android One, the sub $200 segment is anticipated to become even more appealing," said Kiran Kumar, research manager, client devices, at market research firm IDC India.

According to IDC, the Indian smartphone market could top 160 million units by 2018, driven mainly by consumers switching from feature phones to smartphones.

Karan Thakkar, senior market analyst at IDC India, said local vendors are lowering entry-level price points every quarter. "This ultra-low cost segment may not sound a viable option to the repeat buyers, but it works well on the targeted segment."

Besides Android One and Firefox devices, the entry of Chinese vendors like Xiaomi, Gionee and Oppo will give a boost to the entry-level smartphone segment.

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