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ZTE Open Firefox OS phone is available on eBay (ebay.com)
114 points by UkiahSmith on Aug 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

57 comments into this thread and not one mention of the string "baseband".

Surprising, as that is far and away the most interesting thing that could happen in this space, and it continues to not happen.

Depending on the phone and the implementation of the baseband firmware, your carrier could have as deep as DMA access to that computer in your hand.

Osmocom is interesting, but it is 2G only, works (almost) exclusively on euro-GSM handsets, and is barely making calls at this point.

This (the op) is all very interesting, but all that matters is getting an open baseband firmware that you can protect from the carrier.

There's no talk about basebands because there's nothing anyone can do about it.

just like nobody could run anything except a proprietary operating system in the 80s?

But could they get access to my PIN number?

I hope other organizations related to free software follow this route. Where is GNU Mobile? Debian Mobile? FreeBSD Mobile? etc, etc.

In six days ends the Ubuntu Edge "fundraising" but I don't think this is the way to go. If few people like Linus Torvalds ignited a revolution why the same is not happening on the mobile space with less than $ 32mm? Even starting without big expectations about the market penetration because probably in a few years we will buy generic mobile phones in the same way that we buy PCs today.

I think the priority is to have a good native UI there. We already have a lot of OSes to choose from.

Generally, rms does not advocate free hardware (free as in freedom). You might be interested in this article from 1999:


I think you're misrepresenting RMS. In that article, he is mostly saying that hardware cannot be properly copyrighted/copylefted, and then pushes for open access to hardware interface specifications.

The closest to "not advocat[ing] free hardware" I can see in the article is where RMS states that there is (at that time) no way to download hardware the way we download software. correct me if I'm wrong.

Well, if I misrepresented him then certainly not intentionally. However, please have a look at this talk by rms where he addresses the question of free hardware in more detail:


Gnu mobile is still waiting on HURD.


That is the Linux Foundation Mobile OS

The Tizen with no announced devices and proprietary SDK? No thanks, I rather place my trust on Mer/Nemo.

I'm very positive about FFOSes future, but if you're thinking of buying one today, bear in mind that you will be buying into an ecosystem that is under very heavy development.

My dev phone is very, very slow. I couldn't use it as my daily driver. But I look forward to the time when I can.

Out of curiosity, are you running the latest FxOS build, etc.? I know Engadget has an article somewhere saying the lagginess improved a bit.

I ordered one in order to replace my feature phone. Although the phone doesn't crash nor would I call the UI feedback on pressing a button "laggy", it certainly isn't fast.

As best I know I am, yes- I see relatively frequent "System Update" notifications and apply them whenever I get them.

Check to see if you are on the 1.0.1 or the 1.1 channel. 1.1 is a lot better and has been getting very stable over the last month.

So you don't need to build a new Firefox OS release on your PC and flash it, the phone will just update itself?

Firefox OS includes over the air updates. You can also build your own and flash it if you want.

From Belgium:

Unfortunately, access to this particular item has been blocked due to legal restrictions in some countries. We are blocking your viewing in an effort to prevent restricted items from being displayed. Regrettably, in some cases, we may prevent users from accessing items that are not within the scope of said restrictions because of limitations of existing technology. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause, and we hope you may find other items of interest on eBay.

What legal reasons are preventing ebay from displaying it ? Buying I might understand but not displaying the item ?

At least this one works: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ZTE-Open-3G-Unlocked-Firefox-OS-Ce...

I can see it from Canada, but I can't buy it, they only ship to the US.

Swede here, can't seem to buy it from ebay.us.uk either seems some countries are blocked from getting it. :(

Same here, Canadian as well. It's really too bad, I was looking forward to get my hands on it.

Same :'(

Huh, they ship to most of Europe, but not to Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Estonia? How did they arrive at this weird set of countries?

wow they send to Cyprus. This must be a first!

I am amused that the zte_us seller email address is: Livinglife9012@yahoo.com

Bought one. For $80 and apps built on web technologies, there's got to be SOMETHING I can do with this thing...

Maybe you could make a phone call to someone.

It is certainly a phone.

You never heard of the Openmoko? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openmoko)

I really want to make an app for this platform. I just don't know what it will be yet. But I believe in Mozilla and I want them to have a place at the table.

Am I the only person left on the planet who pines for tactile buttons in a small device I can use with one hand?

I still look for tactile buttons, but not when it comes to a handset.

For instance: I don't plan to own a car that incorporates an in-dash entertainment/nav system w/ a touch-only interface. (My only notable exception would probably be a Tesla vehicle.)

When picking out an aftermarket head unit: I look for tactile controls that I can operate, _without looking_, using one hand. I've passed up some superior equipment (from an audio standpoint) simply because it has a touch-screen, an unintuitive interface, or poor tactile feedback.

The reason I don't apply these same restrictions to my taste in handsets is simple: I don't use my phone when I'm distracted. The phone itself _is_ a distraction. So long as the interface is responsive and fluid I don't particularly care about feedback, because the phone typically has my undivided attention whenever I'm using it. I only pine for tactile feedback when the device is to be used in conjunction with an activity that requires a concentrated effort.

Funny, years ago a friend of mine refused to go touchscreen phone, because he was able to send a text message without looking at the phone as it had actual buttons.

I'm more like you, but I like to have a physical button on my phone for the camera. I don't find the on-screen camera button user friendly, esp for half-press focus/exposure. It severely limits my choice of phone though...

I was the same as your friend. And unlike drbawb, I never gave my phone my undivided attention.

Back in the day, PC gamers would learn quick repetitive sequences of key presses, sometimes with specific time delays. It would allow you to quickly select what you wanted so you could continue gaming in real time. I used phones the same way.

End, star, menu, up, select, up, up, select, "4390416046662023020548853052831,down,right,0225509680460,long 3,long 0", select, select, end, keylock.

I would send that text to my girlfriend while I was driving - while the phone was still in my pocket. It's impossible to do today with a smartphone. Luckily, dumb phones still have interfaces that respect certain rules of user input, and have simple single-tasking schedulers that obey your every command without hesitation. The only downside is the lack of good cameras, but the GPS nav and very minimal browsers give me almost all the functionality I need.

For reference, the best T9 texting phones i've ever used were Sony Ericsson. They were european-designed for a market that had long since embraced texting, and made it as natural, efficient and intuitive as possible. Oh the glory days...

[The text I sent above? "Hey i'm gonna be a little late, call you in 30"]

Haha, that's awesome. I'm guessing you were 30 mins late pretty often then? :) I never had the capacity to learn all the key combo's, I do remember hearing about competitions to find the fastest texter, going with somwthing like 100 words a minute or something.

I had Sony Ericssons, Motorolas but the Nokia interface worked best for me (I had my Nokia N95 for a LONG time, 4 or 5 years). I found it came down to whatever you were used to, since the placement of the keys and combos were different (for things like commas, apostrophies etc) between the different brands.

I'm with you as well. I refuse to get navigation systems in cars (and I work in the automotive industry!) or radios without physical buttons. As far as texting, these days I find it easier to just use Siri to send a text message than to have to type it out on a keyboard - especially when I'm walking and my entire body shakes making it very easy to mishit letters. At least with Siri, you get an audible proof-read.

I'm not gonna lie, although I love the convergence the iPhone provides, I still miss T9 and have many fond memories texting directly from my pocket to other classmates in high school. Once you mapped the alphabet to the number keys in your mental model, communication was a breeze -- until it came time to actually read a response, of course.

I just want a smartphone that I can use with one hand :(

Not sure what it is about all Android phones now being the size of a house!

Interesting idea, but I don't think I could go back to that style of phone without a QWERTY keyboard.

It's the form factor - I think iPhone 4 is the perfect size, iPhone 5 if also fine, so around a 4-inch screen . Everything these days seems to be 4.7-5 inch, which just feels to big in my hand and esp too big to carry around in my pocket. It used to be possible to reach all corners of the screen with just my thumb, i.e. one handed operation for most things.

I would get an iPhone but I refuse to install iTunes on my computer, enjoy the freedom of Android and have no idea how to navigate with just a single ([]) button :(

How in-depth have you used these 4.7-5 inch phones? I ask because it doesn't really map to my experience at all--I have small hands (8" stretch, 6.5" length) and can reach corner of a Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, or SGS3 without any difficulty whatsoever.

I haven't used them that much, but enough to know I can't reach all parts of the screen with one hand (http://thenextweb.com/apple/2012/04/11/a-widescreen-4-iphone...).

Regardless of the stretch, my biggest nag is the form factor in my pocket. I don't have a handbag/manbag so all my stuff usually comes with me in my pocket. I also use my phone a lot for music, so a big phone in the gym is a nuisance. I also use it as my everyday camera - I have my phone and an SLR. When I am doing sports activities (biking or snowboarding mainly) I will take my phone. That slightly bigger phone is an annoyance, and I feel as if I am more likely to break the phone. Just a personal preference, but I may have to jump over to an HTC One or a Sony Xperia Z because the processing power is just too tempting to miss out on. I'll keep my old phone as a backup for those other times.

Wait... it's not April, it's August... Is the calendar in South Korea different or something?

but you do have to use what's available like everyone else

Finished Paypal checkout: "You sent a payment of 79.99 USD to Livinglife9012@yahoo.com"


Haha, yeah. I noticed that while rushing to buy it a few minutes before having to leave the house to drop off my son at school. It hit me on my way to work, "Wait, who exactly did I just send $80 to?"

Then I checked the email confirmation and noticed the seller was zte_us. Whew.

Just bought one, thinking that missing apps won't be a problem, since I only really use a few:

    - awesome web browser? check.
    - maps? check.
    - hipMenu? fail. :(
I don't know how they did it, but they actually got the majority of the food joints in the city where I live in the app, with a nice consistent interface. Most places also have websites, but they're horrible to use.

There is another listing with a price tag of $162.50. Other than those shipped from Hong Kong and without original packaging, I don't see any differences.


I wouldn't trust ZTE all that much. They have a record of bribes, surveillance, and security holes. See the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZTE and especially this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/18/us-zte-phone-idUSB...

It looks like they're sold out (985 sold). Does anyone know if they are selling any more? I couldn't find any information on the Firefox OS official site.

Although I would say that the release of this first phone is very awesome, it does need to at least support 4G before it will be purchased and used by most people.

I was going to tell you that "the countries this phone is targeted at don't even have 4G". But what do you know: Russia, India, Brazil, all have 4G networks [1]. That's really impressive...

[1] http://www.worldtimezone.com/4g.html

+ it doesn't ship anywhere besides US

It ships to the UK too

Can this be used as a wifi device without the cell plan?


edit: but you will have to wait for a later release (1.2 I think) for webrtc support to be able to make voice calls without a cell plan.

Just bought one, we'll see if it lives up to the hype. I did need an unlocked phone anyways so this was a good excuse to buy something neat...

Just got mine. So far I'm kinda unimpressed. Its key-sense is clunky/latent, the camera is a little dark. Browsing is OK, youtube works, other video stuff doesn't. The orange is not as horrible as I thought it would be. Haven't been able to make a call with it yet since I don't have a good SIM for it, but $80 for an unlocked phone is a good deal any way you look at it...

Anybody know what SIM size it uses? I have a hard time finding that info.

IIRC it uses a micro SIM.

No, it's using a mini SIM

This appears to be the first device running the MSM7225A at 1GHz (many other android devices use this, all at 600MHz or 800MHz).

Edit: also very surprised there's no bluetooth support.

There is bluetooth support: bluetooth headsets and file transfer works. More profiles are being added in the next releases.

The specs say 320x480 px screen, which is a bit disappointing.

I'm not an expert, but £59.99 is a very competitive price for an unlocked smartphone.

I thought that too, but then I found the ZTE Tania, for £69.99, same seller as the Open. It's a Windows Phone, but it's got a faster CPU, 800 x 480 screen, 217ppi (vs. 480 x 320 on the Open), bigger battery, more flash. No micro-SD slot though.


Comparison: http://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=5320&idPhone2=...

as ippisl mentioned, china has ample supply of cheap android devices of varying quality.

Here is one $90 one, with far better specs than the Fx phones (on paper):


* Cortex A9 vs A5

* Dual-core vs single-core

* 512 vs 256 MB ram

* 4GB vs 512 MB "rom" (flash)

* 800x480 vs 480x320 display resolution

* 5MP vs 3MP camera (most likely both are useless)

* Smaller dimensions even with a larger display

Too bad that you can't just install whatever OS you want easily on whatever hardware. And of course random cheap Chinese electronics are bit risky purchases quality wise.

It's the same price as the low end Samsung android phones with comparable specs. If you're willing to roll the dice with no-name phones imported directly from China, you can get an unlocked smartphone for around $50

FFOS will almost certainly be more usable on low-spec than Android... have you tried the category you mentioned? It's horrible.

I currently use Android version of the same ZTE phone. It definitely can't compare to the Galaxy Nexus that I used to have, but it works well enough.

I'm thinking of switching to the Open, but I wonder how hard it would be to get it to work on Straight Talk's network.

My first android phone had worse or similar specs, and it worked well enough.

From my experience, this gets worse and worse with the new versions...

A smartphone to be useful has to have applications and a market to get more applications. A smart-phone that doesn't is no better than a an older locked down brick or flip phone with pre-loaded vendor supplied 'apps'

No. A smartphone has a fully competent web browser, which instantly places it far, far higher than a brick or flip phone.

A user doesn't care what underlying technology it has. Even crappy phones have some web browser on them. A user cares about thing like "Can I get Shazam installed?" or "What about my Facebook app and the game I saw my cousin play on his iPhone?" If the answer if no, they don't care what magic soup of technology acronyms there are inside.

You're putting barriers up where there are none. A user cares about "can I get Facebook", and with a modern smartphone browser, the answer is "yes".

Obviously there are fewer choices available than in the iTunes Store, but the phone is also incredibly cheap when compared to an iPhone.

Assuming a proper network connection and data plan are available.

For around $110 you can get a decent android phone from China, for example www.buyincoins.com/item/31125.html

Does anyone have experience with phones like these?

What carriers does it support in the US?

You couldn't scrolled down a few inches to see:

    Support US 3G NETWORK
    2G NETWORK:GSM 850/900/1800/1900
    3G NETWORK:UMTS 850/1900 
Which is any GSM carrier and, depending on your area, 3G from ATT and Tmo or just ATT + all the MVNO's, US Cellular and other smaller regionals that lease from ATT

I did see that, however I wasn't sure which band ATT and TMO use since in europe they don't use the same 3 we do in the US. Many of the MVNOs buy their minutes from sprint or verizon.

So how would I go about using this phone to call someone or text someone, I'd have to get a plan through AT&T first? Would they even support my phone? Or am I understanding this wrong.

Since you're binging your own phone and its 3G limited, your best bets for cheap plans is an ATT PAYG plan [0] and I would forgo the data plan or StraightTalk [1]. If you want data, you can probably get away with ATT's 'basic' phone unlimited data plan (Honestly, I would consider a FfOS a feature phone and not a smartphone) for $35 a month. Or a StraightTalk ~$44 a month unlimited plan that doesn't care about feature phone / smartphone.

I personally I have a Tmo sim that I have preloaded with ~100min call time and 100MB of data for emergency use + an ATT sim with similar (I have an actual ATT contract as well). You'll have to buy a sim, or if you get lucky, both Tmo and ATT have 'sales' where you can get the SIM for free

[0]: http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans/prepaidplans.html

[1] http://www.straighttalk.com

The Straight Talk plans on AT&T's network have a hidden 100MB/day limit, after which your data gets effectively shut off (you still get miniscule bandwidth, but it's unusable) and their policy for how long you get shut off is completely opaque. Customer "service" switches you to a recording if you ask about it. VERY not recommended. T-mo doesn't have daily limits as far as I know.

I really wouldn't call this a huge dealbreaker, given they're a budget MVNO. Now Tmo on the other hand has off-network roaming limits that are ridiculously small (like 35mb small) for the entire billing period...and given the scope of their network (read: nonexistent outside of big cities) you're pretty much boned if you live outside a big city.

It wouldn't be if the policy were clear. I was in bandwidth jail through the end of the billing period and could not get an answer about when it would be lifted. At that point, it became impossible to continue with that "service."

"(Honestly, I would consider a FfOS a feature phone and not a smartphone.)"

You would. I hope to God that AT&T will, too. The whole "you -must- have a data plan if you have a smartphone" is ridiculous.

In any case, I don't think they have automatic 'smartphone' detection, and if they do, they probably won't add ZTE Open to their list any time soon.

By the way, I didn't know AT&T had a 'basic' phone data plan. Will have to look into that. I -do- happen to have a feature phone now, so it won't be hard to convince them to give me that option.

Not many know/do this, but it's possible to have a smartphone without a dataplan (or at least is for the gophone plans). Walk into a store and ask for them to set a SIM card up for you. Tell them you don't have the flip phone with you (if they ask) and they'll likely program the card for an all 1's IMEI. You might be able to do this yourself online as well if you purchase one from their store , but I'm not positive.

Once you have your 1111111111111111 IMEI SIM card, cut it down to size if necessary, turn off cell data on your smartphone, pop the card in, and power cycle your device. I've had this running successfully on a few different devices (iPhone 3gs, Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy) for the last 2-3 years. I use their 2-dollar a day plan (free to receive texts, only get charged if you respond or make a call) with the majority of my usage over WiFi only - but I still receive texts for free and can respond/call in an emergency. Costs me ~8.33 a month.

They do have automated filtering by IMEI for smartphone / dumbphone -- every handset line has a specific IMEI sequence and they update the filter when new phones are released fir AT&T. Your guess is as good as mine on how up to date those filters are for not-released-on-ATT phones.

If you want to use it as a secondary phone and use it infrequently you might want to look at the pay by the day plans from T-mobile. http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/pay-by-the-day-cell-phone... This is what I plan on getting when I buy one of these phones.

Any timeline for a CDMA phone? ... googling.

I would peg it at "Highly unlikely" since most of the world uses GSM and CDMA carriers are a pain in the ass to support iirc.

Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular refuse to unlock their phones, and even if you convince someone to do it, they won't activate a phone that wasn't originally bought on their network. So I doubt that's going to happen.

This right here is why I loathe Sprint.

I actually get a pretty decent price from them for running an iPhone 4S [my employer offers a discount for sprint services], but I'd like to move it to T-Mobile as they would offer a much faster network. Sprint's 3G is terrible here in SE Wisconsin.

Of course: Sprint won't unlock my iPhone, even though it's the exact same hardware that Apple/T-Mobile would sell me. Selling my 4S, of course, means losing my ability to jailbreak.

(I don't plan to move to a newer iPhone, as I hate the form-factor of the iPhone 5... but I also don't want to spend another $600+ on an Android or Windows flagship phone.)

Verizon will unlock the GSM part of your phone if you tell them you're travailing internationally. Would Sprint do that too?

They do have an "international unlock team" that handles this exact scenario. However, everything I've read indicates that the phone still won't accept SIMs from domestic GSM carriers.

If you're jailbroken, why not baseband unlock too?

I have the 4S and iOS 6.

I wasn't aware of any baseband unlocks that work w/ that setup, but it's certainly something I'd consider.

just bought one. looking forward to developing for firefox os.

Will this become the new Raspberry Pi of smartphones ?

US only shipping for now.

Only a (seemingly arbitrary) subset of EU. Denmark is in, but Sweden is out for example.

But it is not at all for all EU countries. I'm in Sweden and it's on the darn "Excludes" list. Very weird.

surprisingly enough they send to my country (Cyprus) which is not even mainland and they don't send to Estonia which is supposed to be one of Europe's start-up centers

Yes same here, just emailed and tweeted to them to see why

Any luck for Canadians?

Doesn't seem to be available on ebay.ca.

But all the best coders live in Canada!

another reason why they need to move to the USA

Just bought one. :)

crap. doesn't ship to my country : (

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