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$100 ZTE Open C phone carries new Firefox OS 1.3 to market

The Chinese handset maker begins selling its dual-core phone online with version 1.3 of Mozilla's Firefox OS for $100.

The ZTE Open C runs Firefox OS 1.3.
The ZTE Open C runs Firefox OS 1.3. Stephen Shankland/CNET

ZTE has begun selling its $100 Open C Firefox OS smartphone on eBay in the US, UK, Germany, Russia, and many European countries, bringing the latest version of Mozilla's browser-based mobile operating system, Firefox OS 1.3, to market along with a more powerful phone than last year's ZTE Open .

The ZTE Open C has a 4-inch screen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of memory, 3-megapixel camera, 4GB of storage, and is unlocked. ZTE announced the direct sales through eBay on Thursday, a useful sales channel but not one typically as influential as sales through mobile network operators that have lots of retail stores.

Although the Open C is a big step up from ZTE's inaugural Firefox OS phone, it's underpowered compared to high-profile, expensive models from big names like Samsung and Apple. Mozilla is aiming for a much more cost-sensitive market -- even aiming for $25 smartphones later -- and ZTE is a willing partner along with other handset makers such as LG Electronics, Huawei, and Alcatel.

Mozilla announced Firefox OS 1.3 Thursday, filling in several technical gaps, improving performance, and adding new features to permit games like Where's My Water. At the same time, Mozilla also touted the ZTE Open C sales: "The ZTE Open C is an amazing experience for first time smartphone buyers," said Li Gong, Mozilla's chief operating officer, in a statement.

ZTE also has a lower-end Firefox OS phone, the ZTE Open II .

Mozilla's browser-based mobile operating system runs Web apps, not native apps. That's a help, since lots of developers know Web coding and some websites will work on Firefox OS without programmers having to create a native app for a mobile OS like Apple's iOS or Google's Android. And that Web-approach is central to Mozilla's attempt to use Firefox OS to bring some of the Web's openness to mobile ecosystems where Apple and Google hold immense power.

In addition to sales over eBay in the US, UK, and Germany, the ZTE Open C is available over eBay's Global Buying Hub in Russia, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Malta, Luxembourg, Latvia, Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Iceland, Netherlands, Monaco, and Vatican City State.