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LG launches Firefox phone in Brazil

Brazil goes from zero to two Firefox phones, with the previously released Alcatel One Touch Fire and the LG Fireweb.

A screenshot of the LG Fireweb from Mozilla's promotional video. Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Two Firefox OS phones went on sale on Tuesday in Brazil, a country on which Mozilla has been pinning many of its Firefox OS hopes.

In addition to the Alcatel One Touch Fire, already the de facto flagship device for the nascent operating system since it's available in most countries that offer Firefox phones, Brazil gets the higher-end LG Fireweb.

The Fireweb ships with a 4-inch HVGA TFT screen, a 3G 1GHz Qualcomm processor, and a 5 megapixel camera. Telefonica's site says that it comes with 4GB of memory, while Mozilla says it's 2GB. The Fireweb starts at 129 Brazilian reals, or around $59.

That's lower than other comparable 3G phones available from Telefonica in Brazil, making it one of the lowest-priced smartphones the company offers.

The strategy has proved successful for Telefonica and Mozilla. In a recent interview with CNET, Telefonica's director of open Web services and chief Firefox salesman, Yotam Ben-Ami, said Firefox OS accounts for 12 percent of the company's sales in Venezuela after only three months.

Telefonica likes Firefox OS because, as an open-source operating system and a competitor to the Apple and Google duopoly, it frees the company from being little more than a service provider "dumb pipe" to pursue more control over the devices it sells.

Brazil, however, represents a much bigger opportunity for Mozilla and Telefonica. Ben-Ami said that it has similar market share goals for Brazil as it does for other countries.

"I think Brazil is going to be a massive breakthrough," Christian Heilmann, Mozilla's principal developer evangelist, said during a conversation in August about the challenges facing the operating system. "We did a lot of [user experience] research finding out what people need, things like the FM radio in the phone. The community there is really, really excited."

Mozilla isn't the only operating system maker looking at developing countries and seeing dollar signs. In addition to low-cost entries from Apple and Google, Microsoft has been pushing Windows Phone 8, and Canonical and Samsung are building their own as-yet unreleased operating systems.

If Firefox OS can claim low double-digit sales from Telefonica in Brazil within three months, as it has elsewhere, Mozilla will have gone a long way to claiming the high ground from naysayers in both strategy and impact.