Firefox OS-Based ZTE Open Shipping Soon In The US And UK For $80 Unlocked, Orders Start Friday

How do you make a splash in the heavily entrenched U.S. and U.K. mobile markets, which are dominated by Android and iOS? Release a Firefox OS-based device for just $79.99 off-contract and unlocked, that’s how. Want to raise even more eyebrows? Offer it exclusively via eBay. That’s exactly what ZTE is doing with the Firefox mobile platform-powered Open “soon,” with orders apparently opening Friday.

ZTE announced the news via a press release on their official site today, saying the Open, which launched in Spain, Venezuela and Colombia earlier this year, will come to the U.S. and the U.K. via their eBay stores in both those countries in a unique Orange colorway later this year for just $79.99 (£59.99 in the U.K.), and will be “unlocked to allow use on all mobile networks.” The eBay sites both carry banners saying “bidding” will open Friday for the device.

The ZTE Open, for those who are unaware, supports 3G connectivity, has a 480 by 320 3.5-inch display, offers expandable memory via a microSD slot, packs a 3.15-megapixel rear camera and is powered by a 1.0 GHz Cortex-A5 processor. With those specs, it’s possible that we could be talking about a three-year old device, but the ZTE Open isn’t designed to blow away the competition in a specs race – it’s made to show what a phone can do with an OS based on open web standards while staying cheaper unlocked than most modern smartphones are on-contract.

Firefox OS and devices like the ZTE One and Alcatel One Touch Fire are designed to offer a lot of value to emerging markets, where traditional smartphones are priced too high to be attainable for many consumers. But the launch of the ZTE Open in U.S. and U.K. markets will show what kind of potential such devices have in established markets, where there’s bound to be some kind of need for a phone that won’t break the bank but that focuses especially on providing a solid mobile web browsing experience.

And at this price, I suspect a lot of American and British tech heads and early adopters will be picking them up too, if only for curiosity’s sake. Not to mention the orangeness of it all.