Here in Japan, there was once a time when carrier commands dictated seemingly everything. The Japanese OEMs dominated everything domestic with their feature phones, known locally as galakei. Until the advent of iOS and Android, companies like Sharp, Mitsubishi, NEC, Fujitsu, Casio, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba and Kyocera were everywhere. Today, many of the major players have fallen out, in large part because they missed the smartphone boat and simply couldn’t compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.
As these foreign OEMs have grown here, so too have their OS brands. Japanese carriers have actively been seeking out an “alternative” to prevent Google and Apple from having absolute control over their market, and it seems like the fruit has finally ripened. There was talk, for example, that NTT docomo, the nation’s largest carrier, would release a Tizen-powered phone, but it ultimately never materialized. Rival company, KDDI, has long been rumored to be actively trying to release a Mozilla-powered device, and now we are finally seeing the realization of such efforts.
Today, KDDI Corporation announced that its au brand will begin to sell the country’s first Firefox OS phone, come this Christmas. This is in-and-of-itself an almost unprecedented turn around, as typically products are announced here that don’t hit stores for months on end. The device, called the “Fx0” will be manufactured by LG Electronics and feature a 4.7 inch IPS display (resolution not specified), a Snapdragon 400 CPU, a 2370 mAh battery, 16GB of on-board storage and 1.5GB of RAM, an 8.0 megapixel rear camera and 2.1 megapixel front, and support microSDXC up to 64GB. The device will be powered by Firefox OS Version 2.0, support LTE, and is designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, who has won various awards in his career.
As for the design, the best word to describe it is “curious”. KDDI itself had the following to say in its press release:
[quote qtext=”Openness and transparency, the most prominent features of the Firefox OS itself, are achieved in the design of the smartphone under the supervision of world famous designer, Tokujin Yoshioka. Furthermore, by placing the Firefox logo on the home button, the front of the device also asserts its originality.” qperson=”” qsource=”KDDI” qposition=”center”]
That the device has a peculiar design and runs Firefox OS is not the main issue here, but rather, the fact that KDDI actually actively sought out and worked with LG to deliver a phone with an alternative smartphone OS. It’s also worth noting that Firefox phones are typically sold unlocked and not directly through a carrier, making this one of the few carrier-sold Firefox OS phones that we are aware of. Should this device take-off with consumers, it seems reasonable that additional follow-ups would be released. As this product has been a long time coming, it’s also safe to say that KDDI au may not be so quick to drop it should it have poor sales.
While KDDI au is far from the dominant carrier in Japan, the fact that one of the “big three” has a product that is made by a major OEM (LG) would hint that the other two might follow suit. Given that LG itself has made the device, there is technically nothing to stop it from releasing the Fx0 -or similar hardware- in additional markets, especially if the Fx0 will retail for a low price (which would match its mid-range specs). The existence of hardware like this could eventually have a larger effect on the Android marketplace, at least with respect to developing countries, the likes of which (India for example) is currently a major target for Google’s Android One platform.
No pricing has been announced yet for the device, however this story will be updated when/if additional information is known.