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First Firefox OS developer phones to launch on Tuesday

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Developers who are interested in building apps for the Mozilla Foundation's web standards–based Firefox OS will be able to get their hands on the first handsets running the open source platform beginning on Tuesday.

As The Reg has previously reported, the phones will be manufactured by Spanish startup Geeksphone and will be available in two different models, dubbed the Keon and the Peak.

While previously we were assured that the devices were "coming soon," The Next Web was first to report that Geeksphone was planning an April 23 launch.

When El Reg contacted Mozilla for confirmation, a spokesman sent us the following via email:

Tomorrow, Geeksphone will announce the availability of two Firefox OS developer preview devices. These devices are strictly for developers looking to test and create apps for Firefox OS. These devices have not been designed for consumers and include a pre-release development version of Firefox OS. We know that many people are excited to get their hands on a Firefox OS phone and we'll keep you posted on when we will have a consumer device ready to launch and review.

With the launch fast approaching, we were also able to ferret out a little bit more information about the devices than we had before.

According to a Geeksphone newsletter, the Keon will be an entry-level device based on a Qualcomm S1 Cortex A5 processor running at 1GHz. It will have a 3.5" multitouch screen at HVGA resolution (480x320) and will ship with 512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, a MicroSD card slot, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and a 1580mAh battery.

The Peak will be a higher-end model equipped with a 4.3" IPS multitouch qHD (960x540) multitouch screen and a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.2GHz. Otherwise it will have the same 512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, MicroSD, 802.11n, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio as the Keon, but it will add a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with integrated flash.

The Peak also ups the battery to 1800mAh, but there was no word on how long we should expect either phone's charge to last under normal usage.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these devices, however, are their price tags. Assuming the information in the newsletter is correct, the Keon will retail for just €91 ($119/£78) while the Peak will go for €149 ($194/£127), plus any applicable taxes.

We tried to verify those figures by digging through Geeksphone's online store, but the company had taken the shop down "in order to perform site maintenance."

If correct, however, those prices sound quite reasonable when you consider that US carrier T-Mobile, which has recently done away with subsidies for its handsets, is selling the newly released HTC One for $580 (£380/€444).

Mind you, the Keon and the Peak are both developer handsets running a very early version of Firefox OS – a platform that hasn't exactly wowed some observers in its current form.

Still, if Mozilla's other hardware partners – including China's TCL and ZTE – can build consumer handsets at similar price points, it bodes well for Mozilla's plans to mass-market Firefox OS as a low-cost smartphone platform for the developing world.

But Mozilla isn't alone there. With billions of people expected to come online for the first time via mobile devices in the next few years, Apple and Samsung are also reportedly eyeing emerging markets, although details of their plans have been scant. Canonical, too, is working on a version of its Ubuntu Linux distribution for smartphones and tablets.

It will be interesting to see whether Mozilla's platform can thrive in such a hotly contested market, especially given the Foundation's relative inexperience in this area. But before Firefox OS can win over consumers, it needs a lot more help from developers. The launch of Geeksphone's Keon and Peak on Tuesday should help it get a good running start. ®

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