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Mozilla launches Flame reference handset for Firefox OS

It's big, it's beefy, it's not cheap, and it runs Firefox OS

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Mozilla has begun taking preorders for the Firefox OS Flame, a new developer handset that's a reference design for what the not-for-profit browser maker calls "mid-tier hardware" for its open source mobile OS.

"Until now, there has been no 'reference device' and the options for getting something through retail were limited," Mozilla marketer Asa Dotzler said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Specifically, up until now most developers in the US and UK have had to buy low-powered handsets direct from Chinese manufacturer ZTE, which has offered them for sale worldwide via eBay. Other companies have built Firefox OS handsets – including Alcatel, LG, and Spanish startup Geeksphone – but these devices are easier to obtain in emerging markets, where carriers sell them to first-time smartphone buyers.

For the Flame, Mozilla has partnered with boutique Chinese handset maker T2Mobile to deliver a reference design with specs that give developers room to breathe while still keeping the cost of the device low.

Specifically, the new mobe is based on a dual-core Qualcomm MSM8210 Snapdragon SoC clocked at 1.2GHz – the same part that's in the recently announced ZTE Open C. While that device has a 4-inch touchscreen with 800-by-480 resolution, however, the Flame offers a little more screen real estate, pushing 854-by-480 pixels from its 4.5-inch display.

The Flame also has more memory than any Firefox OS design to date. It comes with a whopping 8GB of onboard storage, twice as much as the ZTE Open C. It also has twice as much RAM, at 1GB, although developers can configure it to think it has as little as 256MB of RAM to see how their apps would run on lesser kit.

Other intriguing features in the new device include support for A-GPS and NFC, and the Flame also supports dual SIMs – something we're likely to see in future Firefox OS handsets, given their target market. The OS didn't gain dual-SIM support until version 1.3, released earlier this month.

The catch? Much like the ZTE Open C, the Firefox OS Flame isn't the $25 handset that Mozilla has been waving its hands about. At $170, it's cheaper than the Geeksphone Revolution, but it's still one of the more expensive Firefox OS devices to ship to date.

If you want one, Mozilla says you can preorder one now from Everbuying.com. Once the Flame becomes available, the e-commerce firm will ship it anywhere worldwide with the exception of Japan, where the device has yet to pass all of the necessary certifications. Potential Japanese buyers can sign up to be notified via email when the Flame becomes available there. ®

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