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Weekend Roundup: Samsung Galaxy S4 almost here, Mozilla Firefox OS unveiled & “Nexus 7” smartphone

Mozilla Firefox OS Launched

For many, Mobile World Congress started on Sunday with the official outing of Mozilla’s Firefox OS at a posh venue in Barcelona. The event was attended by some of the project’s main partners, carriers, phone makers and even a chip designer (Qualcomm). Even though it was not clearly articulated in the various onstage interventions, it appears clear that so-called telcos (Telefonica, America Movil, Deutsche Telekom), want to be masters of their destinies again.

Some of them, like O2, opened the Pandora box by allowing Apple to take the onus of innovating and dictate terms that have since started to transform those once-all-powerful telcos into mere data pipes, something that not only reduces their influence but also impedes on their ability to generate new revenue streams.

I therefore think that Firefox OS will not only be the telcos’ Trojan Horse to penetrate the very low end of the market but also the mobile equivalent of Chrome OS, one where the phone itself reverts back to being a thin client (hence the focus on simplicity driven by HTML5). But there’s more to come. In a veiled allusion to “AndroiOS”, Marco Quatorze, CMO of America Movil said that Firefox OS could be the “beginning of the end of walled gardens” as it focuses on emerging markets that ““don’t look anything like the rest of us”. Check out the first Firefox smartphones on the market: Keon and Peak from Geeksphone, the first one to hit the market nine months ago, the Spreadtrum SC8810, the Alcatel One Touch Fire and the ZTE Open.

Asus FonePad: A big phone or a tablet-o-phone?

Asus unveiled an intriguing device, the Fonepad. It is essentially the equivalent of the Google Nexus 7 but with phone capabilities (or a bigger version of a phone like the Acer Liquid C1). The fact that it was not produced in collaboration with Google gave the Taiwanese manufacturers significantly more leeway to produce something that’s a bit different. Other the ability to make phone calls (which means that it is 3G capable), the other main differences are a microSD card slot, the use of an Intel processor rather than an ARM-based one and a fourth menu button that brings up Asus-branded applications. By far the biggest difference though is price.

The only 3G SKU on the Nexus 7 range is the 32GB model which costs £239. The Fonepad will carry a SRP of only £179. You can either choose to stick with the onboard 8GB storage or spend some of that £60 difference on a 32GB microSD card (you can get a pretty good one for less than £15). Even if you don’t make calls with the Asus Fonepad, we strongly believe that this tablet, when it goes on sale later this year will be one of the best-selling tablets in the UK. Check out our hands-on of the Fonepad tablet-o-phone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 : Finally here... well almost

Perhaps the biggest non MWC news of the week was the confirmation that the Galaxy S4 was coming on 15 March. Not only have fans been convened to come to New York’s popular Times Square to celebrate the launch of the Galaxy S4 on that date, there will also be a live stream of the event and invites have already been sent to journalists all-round the world. Last year, the Galaxy S3 was launched in the UK towards the beginning of May with the device becoming widely available four weeks later. We guess that this time around, the reason Samsung has opted for an earlier launch date is two-pronged.

Firstly, it is preempting the rumoured launch of the Apple iPhone 5S and secondly, it is gearing towards a 6-months cycle with twice-yearly launches of flagship products in March (Galaxy S series) and September (Galaxy Note). Check out our exhaustive “all you need to know” article about the Galaxy S4 ranging from the processor (possibly a new Exynos), to the display (almost certainly a full HD one). The current generation of superphones is defined by four features; All round LTE capabilities, 2GB of RAM, a full HD display and a 13-megapixel camera. That has been the case for the HTC One, the Sony Xperia Z, the LG Optimus G Pro and the Asus Padfone Infinity.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.