Unboxing the Firefox OS ZTE Open, + setup

My Firefox phone arrived today! The ZTE Open is an interesting device. ZTE is selling it on ebay for ~$80. By no means is it a high end device. In theory I like the idea that developers are not running devices 7 times more powerful than their users. Targeting the emerging market only pushes down the average device’s horsepower. As a bonus this dev phone is cheap and does not require subsidization or give aways like the earlier androids or blackberry dev phones. The price itself puts it in impulse buy territory.

First I must admit to being struct by the box’s slipcover. The cardboard look is utilitarian and sparse.

The box under the slipcover is more typical for a smartphone. I can imagine seeing this box on a retail shelf.IMG_20131021_161127 IMG_20131021_161226

Included with the phone is a micro usb cable, headphones, and a usb charger. Without listening to them I suspect the headphones are not going to sound good.  The battery is pre-inserted in the phone.IMG_20131021_161349 IMG_20131021_161514

We must insert the battery which requires finding the latch in the the lower right corner. I’ve photographed the location since it was harder to find than expected. You will not feel the latch during normal usage.IMG_20131021_161615

Upper left is the microSD card slot, the right is the fullsized sim slot. IMG_20131021_161702

First bootup splash screen. IMG_20131021_162055

Second bootup splash screen. IMG_20131021_162059

Once booted we enter the setup process. There are things I think should be changed. Please do not that this as criticism but instead as justifications for my suggestions which will find their way into bug reports.IMG_20131021_162130 IMG_20131021_162154 IMG_20131021_162333

Once we’ve entered the wifi password and joined the network we’re sent back to the network select screen as shown below. This was not what I expected. I thought we’d go on to the contacts screen since we’ve done everything we can do with the wifi. IMG_20131021_162405 IMG_20131021_162406

This screen is what I do not understand. We already have network access, and we’ve had minutes to initiate the GPS. I should not have to tell the phone anything of what it is asking. Notice how the time has defaulted to the epoch, unix timestamp zero. Now assuming we need this screen only as a fallback I wish we were not expected to guess what those buttons will change. It should tell me we are looking at:

  1. Region
  2. Nearest City in timezone
  3. Date
  4. Time

I bring this up because I got confused. I thought #2 meant province / state. I do not know what or where “Pago Pago” is. I thought #3 is date format. Similar to how golang defines date formatting. Instead it was the date selector.


Considering the emerging market nature of FxOS’s target market I think this risks confusion. I know that when selecting a timezone I must pick Edmonton. I know this only from installing linux several times. We cannot expect regular people to know they must select a city, which they may not live in, which must be close, but which must not be in the next timezone. To make matters worse the list is ordered alphabetically. Without knowing the exact city to select we must search through a list containing every city on our continent.

Good would be to order by location. Better would be to have them select their location on a world map. Best would would be to use our GPS if we have a signal.IMG_20131021_162520

Now onto the time selector widget. This is what said time selector looks like right after we hit “change”. Notice how it knows the current date. Remember how the screen prior defaulted to timestamp zero. The phone already knows the current time!

Better would be to preset the setup screen’s time to whatever time this time selector widget thinks it is. Best would be to send off an NTP packet and get the real time over the network. Remember, we already setup the wifi connection.IMG_20131021_162617

This title is too long.  I had to change my app’s title to fit the app screen, this screen needs the same treatment.IMG_20131021_162850

I wish something in bigger letters told me this is a newsletter signup screen. Instead I thought it was a registration screen. IMG_20131021_162900

The following tutorial is good and does the job. I’m sure they would prefer a tutorial which used the real homescreen instead of the abstract images. I understand that feature is extra work on a level beyond the other suggestions. I just hope it is on someone’s todo list. IMG_20131021_162920 IMG_20131021_162930

Note how it asks us to find new apps to the homescreen’s left, we will have a problem with this later. IMG_20131021_162938 IMG_20131021_162947

Also note how it asks us to swipe down. IMG_20131021_162957 IMG_20131021_163009 IMG_20131021_163023

Keeping in mind the instructions we saw earlier I wanted to install the app i made a few days ago. This screen is supposed to be where one finds new apps. Yet these search results do not look like the “IP Address” apps I saw in the Firefox Market. Instead these look like website bookmarks.IMG_20131021_163340

Rather we must go to the homescreen’s right where we find the Firefox appstore. And it is here we find my app. IMG_20131021_163523 IMG_20131021_163621 IMG_20131021_163640 IMG_20131021_163650 IMG_20131021_163737

As we noted earlier one should be able to bring down the notification screen by swiping down from the top. Instead we must press, hold, then pull down. Swiping down without holding is interpreted as swiping left or right.


Now just for interests’ sake let us analyse the ZTE Open’s box in relation to the other dev phones I have. The Nexus 4 aims to look premium. The box is trying to convey that a $300 phone can be no less premium than the $600 competitors. The Blackberry 10 box aims to feel exclusive through the mission statement on the box. All the Blackberry dev phones are given as gifts to developers. They want you to feel honoured and inspired to develop an application.

The exact mission statement is:

Exclusive for the Blackberry Developer
Community. Not a production modal.
Evaluation unit -- not for resale.

Millions of possibilities..

By my guess the ZTE Open aims to look grassroots or atleast non-intimidating. The Blackberry mission statement is the opposite. Blackberry wants to look established and confident. ZTE Open wants to look new and promising.


To be honest I think the box achieves the goal. I do not expect FxOS to be complete. I expect it to have room for improvement and to be welcoming of my contributions. That is what FxOS needs right now, the luxury boxes can come later.

11 thoughts on “Unboxing the Firefox OS ZTE Open, + setup

    1. danieru Post author

      Hey Ben, I did make a point of photographing the keyboard during the wifi setup step. It is a standard on-screen keyboard.

      1. Ben

        So true. My mind must have filtered out that detail, somehow. Thanks for your reply.

  1. Donovan Preston

    Searching in the everything.me global search bar is supposed to return marketplace results, but currently does not do a very good job of it. There’s a bug open for it already:


    Also, I have never experienced the issue you describe where swiping down requires holding. Swiping down from the top of the screen always pulls down the notification bar for me.

    1. danieru Post author

      Thank you for finding the exact bug Donovan. I’ll try to take a video of what I am doing when I swipe and I’ll open a bug report. Good to know it is supposed to open with a swipe. I’ll try to open bug reports for the issues I saw when I get home.

  2. Asa Dotzler

    This is a nice write-up of your unboxing and first run experience. I’ll be sure to pass your feedback directly to the Firefox OS UX folks if they haven’t seen this already. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. danieru Post author

      Thank you for taking it well Asa. I’ve checked bugzilla and it looks like all the major issues I found have been reported earlier, sometimes months earlier.

      I’m going to get dev builds working for my phone then I’ll try to report the minor issues I found.

  3. Smithc696

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    1. danieru Post author

      Hello Smith

      I would love that. Although I am a bit worried you mentioned “niche”, a word which I’ve mostly heard from online marketers. I’m fine with quotes so long as you’re providing value to the users beyond the quotes.

  4. geo

    Firefox OS thru ZTE is lousy lousy lousy hard to understand no gmail app in marketplace I am kicking myself for wasting money in buying this thing


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