ZTE Open and closed

When I saw a tweet from @mozilla announcing that the FirefoxOS powered phone, the ZTE Open, was going to go on sale in the UK for a limited time (via eBay of all things!) I admit I was pretty excited. I jumped online minutes after they went on sale and was one of the (relatively) lucky few to get hold of a handset.

In this post-PRISM world I have become more and more uncomfortable and the extent I have allowed myself to get tied in to Google over the years and have been taking steps to sever some of those ties. So the fact that Mozilla, one of the last global web organisations I still trust, are moving into this space was well timed. I love my Nexus4 – I think it is the best phone I have ever owned. I just have serious concerns about just how open Android really is though so a genuine alternative is needed.

My plan was that I would use the phone as my main device this week as I am off work and the lack of a commute means I wouldn’t be working it so hard. It soon became clear however that if I wanted to keep the phone in one piece that wasn’t going to work out.

It is a nice looking device and despite the plasticy nature of it feels pretty solid and has a nice weight. The Firefox orange combined with all that plastic though does give it the look of a children’s toy. The first major problem was the screen. This is twofold (i) it is just too small for me – the screen keyboard is a major challenge to use and my frustrated swearing was soon at a worrying level for neighbourhood harmony and (ii) it just lacks the kind of sensitivity I have become used to from even relatively budget devices let alone a Nexus or iPhone. This meant even the most simple task was a chore and I am just not a patient man these days.

The other problem I had was that even considering how early days it is and that this phone is to all intents and purposes a developer preview the ‘Marketplace’ was pretty bare. Twitter and Facebook HTML5 apps both worked fine but there was nothing else really to even try out.

Getting it setup on GiffGaff took a certain amount of luck and leaps of faith but the interface is pretty intuitive so it wasn’t the end of the world. That said it didn’t seem that great at maintaining a decent signal – even when my Nexus was still showing a solid connection. The ability to add either standard or micro-SIMs is a nice touch though as is the SD card slot.

I think the reality is that I have jumped the gun a bit with the purchase. Sooner or later I will make this switch but I am not this much of an early adopter and I’ll be back when things have evolved a little further (particularly the hardware I think).


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