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ZTE Open C Hands-on: Budget Phone Kicks Firefox OS Up a Notch

When Mozilla debuted its Firefox mobile operating system last year it counted ZTE among the OS’ first adopters. A year later, we’re checking out the follow-up to the smartphone maker’s first effort dubbed the Open C. Like its predecessor, the ZTE Open, the Open C is geared toward emerging markets as a low-cost handset capable of providing them with a full-blown smartphone experience.

 The Open C offers a host of improvements over its predecessor including a new 4-inch display, more powerful processor and upgraded user experience. Though the Open C’s screen resolution is only 800 x 480, it looks far better than the original Open’s 3.5-inch panel, which was highly pixelated.

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 ZTE has strapped the Open C with a zippy dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage. That’s a solid step up from the original Open’s 800-MHz Qualcomm 722 CPU and 256MB of RAM.

And though the Open C’s specs don’t seem impressive at first blush, when combined with Mozilla’s lightweight HTML 5- based Firefox 1.3 OS, the handset absolutely flies. Apps opened and closed instantly and games like “Cut the Rope” ran without any slowdown or hiccups.

The Firefox OS isn’t some passing fad for ZTE, either. The company claims it is prepping more handsets running the operating system for release in the coming years including a 4.5-inch model it plans to launch by 2015. Though Firefox-powered phones are generally only available in emerging markets, we’re hopeful a more premium handset running the OS will hit the U.S. some time soon.