Mozilla announces world’s cheapest smartphone – costing just $25

Smartphone ownership and internet connectivity could increase worldwide after Mozilla has announced a budget phone which will cost just $25.

Research has showed that by the end of 2013 22% of the global population were set to be the owners of smartphones. This roughly equals 1.4bn smartphones in use worldwide – the number passed the billion marks in October 2012.

However smartphone access is still only available to those who are in the higher end of the economic market.

Recent figures show that in Singapore, the country most penetrated by smartphones, there are 54% of people who use the advanced mobiles. For the USA and Australia this number falls to 35% and 33% respectively.

Budget mobile phones have been available in developing countries for many years now but Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, is trying to improve the accessibility of smartphones and access to the web for as many people as possible.

Mozilla’s partnership with Spreadtrum, a chipset manufacturer, could help to pave the way for budget smartphones to be introduced into developing markets – both companies hope they will be able to increase access to information globally.

In producing what is likely to be one of the first budget smartphones, Mozilla has cleverly positioned itself away from the likes of Apple and Samsung who have all but got dominance in the high-end smartphone market.

Mozilla says that its new smartphones are already creating a stir with operators such as Telenor, Telkomsel and Indosat, who are all interested in carrying the phone.

Mozilla’s senior vice president of mobile devices and president of Asia operations, Dr Li Gong, said: “The combination of Firefox OS with Spreadtrum’s entry-level smartphone platforms has the potential to dramatically extend the reach of smartphones and the web globally.

“Firefox OS delivers a customized, fun and intuitive experience for first-time smartphone buyers and our collaboration with Spreadtrum enables the industry to offer customers an extremely affordable way to get a smartphone and connect with web apps.”

Spreadtrum says that the $25 phone will expand the global accessibility of open and web-enabled smartphones to first time and entry-level smartphone customers. It says it will achieve this by reducing the time and cost required for handset makers to bring the devices to the market.

The chipset that has been demonstrated has been designed with a unique low memory configuration that reduces the total bill of materials that is required to develop low-end smartphones.

The phone was announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and will naturally be running the Firefox operating system, which is now being used in 15 different mobile markets worldwide.

Image courtesy of Ict4d / Flickr creative commons

Revolutionary smartphone app uses light to diagnose malaria

A smartphone app with a revolutionary technique to diagnose malaria has been launched in Uganda.

Matibabu is an app for Windows Phone that works with a custom piece of hardware called a Matiscope. The Matiscope is a finger clamp with a built-in infrared light source and sensor that attaches to the phone.

Matibabu team member Josiah Kavuma explained: “The idea basically works with red light. Light is triggered into the skin to reach the red blood cells. Light is used to determine the state of the red blood cells to determine one’s malaria status.”

The test takes less than two minutes and the results are stored in the user’s Microsoft Skydrive account so they can share them with their doctor.

Matibabu – which takes its name from the Swahili word for medical clinic – represents a significant improvement in testing for malaria.

Ordinarily, malaria needs to be diagnosed by drawing and testing blood, which is not only painful but represents a significant expense for medical organisations.

The disease is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of all malaria-related deaths occur, but medical coverage in the region is by no means comprehensive.

Matibabu is designed to provide a more affordable and accessible testing option with no pain involved, and the team believe it has the potential to reduce the socio-economic costs of malaria for 300 – 500 million people.

Early diagnosis would help to improve treatment, meaning the technology could have a significant role to play in the fight against malaria.

“Our vision is to see the solution being used all over the world to detect malaria cases early,” said Kavuma. “Hence early treatment will save many lives and many unborn babies as many mothers have had miscarriages because of malaria during pregnancy.”

The diagnosis technology was invented after Brian Gitta, a malaria sufferer and computer science student at Uganda’s Makerere University, decided to develop a better way to detect malaria.

“I hated the needles and kept thinking of ways people could be diagnosed without pain,” Gitta explained.

He teamed up with friends and fellow students Joshua Businge, Josiah Kavuma and Simon Lubambo, and together they developed the Matibabu.

Although not yet in mass production, the Matibabu has already attracted considerable attention. The team has won the Microsoft Innovation Cup and a USAID contest for innovations to help developing countries, and recently showcased the prototype at MakeTechX in Berlin, Germany.

Image courtesy of Sergio Sanchez.

Video via Matibabu’s blog.