If anything, the bargain-basement smartphones get people in the door, where they then decide (perhaps with a salesperson's help) to get something better. I'm confident that's the role of the Firefox OS smartphones now on the market. It's a classic, proven sales strategy.
All of these issues -- a hobbyist mentality, a back-pocket strategy, and a low-capability focus -- explain why open source mobile OSes have gone nowhere. Sure, there've been plenty of failures in the proprietary world -- Nokia's Asha and Symbian OSes are now dead, as are Palm's Palm OS and WebOS (outside of LG entertainment devices), and BlackBerry and Windows Phone continue to struggle. But there's also been the amazing success of Android and iOS, as well as a continued, determined effort to make Windows Phone succeed.
Until open source mobile OSes have that level of commitment, leadership, and aspiration, they'll continue to go nowhere.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.