“While the idea of a cloud-powered device is not new, the dual-mode functionality the Fire One offers is noble, especially considering its tiny price tag”
With internet speeds getting faster by the day, more and more companies are taking their services online. Be it simple or even complex tasks, online solutions exist for a variety of different things today. Cloud computing used to be the domain of enterprises earlier, but we has come a long way from there and the cloud-powered offerings for general users have grown multi-fold.
Today we can get most of our tasks done online, and this is exactly what the idea behind Firefox OS is. Firefox OS allows users to access several of features and functionalities online with the help of HTML5 apps.
The Firefox-powered Spice Fire One (unboxing and first impressions) has been with us for quite some time, and during this time, we have discovered many positives and negatives about both the device and the cloud-based operating system so let us begin with the review and find out more about the device.
Going the simple way
There is still a huge debate going on whether to call Firefox-powered phones smartphones or not, but we will stick to this categorisation for the functionality these devices offer. The Fire One is a low-cost smartphone and that is quite evident from the way it has been designed… For the construction, Spice has made use of plastics for this device, but even with that, the device looks durable and can easily handle rough handling as well.
The smartphone has been made available in white and black. Both colour options feature colour-coded fronts as well, which is good as some manufacturers only offer black-coloured fascias on the devices (like the ASUS Zenfone 4 for example), despite several colour variants being made available for the buyers. While talking about the front of the device, the touch surface is glass-based which is good and would offer much better protections against scratches as compared to plastic-based touch sensitive layers used in most low-cost devices. Along with that, the device offers a single capacitive button based input system, which is just the home key as the return and options menus have been made a part of the user interface itself.
At the back, the handset features a matte surface, which again is good for some protection against scratches. However, the company has included a silicone device cover in the box and it is of good quality. It should easily last longer than most third party-solutions and offers good protection against damage as well.
In simpler words, the Spice Fire One is a plasticky, yet a very sturdy mobile device which all thanks to its smaller size is very comfortable to hold, which along with its lower weight is certainly one of its USPs
A good display considering the price
The device is fitted with a 3.5-inch LCD display bearing 320 x 480 pixel resolution, something which used to feature on mobile device a couple of years ago. Today we have devices going beyond full HD resolution and this device still manages to offer just a fraction of that, and that too on an older generation LCD display. However, thinking about the price that this device has been made available at actually changes everything. The closest competitor in terms of Android is the Jivi JSP 20 and that too offers a similar display. However, we feel that the viewing angles offered by the Spice Fire One are better than those offered by the Android-based competitor.
However, despite being a non-IPS display, the quality offered is good and does allow users to enjoy using the device in almost every task. Be it browsing, watching videos, playing games or also while chatting with friends on WhatsApp, the display offer a good experience and the users would like it a lot.
One thing that we feel that’s wrong with the device is the higher brightness levels that the display tends to offer to the users. Despite the fact that system settings say that the device can adjust brightness automatically, we felt that the device misses the ambient light sensor that allows that function.
The new Firefox ecosystem
Many people believe that Firefox OS is just a mobile phone operating system built around the Firefox browser that is easily available for most smartphones today. However, in reality there is so much more than just the browser to this new operating system. Agreed, a majority of the functionality offered by Mozilla revolves around the browser, OS but as an operating system, Mozilla is light and zippy and does not require a lot of hardware muscle to make it move.
This is the reason why the device could be made available at such low price points. As an operating system, Mozilla Firefox is both internet dependent as well as device centric. There are applications that reside in the device and consume its resources, while there are apps that are a mere reflection of their online versions, just like a shortcut, which are installed on the device. However, even the larger apps available for Firefox are not bigger than 10MB, that too for games which run from the device itself. Moreover, for the smaller apps, most apps are installed on the device while consuming close to a few hundred KBs of memory.
For the functionality bit, the Firefox OS brings near-smartphone experience to the table with a plethora of applications and games available from the Mozilla store. However, it might be possible that some of your favourite apps like WhatsApp are not available off the shelf for the devices and in turn for the users. However, similar functionality is offered through third-party solutions. For instance, WhatsApp is offered through ConnectA2 app, which uses one time authentication to link your existing WhatsApp account or a new one to this device or your mobile number.
Still there are many things missing from the ecosystem and a lot of work is required to bring it at par with others or for even calling it a smartphone platform. For example, the Spice Fire One gets a front-facing camera; however, there are very limited apps available that could actually make use of that functionality or feature.
Moreover, as one of the biggest shortfalls of the Firefox OS is being online to be able to access several of the features and functionalities on the device, because of the simple fact that it is an internet-oriented operating system. In addition, to add to the woes, the devices that have been made available till now feature 2G internet connectivity only which becomes a major bottleneck for new users to like this new ecosystem and devices.
Firefox OS, as we have mentioned earlier, is designed to perform well on low-end hardware and this is the reason why all the Firefox-powered devices launched in India until date carry an ultra affordable price tag. However, despite of low hardware, the devices do perform well and can be an instant fix for those who are moving on from feature phone devices.
A 1GHz single core processor from Spreadtrum powers the Spice Fire One, to which the company has added a tiny yet functional 128MB of RAM and 256MB of internal storage as well. Now out of this 256MB, the device will offer close to 80MB of application storage, and while considering the average size of the applications available for the Firefox OS, results to about 40+ apps installed on the device. While for those who like to play more games, it could mean a lower number of apps especially if the apps are on-device.
In addition, users can also increase the storage by an additional 4GB using a microSD card, and can use this additional storage for multimedia storage only as the system would not allow users to install apps on external storage.
As for the performance part of it, the device performs well with most apps even with the ones that are installed on the device. For multitasking, the device does offer a decent level of multitasking to the users however slower internet speed would kill the whole experience if using it on cellular data.
The Spice Fire One is based on a dual-SIM GSM connectivity based design. In addition to the cellular connectivity, the device also gets Bluetooth and WI-Fi connectivity as standard and for faster data access, the device features a USB 2.0 port onboard, which is also used for recharging the battery on the device. For the price, having almost all the connectivity features as compared to slightly more expensive devices as well is definitely a plus for users who are upgrading from feature phones and do not want to burn a lot of money for the smartphone experience they aim to get from their mobile device.
At the back of the device, Spice has offered a 1.3-megapixel camera accompanied with an LED flash. Now although the camera is of average quality, the whole idea of offering a camera at a lower price point is great. Additionally, the Fire one also features a VGA camera on the front for the device as well, and as of now, the camera can only be used for selfies and nothing else. The quality of images offered is good, and the added LED flash does offer some illumination, but is effective for very close objects. In comparison to the competition, the Fire One definitely has an edge in the camera department owing to the front-facing camera and the LED flash.
For multimedia, the device offers a more than capable Audio player and a video player preinstalled, supporting most present-day audio video formats. In addition, users also get FM radio and support for audio and video streaming applications as well. So YouTube and all the web-based entertainment services do work on the device, provided the internet connection is provided via Wi-Fi as cellular networks are limited to 2.5G networks.
Initially we felt that Firefox is not as refined or evolved as Android and therefore it is going to be hard to like this new device and the ecosystem. However, after having used the Firefox phone for quite some time now, we can easily say that the device, no matter if it is not powerful or does not have the looks to kill, does manage to create its own place where feature phone users presently are looking for devices that can offer near smartphone experience to them.
Spice Fire One is technically a bit advanced as compared to its competitors, the Intex Cloud FX (first impressions) and the Alcatel’s offering, especially in the camera department, though the rest of the specifications and even the design principals remain the same. In addition, the phone does deliver a day’s worth battery backup, decent performance and multitasking options for the users, but do not expect too much as it still is a low-cost mobile device.
|Have some doubts about the device and Firefox OS? We have answered them in our Spice Firefox Mi-FX 1 FAQs|
To sum it all up, Spice Fire One with the Firefox OS is a good starter device for those who are trying to enter the smartphone domain and want a device that could give them a taste of this world without burdening them with a hefty price tag. Compared to an Android smartphone, it is slower but only if the internet connection is slow. However if you are moving away from feature phones, this is the perfect reason and the excuse as well.
Editors Rating: 7 / 10
- Good display
- Great value for money
- Front-facing camera
- Light and zippy to use
- Good build quality
- Reliability on internet for most apps
- No support for 3G networks