The year 2014 is halfway over, but there's plenty more left to be explored. A year ago, we could hardly imagine just how exciting crazy developments were still to come. The last 7 months have been incredible for local handset makers. Perhaps the biggest change we've ever made is in the technology space.
A dream is now a reality! Mozilla, known for its Firefox browser, has finally launched much awaited ultra low-cost smartphones in India, in collaboration with India-based handset makers. Both devices are priced below Rs. 2,500 - something we've hardly imagined a year back. Mozilla, a non-profit organization, is targeting first time smartphone buyers who haven't upgraded their basic feature phone due to price constraints.
Earlier last week, Intex unveiled its first ever Firefox OS powered smartphone, the Cloud FX, in the country at Rs. 1,999. Now, Spice Mobility, another domestic vendor, officially launched a similar Firefox OS enabled smartphone - the Fire One - at $38 or about Rs. 2,229.
India, as a handset market, still holds an immense potential in comparison to China or Brazil. Google's Android OS will continue to grow exponentially, and we might see a Rs. 2,700 priced smartphone soon or later. For Mozilla, it is an uphill challenge to educate consumers how a Firefox OS powered smartphone can benefit them in long run. Surprisingly, Mozilla's trusted partners - both Intex and Spice Mobility - will continue to sell feature phones alongside recently unveiled Firefox OS enabled devices. This may sound amusing to some.
After analyzing Mozilla's Firefox OS smartphones (yes, we've got to experience both devices), it can be said that "Firefox OS" could emerge as a third largest OS, after Android and iOS. The Firefox OS requires more polishing and better apps. If these two factors are ignored, it won't take too long for the tech community to call the Firefox OS - the next Windows Phone OS in the making.
After Friday's event, we had an opportunity to send a few quality minutes with the Firefox OS running Spice Fire One smartphone. As you might expect, this is surely not quite top of line in respect of spec and features. Here's our initial impression about the Spice Fire One smartphone.
Spice Fire One Mi-FX1 - Form Factor, Display, Design and Operating System (OS)
The Spice Fire One isn't aiming to compete with big-ticket smartphones. Whilst every possible care has been taken in producing the Spice Fire One phone, it seems. The new phone is not at all bad looking, given its retail price. It comes in three colors - Black, Orange and Red - that perfectly matches the colored Firefox OS theme.
The Orange one is certainly eye-catching, though our demo unit comes in Black color. As usual, the device is made out of thick plastic but we actually like the build quality. It feels really good in hands.
The power key on the right-hand side and volume rocker buttons on the left side are easy to hit. There's the home button below the screen, while the 3.5mm headphone jack accompanying a USB 2.0 charging port are located on top. In terms of camera, you'll notice a 1.3MP shooter on the rear side, and a VGA quality camera on front. The Spice Fire One will be remembered for its impeccable design, for sure.
The phone, Spice Fire One, sport a modest 3.5-inch screen. The viewing experience isn't that great, since the makers have used a low-resolution display to cut down on costs. The screen clearly lacks good viewing angle experience. But it was responsive to touch when we used the device for a few minutes. Again, though, you need to remember that the phone is meant to target an average user. Even websites looked good on the Spice Fire One. We tired loading the mobile version of GizBot, and the pre-loaded Firefox browser did a decent job.
The Spice Fire One is not just another ‘dump' phone. It runs on HTML 5-based Firefox OS and all the apps you see loaded on the phone are web-based. While the Firefox OS is relatively new compared to Android and iOS, it should be apt for a first-time smartphone user. The OS gives you freedom to load apps and run basic games, which can be downloaded via a dedicated app store.
Notably, we found the experience really worth it, barring few exceptions. Typing on the 3.5-inch display was surely a challenge for us. We made quite mistakes while typing on this basic keyboard.