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Spice Fire One has all the essential ingredients

Firefox & Spice together aiming at a potential wipeout of the feature phone

Agamoni Ghosh 

It's raining budget smartphones this season, and Spice is the latest to join the bandwagon after Intex launched the cheapest smartphone to have hit the Indian market. Mi-FX priced at Rs 2,299 is the company's first (OS)-powered device.

It punches in all the basic ingredients of a smartphone at an unbelievable price, thanks to the newly developed OS. Mozilla aims not only to break Android's monopoly in the budget phone segment but also, through devices like these, aims to target the feature phone user who previously could not afford smartphones owing to their prices. Is the OS good enough to produce a budget smartphone by Spice? Let's find out.

Design and build
It looks like Intex and Spice got together to chalk out the design, given that and look identical so much so that even the capacitive button looks the same. It is designed on the lines of other budget smartphones such as the Karbon A55, Micromax Bolt A47 and many others. The phone is made of mostly plastic but sturdy enough - which is close to the qualit of phones of yore, which could take the occasional bumps and knocks and still remained intact. The phone will be available in three colours as of now - orange, white and black

Display and touch
The phone comes with a 3.5-inch HVGA screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. Below the TFT-LCD capcitive touchscreen, Spice has put in only one capacitive button, unlike most Android and Windows phones, which have three of them. No points for guessing that with the given resolution, the display is strictly basic.

The touch capability of the device has to be its weakest link. It's slow, sloppy and mostly non-responsive in the first attempt. One has to really struggle to get around the screen. A QWERTY keypad would have been more appropriate.

Camera and multimedia
Expectations from the camera for this device should be minimal given the specifications. The phone has 1.3-megapixel (MP) rear camera with flash and a 0.3MP front-facing camera. The rear camera does a decent job, but the flash is virtually of no use as low light images are dismal. The images clicked by the front camera will remind you of the earlier smartphone VGA cameras with pixelated images.

The sound quality of the phone is decent and one can also shoot videos on the phone. This device comes preloaded with social networking and instant messaging apps such as Facebook and Twitter under a SOCIAL tab, a feature that Firefox has incorporated to save time and data. However, many of these icons projecting themselves as apps actually need to be downloaded. Another setback is that WhatsApp is not yet available on Firefox directly and can only be accessed via third party Connect A2, which is a tedious process.

Battery and storage
While smartphone users often complain about poor battery life owing to heavy usage, the Fire One's battery takes us back to the one good thing feature phones had - amazing battery strength. Enabled with a 1,400 mAh battery, a full charge can last you for even two full days given that activity on the phone is limited to the meagre 128MB of RAM and 2G data usage.

Internal storage of the phone stands at 256 MB, of which around 70 MB is available to users. Storage is further expandable to 4 GB using a MicroSD card - something which the company provides complimentary, like it used to be with some of the older smartphones.

Performance & OS
The highlight of the phone has to be the OS - the very reason it has been garnering attention. Getting around the Firefox OS is relatively easy as all icons are placed directly on the home screen.

Similarity with Android looms around in many quarters like on the home screen, you can pull down the top of the screen to show a notification shade and simultaneously access Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, silent- and flight-mode options.

The Fire One is powered by a 1GHz processor with a meagre 128MB of RAM, and comes with a dual SIM functionality. In terms of connectivity, it supports GPRS/Edge, Bluetooth, USB and Wi-Fi. Like the Play Store, Firefox-enabled phones have Marketplace as an app store which, of course, is devoid of popular Android games like Angry Birds, Temple Run, etc.

One would expect the phone to be very slow given the minimal RAM, but the device is decent when it comes to speed, the only big obstacle being the touchscreen preventing smooth usage. Given that the phone is only 2G compatible, the data consumption is low when compared to 3G-enabled smartphones.

The biggest problem with the Firefox OS is its inability to multitask - something that brought the Android OS into the limelight, a feature all smartphone users seek. It is also too early to compare it with the existing Android versions given that this is only their first version and the OS is surely to improve over time.

In all honesty any judgement on this phone by someone having used high-end smartphones on a day-to-day basis would be highly unfair as the main target group of the phone are feature phone users. If you can go down memory lane to revive those Nokia 1100 memories, the phone will seem like a genius to you. It packs all the essential ingredients of a smartphone to the last bit, even that tiny little flash.

India's mobile phone market, according to IDC's latest report, has close to 70 per cent users in the feature phone category. Given that, there is enormous potential for phones like the Fire One which promise to provide all basic features of a smartphone at a price that only one could imagine a few years back.

Price: Rs 2,299
Screen: 3.5 inches with a resolution of 320x480 pixels
Weight: 110 g
RAM: 128MB
Memory: 256MB (internal); 4GB (expandable)
Camera: 1.3MP rear with flash,0.3MP front
OS: Firefox OS

First Published: Sun, September 07 2014. 22:50 IST