Measuring the Alcatel One Touch Fire Firefox OS phone against a comparable Android device

Cell Phone Hardware

A closer look at the hardware tells a different story. One look at the hardware specifications raise the serious question of why one would want to buy an Alcatel One Touch Fire if alternatives are available (Table 1). The display resolution is a relic of yesteryear, the single-core CPU is slow, the RAM size tiny, and the camera a disaster. While working with the device, I found myself looking for a way to release the handbrake. I haven't seen such a slow phone in the newsroom for a long time.

Table 1

Android vs. Mozilla Cell Phone Specs

Technical Specifications

Huawei Ascend Y300

Alcatel One Touch Fire

Processor

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.0 GHz single-core

Operating system

Android 4.1 + EmUI 1.0

Firefox OS 1.1.0.0

Memory (internal)

512 MByte RAM, 4GB ROM

256 MByte RAM, 512MB ROM

Memory (external)

microSD up to 32GB

microSD up to 32GB

Display

4.0 inch, 800 x 480 pixels

3.5 inch, 480 x 320 pixels

Cameras

Main camera 5 MP, Front camera 0.3 MP

Main camera 3.2 MP

Video recording

640 x 480 (0.3 MP)

352 x 288 (0.1 MP)

Battery

1950 mAh

1400 mAh

Dimensions

124.5 x 63.8 x 11.2 mm

115.0 x 62.3 x 12.2 mm

Weight

130 g

108 g

Street price

99 Euros

89 Euros

Conclusions

The minimal hardware of the Alcatel One Touch Fire is consistent with Mozilla's vision of fitting into the low-end market for inexpensive devices. However, if you live in a place with a competitive smartphone market, other phones are also inexpensive, and you might find you can get more for a similar price if you stick with an established Android product line. Perhaps the best lesson from this exercise is to check the hardware specifications before you buy. If you feel like investigating Firefox OS, remember that you can only experience a mobile OS within the context of a mobile device.

The extra 10 Euros for the Ascend Y300 is money well spent. Although the dual-core CPU of the Android device does not break any records, using the Huawei is noticeably smoother than working with the only slightly lower-priced Alcatel device. The Ascend Y300 display is much crisper and brighter; the MicroSD slot is unoccupied, and the camera takes usable snapshots. In the German market, Mozilla has done itself no favors by trying to present Firefox OS for the first time on a low-end phone that significantly underperforms other low-budget devices. If the Alcatel One Touch Fire were priced to undersell other smartphones by a significant margin (say, 30 euros), the suboptimal hardware might be justified. As it is, the One Touch Fire is clearly poorer than Ascend Y300 yet almost as expensive. Thus, the device is not even useful as a backup phone.

One possible conclusion is that Firefox OS just hasn't debuted on the right phone yet. The Version 1.0 release was only a year ago, and further adoption on a wider range of phones (if it ever happens) is bound to take some time. Mozilla claims to have 20 hardware and developer partners around the world, and the list of partners includes Sprint, T-Mobile, Qualcomm, and several service providers in Europe and Asia.

In the long run, the success of Firefox OS as a smartphone alternative will depend on the strength of the developer community and the quality and scope of the gallery of apps running on the system. Mozilla claims it already has thousands of apps in the Firefox OS marketplace, and this number is sure to increase if Firefox OS starts to appear on more phone systems around the world.

Time to buy a Firefox OS phone? If this test is any indication, not yet. But stay tuned.

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