Earlier this year, Mozilla revealed Intex and Spice as its hardware partners to launch Firefox OS smartphones in India. These smartphones essentially aimed at bringing basic Internet access to users at ultra-affordable price segment. In August Intex launched the Cloud FX, which was priced at a ridiculously low Rs 1,999. In terms of pricing, the Cloud FX is blurring the lines between smartphones and feature phones. But a review by folks at ArsTechnica, has questioned the Cloud FX s smartphone credentials. Also Read - Flipkart Budget Days: Offers on Micromax Canvas Infinity, Sony Xperia R1 Dual, YU Ace and moreAlso Read - Intex launched its 4K UHD Smart TV with integrated Jio Cinema App; starts from Rs 52,990
First off, let s go through the specifications of the smartphone. The Intex Cloud FX sports a 3.5-inch HVGA display and is powered by a 1GHz processor paired with 128MB of RAM. The device also features a 2-megapixel rear camera, 256MB internal storage, microSD card slot, 1,250mAh battery, and connectivity options like dual-SIM card slots, EDGE, and Wi-Fi. Also Read - 70% mobile phone users in India switched brands in Q2: Report
With such a specification list it would be illogical to expect benchmark busting performance from the smartphone. But what really fail the smartphone are the operating system and the user experience. The Firefox OS is quite similar to Google s Chrome OS in the way it is browser-based and all apps are built using web technologies. You get a lock screen, a few home screens that also have all the apps listed and a notification center. But the one thing that separates a smartphone from a feature phone is strangely missing on the Cloud FX multitasking.
It could be the failings of the operating system or the measly 128MB of RAM, but none of the apps run in the background. The latter is just about enough to run an app, but more often than not apps run out of memory and simply close. The OS doesn t do anything to preserve the state of the app, so essentially when an app crashes, you lose everything that you were working on.
For example, the publication says if a website is loading and the browser crashes, you will have to start the browser again and reload the webpage all over again. This not only takes time, but also uses up the data, which is a precious commodity for first-time Internet users. A stopwatch actually stops working when you exit the app, and while in theory the email client can be scheduled to check emails every 5 minutes, there is never enough memory for the app to run in the background.
The folks at ArsTechnica also came across a strange problem with the Cloud FX. If the phone was to lose power before you have a chance to charge the battery, the clock and date get reset. Picture your old VCR showing 12:00 when no time was set and you will get the picture. This is a major issue since all websites require the correct date and time to open. So basically until you set the time and date, you won t be able to open the Firefox OS marketplace to download any apps, open any website or get any emails.
The overall performance is erratic at best. Sometimes apps or webpages load normally, while at other times they take minutes to load. The performance of the Cloud FX really cannot be understated. Screen taps sometimes take seconds to register. Firefox OS has a recent apps screen, but there is never any free memory, so nothing other than the current app is ever open. During particularly slow freak-outs, the screen will just turn black. If the phone falls asleep, or the alarm pops up, or a phone call comes in, your app closes and you lose your progress. Even something as simple as opening a folder of apps has a load time measured in seconds.
While Mozilla and its partners have managed to stick to the promised ultra-affordable price tag, the question is at what cost. With the so-called smartphone not able to do even the most basic of tasks, the device in essence has turned out to be a feature phone with a few features that do not work as promised.
ArsTechnica too concludes in a similar vein. It’s hard to believe that this is a “best attempt” at a cheap smartphone. Computers have run on only a few KB of RAM before; don’t tell us 128MB isn’t enough for a decently performing machine, they say. The problem is that Firefox OS just isn’t the right choice of operating system for this device it’s trying to do way too much with the limited hardware. It isn’t configurable enough. Early versions of Android and iOS certainly ran better on similarly specced devices in the past.