Firefox OS is one of the so-called ‘challengers’ to the duopoly of iOS and Android in the war of mobile platforms. Unfortunately, with the Intex Cloud FX, it seems that Firefox OS has taken a couple of steps backwards.
For nearly a year, there have been rumors about how the Firefox OS, Ubuntu Touch and Samsung’s Tizen are going to emerge as major competitors to Google Android. Till now though, the competition has not materialized – with the Galaxy Gear 2 smart watch (the world’s first Tizen-powered smart device) generating only lukewarm response, and the Firefox OS barely managing to create a ripple. In late August, the Cloud FX handset was launched, and at $35, it was touted to be the ‘cheapest smartphone’ ever. Although the initial sales figures were impressive, the reviews have been far from favorable. We would here highlight how the Cloud FX has damaged the prospects of Firefox OS in the long-run:
a) Disappointingly small screen size – At a time when even iPhones are getting larger-than-before screens, the 3.5” display area of the Cloud FX is a bit of an aberration. Couple with that the fact the maximum resolution level supported is a meagre 480×320 pixels – and you sort of feel that this phone has arrived at least half a decade too late.
c) So slow that it hurts – Android Lollipop has the all-new ART runtime, iOS 8 has integrated the A8 chip processor – and Firefox OS is stuck with a 1GHz single-core CPU (Cortex A5) processor. The average speed of the Cloud FX is roughly the same as that of the first-generation iPhones – but breaking news, iPhone 6 is already out!
d) Lacks loads of sophisticated features – Smartphone-users, analysts, sellers and even mobile app development experts agree that features like front-facing camera, LED (for notifications), 3G internet connectivity and LTE simply must be present in a modern-day smartphone. Well, none of these are feature among the specs of the Firefox OS. We all know that the phone is priced at a measly $35 – but even so, it should not have been as handicapped as this.
e) Where are the developers? – No mobile OS can succeed without the availability of a large number of quality apps. Even an erstwhile market leader like Blackberry has fallen behind in the pecking order due to this factor. A couple of years back, Mozilla had announced that the Firefox OS would bring in ‘hundreds of thousands of developers’ – and this prediction has certainly not come true. Android and iPhone app developers can earn big and have plenty of scopes to showcase their creativity and programming skills. Sadly, the popularity of Firefox OS has never picked up, its features are half-baked, and the Cloud FX has done nothing to shake off the negativity around this ambitious new mobile platform.
f) The OS is still plagued with bugs – Experts and device reviewers from mobile app companies had expected the Firefox OS powering Intex Cloud FX to be polished and bug-free, and they have been sorely disappointed. Non-responsive screens and app crashes are common affairs on this phone (along with the extremely poor speed). Connecting to wireless networks (Wi-fi) is often a problem, and there have also been many reports of sudden, frequent connection drops. Mozilla should really take a good hard look at its in-house testing phase, before releasing its next flagship phone.
g) Phone time related to battery level – This is, arguably, the most irritating feature of the Intex Cloud FX. As the phone battery goes down, the clock would get slower – and that would give the impression that the users’ security certificates have lapsed. After resetting the time, accessing the mail over IMAP or POP is a problem, as is accessing the Firefox Marketplace. The least that the developers could have added to the phone is some sort of automatic battery backup feature, so that the displayed time remained accurate.
h) Getting a consistently strong signal is not easy – In fact, it is a matter of luck. Fans of Firefox OS (along with Android haters, of course) have tried to cover up this problem by maintaining that in developing countries (think: India, China), mobile coverage is not the strongest. However, even in the United States, many users have been left frustrated by the inexplicable low signal strengths on their Cloud FX handsets. And what if you are really unlucky? A ‘no signal’ message flashes on your phone screen.
i) Want a ‘slim’ phone? Cloud FX won’t be your choice – With a thickness of 12 mm, the Cloud FX sticks out like a sore thumb in the market choc-a-bloc full with ultra-slim smartphones. According to studies conducted by device analysts and app developers, this handset is around 1.6 times thicker than average high-end smartphones. Weirdly enough, the Cloud FX is not a heavy phone at all. The size of the phone does not match with its weight – have the hardware experts left some area to be filled with air?
j) Low storage capacity – People love storing documents and saving mobile apps on their handsets. Sadly, on the new Firefox OS phone – there is not much of internal memory to support these activities. The built-in memory is a pathetic 256 MB, while the 128 MB RAM is nothing to write home about either. The sole saving grace is that, external macros cards can be added to the phone.
k) Shoddy camera – Once again, we know its a $35 low-budget offering – but a 2 MP camera really does not make any sense on a smartphone. To put things in perspective, the latest iPhone has a 8 MP camera, Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16 MP camera, and Sony Xperia Z1 boasts of a 20 MP built-in camera. Now, megapixels are not the be-all and the end-all of phone cameras, and the the other handsets are way more expensive – but surely the Firefox developers have gone with a 5 MP basic camera?
l) The phone body feels ‘cheap’ – To woo people away from Android, Firefox OS needs to stay away from devices that are as poorly built as the Intex Cloud FX. Those who trash Samsung phones for their plastic bodies should take a look at how bad, grainy-looking the front plastic cover of the Cloud FX is. There exists an air gap between the LCD and the touchscreen as well. Even the word ‘Intex’ has been put on the phone with plastic pieces. Let alone the OS, even the brand name of Intex would suffer due to this phone.
m) No back button – Mobile app development experts are pretty much sure that, as the overall Firefox app-count swells, this will emerge as a major issue. The absence of a ‘back’ button will hurt the usability of apps with multiple screens (and let’s face it, practically all present-day applications have many tabs and pages). The Firefox apps currently available are way too simplistic – and that’s precisely why this issue has not been talked about that much yet.
n) Lackluster battery performance – If you thought that this low-end phone would at least have a strong battery, here’s another disappointment. The Cloud FX comes with an under-par 1250 mAh battery – and if you get it, the phone charger will become a constant companion of yours. That’s bad news for mobile gaming fans, in particular. The device also heats up too soon.
Another low-point of the Intex Cloud FX is its sound quality. Instead of focusing solely on generating maximum volume, the Firefox developers should have corrected the screechy sounds that the device generates during calls. No one would mind if Firefox OS phones are priced at slightly higher levels – Android One is doing very well – but the device specs have to improve a lot. A handset like Intex Cloud FX simply does not cut it.
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