Review Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS) Smartphone

Florian Wimmer (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 12/20/2013

Firefox for the phone. In 2004, Mozilla revolutionized the Internet world with its Firefox browser. Now the non-profit organization launches a mobile operating system on the market dubbed Firefox OS. One of the first cell phones featuring this OS is the affordable Alcatel One Touch Fire that we put through its paces. Is another revolution now coming our way?

In Review: Alcatel One Touch Fire

For the original German review, see here.

Just 90 Euros (~$123) for a smartphone? Alcatel's One Touch Fire is sold for little money, and the interested user can choose among three different colors. The front and backside is always white; only the bezel's color is white, Firefox Orange or Apple Green. Our review sample is green.

Alcatel's One Touch Fire is not really aimed at markets in the western hemisphere with its very low price. It is more intended for expanding markets like China, India or South America. Nevertheless, the new operating system arouses curiosity in the west. The German provider Congstar already states that there may be a delay in delivery due to high demand.

We will look at what restrictions have to be accepted in a 90 Euros (~$123) smartphone, and naturally take a closer look at the new operating system in this test report. Other phones based on Firefox OS are presently still rare, but LG's Optimus L3 II is a very low-priced Android smartphone and Huawei's Ascend Y300 only costs a bit more. The street price of both Samsung's Galaxy Fame and Galaxy Young are also within this price range. Nokia's Lumia 520 represents an affordable Windows Phone.

Case

A metal casing for 90 Euros (~$123) would be a small sensation, and Alcatel's One Touch Fire does not provide this. Plastic in three different colors is the material of choice, as mentioned above. Since the screen is very small for a smartphone with just 3.5-inches, the casing is accordingly compact: Almost 13 centimeters in height, and 6.7 centimeters in width. Alcatel's One Touch Fire is a very slim device with a thickness of 9 millimeters, at least in the budget sector. Neither LG's Optimus L3 II nor Huawei's Ascend Y300 can compete with that.

The One Touch Fire generally features a rigid build. However, medium pressure on the screen leads to streaks in the liquid crystals. The plastic pane that protects the screen can also be dented to quite an extent. Otherwise, the smartphone is stiff, and also resistant to pressure from the back.

Software

Firefox OS

One of the biggest highlights of Alcatel's One Touch Fire is definitely the brand new Firefox OS, which is entirely based on open web technologies like HTML 5 or JavaScript. The German Telecom and Telefónica were its partners, and they now also sell the devices.

Initial use is relaxing, particularly in times of Big Data, and monitoring through intelligence agencies and advertising companies. Firefox OS does not require creating an account, nor does it demand any personal information in the start up. After the first settings, the user is on a home screen that is quite similar to existing systems. Small icons for apps are arranged in rows of four, and can be moved via drag and drop.

A bar with messages and information about things like network quality and time is at the upper edge. Like in Google's Android, it can be pulled down, enabling quick access to innumerable settings. The settings menu is astonishingly like in Android. Of course, we could say: better well-copied than to improve for the worse.

But what makes Firefox OS special then? Since all apps are also all based on well-known and widely-distributed technologies, such as HTML 5, CSS or JavaScript, it is easy for programmers to create content. However, apps can be installed locally or be executed directly online in the browser. Thus, apps can simply be installed from the market place, or the search box that shows all available online apps in Firefox OS. Apps can also sometimes just be mobile websites so that the home screen turns into a nicely rehashed bookmark list. The boundaries between apps and mobile Internet merge imperceptibly.

Apps directly from the Internet are started without installation by only a click. One disadvantage is that some functions cannot be implemented with the online apps because they cannot access many of the smartphone's features for security reasons (contacts, personal data, telephone function, etc.). The verified apps from the marketplace have more rights, and can for example access the contacts. Another drawback: When offline, logically only the apps that are permanently installed on the device are available, providing they do not need Internet for their content.

The operating system version 1.1.0.0 was installed on our review sample, which had "Pre-release" in its name. Consequently, a few bugs annoyed our routine with the One Touch Fire. For example, Wi-Fi could not be reset after entering the wrong password for quite a time, and it consistently tried to connect.

Our impression of Firefox OS: intuitive in use; Android users will only need a short familiarization period. The idea with the online apps is interesting, but it also has a few drawbacks. These disadvantages sometimes make it recommendable to prefer the app from the marketplace. One advantage is surely that rarely used apps do not have to be installed, and that they do not have access to personal data.

Most apps run adequately fast, and the navigation also works fairly lag-free on the rather performance-weak hardware of our review sample. Firefox OS will very likely be first choice for security geeks, and those who want to protect their data. Future updates could also make Firefox OS a serious competitor for the established operating systems. We can only hope that the funding for the 30 full-time programmers at Mozilla is secured; most ironically coming from a contract with Google.

The Facebook app is actually only the mobile website.
The Facebook app is actually only the mobile website.
The marketplace is intuitive in use, and is already well-filled.
The marketplace is intuitive in use, and is already well-filled.
Many things are functional, but some are also a bit plain.
Many things are functional, but some are also a bit plain.
Contacts can also be imported from Facebook.
Contacts can also be imported from Facebook.

Installed Apps

Besides standard functions, such as telephone and SMS, many apps are installed on Alcatel's One Touch Fire: Here Maps from Nokia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia as well as the Firefox browser. A few games were also installed on our model, just like the app from the mobile network provider Congstar.

Many of these installed apps are in fact only links to the mobile version of the corresponding website. Telephone, radio, news, email client, camera, an app about data usage, as well as the Firefox browser and address book are actually installed on the device.

Connectivity

Powered by a single-core SoC with a clock of 1 GHz, Alcatel's One Touch Fire will no longer win any performance prizes these days. The storage capacity of just 512 MB is also tight. However, it can be expanded up to 32 GB via the micro SD reader.

The accuracy was just over 10 meters near the walls of houses.
The accuracy was just over 10 meters near the walls of houses.

Communication & GPS 

We naturally do not expect LTE from a 90 Euros (~$123) smartphone. Alcatel's One Touch Fire includes HSPA, which enables browsing the Internet with up to 7.2 MBit per second. Besides that, the phone can be used anywhere in the world owing to quad-band in the GSM network, and dual-band in the UMTS network.

Wi-Fi provides the current 802.11 b/g/n standards, and its reception strength is on the usual level. Half the signal strength was displayed at a distance of 10 meters and through 2 walls. Another wall between the phone and the router results in a quarter.

The aGPS module fortunately finds enough satellites quite fast for determining the position fairly accurately. An accuracy of approx. 14 meters was achieved in the area of houses, and it was clearly below 10 meters in open terrain.

Telephony & Speech Quality

The telephone app also sticks to Google's operating system: Large keys, green dial button, two tabs for contacts and call history. Everything is clearly arranged, but not with much obvious ambition to differ from existing systems.

The called person is well-audible, but critical users might be annoyed about the slightly muffled sound, and a very quiet buzzing noise in high volumes. The hands-free feature via the speaker works well; the speech quality is good, and the maximum volume is satisfactory.

Cameras & Multimedia

Alcatel's One Touch Fire sports a 3.2 megapixel camera. The pictures are saved in a size of 2048x1536 pixels. The comparison of our pictures shows that the camera cannot compete with the units in premium smartphones. The pictures exhibit a bluish cast, bright areas are overexposed, and the details are not ideal either. Intense color noise is noticed in poor lighting conditions. The camera might satisfy users who only want to take snapshots with their phone. However, another device should be selected for any higher ambitions or party photos because there is no LED flash.

Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Plant
Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Plant
Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Scene
Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Scene
Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Surroundings
Alcatel One Touch Fire (3.2 megapixels): Surroundings
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Plant
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Plant
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Scene
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Scene
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Surroundings
Apple iPhone 5 (8 megapixels): Surroundings
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Plant
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Plant
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Scene
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Scene
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Surroundings
Nokia Lumia 925 (8.7 megapixels): Surroundings
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Plant
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Plant
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Scene
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Scene
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Surroundings
Samsung Galaxy S4 (13 megapixels): Surroundings
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Plant
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Plant
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Scene
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Scene
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Surroundings
Sony A57 (13 megapixels): Surroundings


Accessories

Since the One Touch is presently not even found on Alcatel's official website, it is difficult to buy suitable accessories. There is at least a headset besides a USB cable and charger in the box, which is not a matter of course for all affordable phones. The phone also comes with a 2 GB memory card; Alcatel likely knows that 512 MB is not a very voluminous data storage capacity.

Warranty

Alcatel includes a 12 month warranty on its smartphones. Upgrades can be purchased depending on the local retailer or by an insurance provider.

Input Devices & Controls

Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard landscape mode
Keyboard landscape mode

The virtual keyboard also follows known patterns, and strongly resembles the Android keyboard. Its use is quick, and quite intuitive. However, the small screen also involves a small keyboard. Word recognition facilitates faster inputting; there presently are no alternative input methods, such as handwriting detection or voice dictation.

A shortcut button enables switching among all installed languages, which is actually unnecessary. It gets annoying because it does not open a menu when accidentally hit; instead the keyboard automatically switches to the next language. Longer pressure first opens a menu to change back again.

Display

The small TFT screen has a diagonal size of 3.5-inches and a resolution of 480x320 pixels. Other screens in this price range offer similar rates. Compared with higher-quality smartphone screens, the screen in Alcatel's One Touch Fire looks dark, and a bit unfocused due to the low resolution. Particularly websites that are not optimized for mobile use, and which have larger texts are difficult to read.

293
cd/m²
323
cd/m²
325
cd/m²
290
cd/m²
319
cd/m²
318
cd/m²
291
cd/m²
320
cd/m²
308
cd/m²
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 325 cd/m²
Average: 309.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 89 %
Center on Battery: 319 cd/m²
Black: 0.37 cd/m²
Contrast: 862:1
Distribution of brightness

At first glance, the colors look pale; white and black are, however, quite rich and dark. In fact, the One Touch Fire has a good black level of 0.37 cd/m², and the contrast of 862:1 is also higher than in some other budget smartphones.

We use the program CalMAN and a colorimeter for a more accurate image assessment. We noticed that the screen highly overemphasizes blue hues, and almost all grayscale rates deviate strongly from the sRGB color space reference value, and that they are also shifted toward blue.

CalMAN Color Management
CalMAN Color Management
CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps

The screen is not extremely reflective when used outdoors, and the brightness rates are quite acceptable for a device from this price range. Nevertheless, it will not be possible to work with the phone in bright sunlight.

The viewing angles are quite good from left to right in portrait mode. However, the contrast decreases quickly from above and below. Overall, the viewing angles are good, particularly in view of the price range.

Outdoors
Outdoors
Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

Compared with current smartphones, the 1 GHz single-core processor that powers the smartphone is, of course, a slow operator. This may also be due to the comparatively small RAM. Although navigating in menus is smooth, and the optimized apps load and run quickly, slight lags are occasionally noticed. Also, when an app is not quite as well-optimized, like the Settings app, these stutters are sometimes more intense. Nevertheless, routine use with Alcatel's One Touch Fire is quite pleasant, and its performance is still just enough for most tasks.

It is still quite difficult to assess the performance of Firefox OS objectively because none of the normally used benchmarks are (yet) available for the operating system. We only receive objective rates from the browser benchmarks, and Alcatel's One Touch Fire scores quite well here. It naturally is defeated by current premium-range phones, such as Google's Nexus 5, but other low-budget devices like Sony's Xperia E or Huawei's Ascend Y300 fall behind. However, it must also be said that a few browser benchmarks (Peacekeeper, Octane) crash in the mobile Firefox; its stability does not seem optimal.

It is also subjectively evident that Firefox OS has been optimized for the Internet. The Firefox browser is very clearly arranged, and swift in the context of the hardware's capabilities. However, heavy Internet users should consider whether websites are really fun on the small and low-resolution screen. Scrolling is also quite fidgety sometimes.

Sunspider
Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS)
3459 ms * ∼86%
Google Nexus 5
716.3 ms * ∼18% +79%
Acer Liquid E1 Duo
1496.7 ms * ∼37% +57%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1741.7 ms * ∼43% +50%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score
Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS)
59466.3 ms * ∼100%
Google Nexus 5
7852.3 ms * ∼13% +87%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
24669.6 ms * ∼41% +59%
Browsermark 2.0
Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS)
1052 points ∼15%
Huawei Ascend Y300
479 points ∼7% -54%
Google Nexus 5
2803 points ∼39% +166%
Sony Xperia E dual
811 points ∼11% -23%
Acer Liquid E1 Duo
1769 points ∼25% +68%
Acer Liquid Z3 Duo
1179 points ∼16% +12%
Legend
      Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS) Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 MSM7227A, Qualcomm Adreno 200, 512 MB NAND Flash
      Huawei Ascend Y300 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8225, Qualcomm Adreno 203, 4 GB Flash
      Google Nexus 5 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB iNAND Flash
      Sony Xperia E dual Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 MSM7227A, Qualcomm Adreno 200, 4 GB Flash
      Acer Liquid E1 Duo MediaTek MT6577, PowerVR SGX531, 4 GB Flash
      Acer Liquid Z3 Duo MediaTek MT6572, ARM Mali-400 MP, 4 GB Flash

* ... smaller is better

Games

Although it may seem ridiculous to ascribe gaming qualities to such a low-performance device, Firefox OS is currently made for weak hardware, and thus the available games exactly match that. A few well-known titles like Cut the Rope are among the games playable.

In terms of graphics, none can compete with the current top games on mobile devices by any means, but many are fun to play and the majority are free of charge. In fact, all tested games from the marketplace ran absolutely lag-free on Alcaltel's One Touch Fire. The user should just not expect 3D gaming in cutting-edge graphics, but rather retro-graphics in 2D.

Emissions

Temperature

High casing temperatures are not an issue owing to the SoC's low performance. The maximum temperature during full load was 31.8 °C, which is barely noticed.

Max. Load
 28.2 °C29.5 °C31.3 °C 
 28.4 °C29.6 °C31.8 °C 
 28.1 °C29.4 °C31.8 °C 
 
27.4 °C28.8 °C26.2 °C
28 °C29.3 °C26.3 °C
27.2 °C29.5 °C26.3 °C
Maximum: 31.8 °C
Average: 29.8 °C
 Maximum: 29.5 °C
Average: 27.7 °C
Power Supply (max.)  32.5 °C | Room Temperature 21.3 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speakers

The small speaker on the back is louder than one would presume. The sound is a bit thin when the phone is held in the hand. However, when it is placed on a table, even basses are audible. The mids are too weak in every situation so that only an overall middling sound is achieved. Nevertheless, that is more than satisfactory for this price range.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

A small screen, and low performance - the power consumption of Alcatel's One Touch Fire should be moderate. In fact, the device consumes considerably less than one watt in most application scenarios. A still low 1.4 watts is consumed when the device is fully loaded.

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.01 / 0.1 Watt
Idle 0.2 / 0.5 / 0.6 Watt
Load 0.8 / 1.4 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

Low performance = low consumption = long battery runtimes. This equation works out precisely in Alcatel's One Touch Fire. The phone lasted up to 25 hours when it was not in standby, but not used either. Browsing the Internet is possible for almost a whole workday, and users who max out the system performance can do so until the lunch break.

Thus, the device is definitely long-lasting. But since the battery is not the biggest of its kind with 5.81 watt hours, the One Touch Fire does not stand out exceptionally from other models. Nevertheless, this proves the energy management of Firefox OS is well programmed.

Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
25h 32min
WiFi Surfing
7h 12min
Gaming
5h 26min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 59min

Verdict

Alcatel's One Touch Fire is certainly not a technical highlight. It is actually a step back into the smartphone-stone age in some areas: Small screen, low resolution, occasional lags during use, and plastic no matter where the hands are placed. Then again, certain restrictions can be accepted for a price of only just 90 Euros (~$123), and the excitement of trying out a completely new system is virtually priceless. However, Firefox OS can also be tested via a plug-in in the Firefox browser; more information can be found here.

Users who want to immediately try out Firefox OS on a phone, and who can live with some restrictions in terms of software and hardware, will find a quite elegantly designed, very handy, and intuitive to use device in Alcatel's One Touch Fire. Everyone else should perhaps be patient. The availability of devices will surely grow in a few months, Firefox OS will certainly be better developed after a few updates, and the marketplace will likely have more to offer. We are looking forward to the future!

In Review: Alcatel One Touch Fire. Courtesy of a private lender.
In Review: Alcatel One Touch Fire. Courtesy of a private lender.
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In Review: Alcatel One Touch Fire.
In Review: Alcatel One Touch Fire.

Specifications

Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS)

:: Processor
:: Memory
256 MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
3.5 inch 3:2, 480x320 pixel, capacitive touchscreen, TFT, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
512 MB NAND Flash, 0.5 GB , 0.3 GB free
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm headset jack, Card Reader: micro SD reader max. 32 GB, Sensors: proximity sensor, G-sensor, A-GPS, FM radio
:: Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b g n ), 3.0 Bluetooth, GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 900/2100
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 8.99 x 67 x 130.3
:: Weight
0.108 kg Power Supply: 0.02 kg
:: Battery
5.18 Wh Lithium-Ion, 1400 mAh, Standby 2G (according to manufacturer): 280 h 0 min
:: Price
90 Euro
:: Operating System
Mozilla Firefox OS
:: Additional features
Webcam: 3.2 MP, Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual keyboard, 12 Months Warranty

 

Curiosity grows,...
Curiosity grows,...
...which is not primarily due to Alcatel's One Touch Fire, but its operating system.
...which is not primarily due to Alcatel's One Touch Fire, but its operating system.
Firefox OS is the much anticipated mobile operating system by Mozilla.
Firefox OS is the much anticipated mobile operating system by Mozilla.
The first smartphone featuring this OS is now available on the German market in a matching orange.
The first smartphone featuring this OS is now available on the German market in a matching orange.
However, our review sample is Apple Green.
However, our review sample is Apple Green.
All devices have the white back in common.
All devices have the white back in common.
The same camera is also used in all models. It has a fairly low resolution.
The same camera is also used in all models. It has a fairly low resolution.
At least, the device has a nice design.
At least, the device has a nice design.
Its stability is also quite good.
Its stability is also quite good.
There is an audio jack, but the speaker isn't at all bad either.
There is an audio jack, but the speaker isn't at all bad either.
The screen has a low resolution, and a clear bluish cast.
The screen has a low resolution, and a clear bluish cast.
Nevertheless, both brightness and contrast are very acceptable for the low price.
Nevertheless, both brightness and contrast are very acceptable for the low price.
There's nothing exceptional about the accessories.
There's nothing exceptional about the accessories.
Firefox OS still has a lot to learn before it is a threat for Android. But we are looking forward to it.
Firefox OS still has a lot to learn before it is a threat for Android. But we are looking forward to it.
The home screen resembles that of known mobile operating systems.
The home screen resembles that of known mobile operating systems.
Games run smoothly, but they are usually also specially programmed for the operating system.
Games run smoothly, but they are usually also specially programmed for the operating system.
Nokia's Here Maps is installed.
Nokia's Here Maps is installed.

Similar Devices

Notebooks from a different Manufacturer and/or with a different CPU

Notebooks with the same GPU

» Review ZTE Blade III Smartphone
MSM7227A, 4", 0.13 kg
» Review LG Optimus E430 L3 II Smartphone
MSM7225A, 3.2", 0.0164 kg
» Review Sony Xperia J Smartphone
MSM7227A, 4.0", 0.124 kg
» Review Dell Streak 5" Tablet/MID
Snapdragon S1 QSD8250, 5", 0.218 kg

Links


Compare Prices

Pro

+Handy
+Well built
+Zesty design
+Cool and long-lasting
+New, open operating system
+High data security
+Very affordable price
 

Contra

-"Apps" are often only mobile websites
-Low power = laggy scrolling
-Low resolution screen

Shortcut

What we like

The new operating system definitely has potential.

What we'd like to see

Firefox OS can certainly be optimized here and there. Also, a higher resolution screen would make sense in an Internet phone.

What surprises us

How much fun the games are that the busy community has already created for the OS.

The competition

Low-priced Android phones: Sony Xperia E dual, Huawei Ascend Y300, LG Optimus L3 II, Samsung Galaxy Young, Samsung Galaxy Fame, Acer Liquid E1, Acer Liquid Z3 or the Nokia Lumia 520 Windows Phone.

Rating

Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS)
11/28/2013 v3
Florian Wimmer

Chassis
75%
Keyboard
36%
Pointing Device
79%
Connectivity
40%
Weight
100%
Battery
96%
Display
68%
Games Performance
15%
Application Performance
30%
Temperature
92%
Noise
100%
Add Points
61%
Average
66%
81%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Alcatel One Touch Fire (Firefox OS) Smartphone
Author: Florian Wimmer, 2013-12-20 (Update: 2013-12-24)