November 17, 2015
On the 29th of September, during the weekly Mauritius Internet Users (MIU) Skype meeting, Sandraghassen Pillai (Ganesh) presented the Firefox OS and told us about the local group of Mozilla. Ganesh says he’s a Mozillian, a term used for advocates of Mozilla. That reminded me the Geckos of openSUSE.
As we discussed more on Firefox OS testing in Mauritius, the only device currently available on the market is Orange Klif. Among friends, no one had it, and we concluded it would be best to test using the Firefox OS simulator. It kind of spoiled the fun though.
The week that we had the Firefox OS discussion on MIU, the National Computer Board hosted Infotech 2015. I knew Orange had a stand and thought maybe I could hop in to try Orange Klif there. Unfortunately, mobile sales at the Orange stand drew in a huge crowd, as expected. That left very little space where I could interact with someone and learn more about Orange Klif and Firefox OS.
Then, on the 6th of October, I saw Orange Mauritius tweeting about mobile sales in the Orange shops. I enquired about Firefox OS through a tweet-reply and to my surprise Orange said they could lend me an Orange Klif to test.
Orange Klif falls in the category of low-specs smartphones. That would not be something trendy that the young folks would cheer for. However, Orange Klif could be a nice experimental gadget at the hands of a mobile app developer and it comes for just Rs 1499. Is the investment worth it? Let’s see.
Weighing just 98 grams the Orange Klif is a lightweight smartphone. It comes with a Dual Core processor at 1.0 Ghz, 256M RAM and 512M internal memory. The display has a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels and a rear camera at 2.0 megapixels. Unfortunately, there is no front camera.
For connectivity, there is WiFi (tethering is possible), bluetooth, mobile data (uses 3G) and contrary to what is published on orange.mu, Klif does have GPS.
Let’s see what does Firefox OS bring. Klif is shipped with Firefox OS 2.0, bundled with apps for the camera, file management, text messaging, social networks (Twitter & Facebook), radio etc. For internet surfing there is Mozilla’s Firefox by default :)
There is an app called “Ludigames” that opens up a box of 50+ free HTML5 games. However, that’s not something I seek. I fired up the Firefox Marketplace and searched for “terminal”; none were found. I use my mobile a lot to connect to the internet and have SSH connections. A terminal is the first thing I install on an Android-based mobile phone. I was kind of sad, something like a “terminal app” was missed out from the marketplace of a Linux-based mobile operating system.
I then looked for other applications that I use most. Instagram comes next in the list; sadly, there is no official Instagram app in the Firefox Marketplace. I tried the Twitter app while on WiFi. It’s sleek and works pretty fine for a low-specs phone. That is where I was impressed actually. I have used the Twitter app in low-specs phones (with 256M RAM) in the past, it was not as fluid.
While I’m still about the tweets, I should make this remark about the keypad. It’s an awful experience, both in terms of “hardware” and display. I mention hardware because of the screen size; a compact keypad within a width area of 320 pixels does not give a comfortable typing experience. Display-wise, all characters are shown capitalized. Why? I don’t know. The only way I could make a difference is when hitting the “caps” button and it stays highlighted. I don’t know if this has changed in Firefox OS version 2.0+ but right now it’s annoying.
Orange Klif call quality
I tried the phone call and I would rate the quality at 8⁄10. Though the network icon showed only one bar, the voice wasn’t choppy, something I usually notice in other mobile phones. The overall voice quality though was clear, it sounded like in a compact area. I would not attribute that to the network.
Orange Klif does not fit my day-to-day needs due to the low-specs and lack of apps. However, it could be a useful tool for mobile app developers to challenge themselves to develop for low resource devices. As it happened, Micah Gorell developed this tiny Twitter app called Macaw which is just 829KB.
My interest in Firefox OS remains firm though and I would certainly like to explore more about it on a high-end smartphone as and when it’s available in Mauritius. There is definitely more about Firefox OS that I would write in the coming days.
Find more about Orange Klif & Firefox OS in the review by S. Moonesamy.