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Alcatel One Touch Fire Review: is Firefox OS a joke?

I was looking forward to my first test run with this Firefox mobile OS smartphone: the Alcatel One Touch Fire. So I rushed to be the one to review it when the bright orange thing first passed under my nose. A poor impulse it seems now, as the alternative platform does not hold up at all, and is well below Android standards.

alcatel one touch firefox back
© AndroidPIT

The Alcatel One Touch Fire is a smartphone in a very affordable range. Without dwelling on the subject, there are some things that are entirely understandable and acceptable in a device that costs less than 100 dollars, but some others are simply inexcusable and prohibitive. In this test you will see what aspects of the One Touch Fire make it absolutely unusable. Whether this is the fault of the Firefox OS or Alcatel, the fact remains. This failure, sadly, means that Android will have a long wait to see any competition in the form of Firefox OS.

alcatel one touch firefox front
The design and quality of the Alcatel One Touch Fire is quite impressive.. / © AndroidPIT

Design & manufacture

The One Touch Fire is pretty well finished. Design choices and the bright orange color will either please you or not, as is always the case with things of this sort. The colors of course are based on the Firefox system's shades of orange. The handset does not look or feel "cheap", but it is still quite heavy for a smartphone of this size. The rear plate and the battery of the Fire are removeable, and provide access to a micro SD slot. Nothing else to report in terms of design and manufacturing: for less than 100 dollars, it's all good.

alcatel one touch firefox bootscreen
The Firefox system at least looks nice. / © AndroidPIT


Not much to say about this 3.5 inches display with 320x480 pixel resolution. It does its job perfectly acceptably without stepping anywhere near being amazing. There are major problems with touch sensitivity though, that greatly hinder the use of the device, but we will return to these in the system section. The brightness is sufficient and, in general, the display is suitable for a smartphone in this class.

alcatel one touch firefox main
Lock screen and applications under Firefox OS. / © AndroidPIT

System: Firefox OS

So far, so good, especially for a smartphone in the double figure price range. The system though, will change that evaluation very quickly. First, it is really slow, displaying a serious lack of fluidity, that even considering the youth of the OS and the price of the device cannot explain. Major slowdowns and buttons that do not respond even after 5 seconds are not only really, really frustrating but are unacceptable on a consumer device in any price range.

As for the interface, it is halfway between Google's Android and Apple's iOS, so we have a home screen, but no application drawer "à la Android". When you slide to the side, you can access your applications... eventually, when the One Touch Fire finally responds.

alcatel one touch firefox app permissions
The permissions are set independently for each application. / © AndroidPIT

Firefox as a company is centered around protecting privacy and promoting security in particular, but these principles are kind of missing here in the way you might expect. All that is offered here though, can be easily replicated on Android with permission management apps, or disabling location services with third-party applications such as XPrivacy. Indeed, nothing prevents us from using an Android without GPS enabled, without a Google account and with only installing applications that don't require intrusive permissions. In short, what does Firefox OS bring to the table that we can't already do on Android?

alcatel one touch firefox security
Firefox takes the protection of privacy seriously: good point. / © AndroidPIT

After a few minutes of use I had to come to the obvious conclusion: the One Touch Fire simply acts according to its own will! My touchscreen gestures seemed to have practically no effect on what was actually happening on screen. I could tap an icon and drag it somewhere, and then the notification bar would open like magic! Controlling the actual phone was almost impossible.

My test proved to be a joke. To show you what I mean, here's an amusing anecdote: I took some screenshots to enhance this article, but when I tried to email the pictures to myself, I opened the email app only to find that the create new message button didn't work.

alcatel one touch firefox pb screenE
To the left, unable to send an email, to the right, impossible to go back. / © AndroidPIT

The touch screen malfunctions are even worse than I originally thought: every time I clicked anything in the top right of the screen, the notifications bar would react. The ridiculously unreliable sensitivity was causing this problem up to about one whole centimeter below the area that should launch it. This weird issue is so pervasive that you cannot create or send a message or go back in many menus, meaning you are forced to leave the application from the task manager and restart. Or not, because nothing works properly anyway. Perhaps we just had a serious dud on our hands, but this level of inaccuracy would be laughable if it wasn't so infuriating.

alcatel one touch firefox multi taches
The management of applications to the left. To the right, you'd need a day. / © AndroidPIT

To finish on a ''high'' note, the camera is ok. Careful though, it's really not that great but all things considered it's one of the best things on the Firefox phone. But to give you an idea of how it stacks up, I would rate it slightly above a Galaxy Ace 2.

alcatel one touch firefox photo
For a smartphone in this price range, I was actually expecting much worse. / © AndroidPIT

The interface of the camera app could not be more simple, and by this I mean incomplete. When I touched the screen to take a photo, I would see a weird black bar appear that left me perplexed. It turned out later to simply be the shortcut bar to the latest photos taken, although nothing actually appeared in it.

alcatel one touch firefox appareil photo
The gallery lags enormously, to the point of becoming very annoying. / © AndroidPIT


I will not pretend: this first test of a smartphone running Firefox is an absolute disaster. I can not tell if the problem is primarily Alcatel's or Firefox's or both, but the result is an absolutely useless smartphone. This is unacceptable not only to me but to anyone who wants a device that works and it is a pity that a smartphone rocking an alternative OS that comes in under 100 dollars, which otherwise would have been very welcome, could turn out to be so terrible. It's hard to even see a way in which the OS would be better after some improvements: it was so unreliable it was impossible to get an idea of what it might do if it was actually working.  

Has this review turned you off Firefox OS completely, or would you still consider it if things improve?


Write new comment:
  • alexcool Nov 26, 2013 Link to comment

    firefox os is a joke now.

  • Bojan M. Nov 26, 2013 Link to comment

    @Yash Pal

    "Firefox have made it clear that they will not release a Firefox phone in the US in near future, which means that they are aware of the fact that some of the shortcomings will get them a very bad review in US."

    OMFG! I must thank you for this piece of information. Now I know for sure I will never, I repeat, never buy anything firefox. I don't live in USA or any of those fancy parts of Europe you mentioned and I, today at least, chose to be offended by this statement of firefox. So, firefox says, we are less worthy of their real quality products, so let them have this piece of junk, it's cheap, that's all we care about. For realz? I can buy an old Nokia phone for, I don't know, maybe less than 30$ and that phone will work and work magnificently. Low price is no excuse for something that doesn't work!

    You don't get sales by offering shitty products. As I said, firefox is either idiots or think we are. Well, I choose to be smarter that that.

    "So be patient and don't judge too early."

    The single requirement that is needed from customer is to judge! Otherwise, we would get this type of junk on a daily basis.

  • Yash Pal Nov 26, 2013 Link to comment

    Firefox have made it clear that they will not release a Firefox phone in the US in near future, which means that they are aware of the fact that some of the shortcomings will get them a very bad review in US.
    Bojan M writes: 'but Firefox/Alcatel party must be really stupid or really unappreciative to their potential customers to offer us this piece of junk.'
    What the people want/expect in North America and many parts of Europe is not what people require in the developing World. What is junk for you may not be junk at all. What the people in rural areas of the developing World require of a smartphone (including low cost) may be sneered at by you, but that does not make their requirements any less genuine.
    Therefore, "So be patient and don't judge too early."

    • You make a fair point @Yash Pal: that needs and wants are obviously different depending on where you live. There's a LOT of places without LTE yet (heck, there's plenty still on 2G) so I agree that you don't necessarily have to judge everything by the same cutting edge benchmarks (hence the popularity of lower cost devices), but at the same time take something like the Moto G. That's a brilliant phone at a practically unheard of price. And it still managed to do most of what the ''cutting edge'' phones do. So it's definitely possible to make a cheaper handset that still performs very well. The Alcatel phone didn't even WORK, so @Bojan has a point too! Stay tuned for a comparison piece comparing Firefox OS with an early version of Android...

  • Bojan M. Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

    Well, iOS is not far from that even today :D Ok ok, I'll play nice :) But, I bet the first iPhone at least worked, if not had all those things you mentioned. I bet all of us want this new phone/OS to succeed, the competition is always welcome, but Firefox/Alcatel party must be really stupid or really unappreciative to their potential customers to offer us this piece of junk.

  • Yash Pal Nov 25, 2013 Link to comment

    Android was in development with all the resources of Google available to it, for a number of years after Google acquired it.
    How long has firefox OS been under serious development? The initial development is most troublesome. Also, it is an altogether new concept.
    Perhaps I can do no better than reproduce Jan Marian's comments:
    "Do you remember iPhone OS 1.0? It did not even have MMS & Bluetooth support, video recording, clipboard, App Store, no 3-rd party apps, etc. So be patient and don't judge too early. Firefox OS soon will shine."

  • Amy R. Nov 24, 2013 Link to comment

    @baran g- FYI, spammers are NOT appreciated here =/

  • Which version were you testing? Firefox OS 1.0? Upgrade to 1.1, it is much better and faster. I run it without any hassle.
    Do you remember iPhone OS 1.0? It did not even have MMS & Bluetooth support, video recording, clipboard, App Store, no 3-rd party apps, etc. So be patient and don't judge too early. Firefox OS soon will shine.

    • Hey @Jan, I just checked, it was a 1.1 pre-release version. We'll be keeping an eye on developments, never fear.

  • Mark R. Nov 24, 2013 Link to comment

    hopefully this was a dud test phone, even more worrying (and shame on both companies) if they are actually trying to push such a poor product into the market.

    • Hey @Mark, I agree, I think many of us wanted this to be good, or at the very least, decent. I'm hoping it was a dud handset too, but then what is Alcatel doing sending out dud review handsets? In any case, we'll be sure to keep an eye out for the next Firefox OS phone and test that and see how it goes, especially if it's running a better build of the OS. A little healthy competition for Android is always welcome.

  • Amy R. Nov 24, 2013 Link to comment

    I have to admit, I am a HUGE Firefox fan and also had a Thunderbird account in the past (wish they put out one for Android). After I read this review, I was not surprised though. Firefox OS is still in it's infancy and needs about another year to grow. I won't give up hope yet. The day Mozilla finally breaks out of it's shell and makes a Firefox OS that is worthy, I'll be lining up to buy one ASAP!

  • Bojan M. Nov 23, 2013 Link to comment

    Lame! Just another iPhone wannabe, considering its looks. But, man, so lame in every regard.

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