The Alcatel Onetouch Fire E is a Firefox OS phone available on MTN. It was launched a couple of months ago in South Africa.

I’ve played with one and I’d like to share a few things about it if you are interested in buying one.

The Firefox OS is an alternate to Android, which means new environment and different apps; it can also run HTML5 apps. So don’t expect to see Gmail’s suite of apps on it. It comes with its own default apps. When you switch it on, the layout is set to a vertical scroll by default, which takes a bit of getting used to. I couldn’t so I switched to horizontal.

The handset does not have an app tray, so it’s a bit messy. You can’t hide anything from the homescreen. It comes preloaded with the MTN app, PriceCheck, ConnectA2 (a third party Whatsapp client since there is no official one), News24, Zando, and a bunch of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, SoundCloud), and tools and utilities (mail, calendar, calculator, radio, music, flashlight, notes). The only way to get rid of anything from the homescreens is to delete it.

Fire-E

The screen isn’t that great, the wallpaper appears pixelated, as well as most content, like on YouTube and the browser. But considering that it’s being marketed as an entry-level phone, this shouldn’t matter. I also found that the touchscreen didn’t work properly, bit of a hit and miss as it worked when it wanted to. I had to press the screen several times for it to register.

The keyboard is cramped and alphabets appear in uppercase, which is a bit confusing as it’s the default and if you want uppercase keys to appear when you type, you have to hit the caps lock key.

In all honesty, you are not buying the phone for the camera. However, it has HDR mode and a fair amount of options like timer, scene modes, ISO, white balance and shoots video in 720p. The front camera is 0.3MP so expect blurry selfies.

I’ve put the specs of the Fire E, priced at R1699, side by side with the cheapest Windows Phone handset, the Lumia 430, priced at R999.

It’s fairly obvious that the R999 priced Lumia 430 is a better purchase, and I haven’t even touched on the extras that come with a Windows Phone handset (which is upgradeable to Windows Phone 10 later this year). I also played around with a Lumia 430, which offers a bit more of a ‘superior’ experience all around. The 430 is also a dual-SIM handset available exclusively on Cell C.

If Firefox wants to compete in the low cost market in South Africa, I think they should bring their $25 handset here. As it stands, the Fire E is an expensive entry-level phone, considering it’s a foreign OS with limited apps.

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