Cherry Mobile Ace (FirefoxOS) review

So in the previous blog post, I talked about buying a new phone. That's because I broke my Android phone. I curse the idea of putting a phone in the back pocket. It doesn't just bend your iPhone 6, it also puts internal stress to your regular plastic smartphone. While I could buy a new one, it doesn't mean I should buy a new one, especially if... I still have my toy phone.


Yes, I have a Cherry Mobile Ace powered by FirefoxOS. I call it a "toy" because I bought it for the sole purpose of playing around with it (and for a cheap price of P999). Also, I'm a JavaScript developer by profession and by hobby and a device powered by JavaScript is like the best thing that could ever happen. And martphones are just fancy packaging of useful radios and sensors, making it the next best thing to a Tessel.

Anyways, for a week, I used the Ace in real life and not just for toying around. It's not The Best Phone In The World™ but it gets the simplest things done. Here's why:

Lag

The first noticable thing is the lag and this is caused by a bunch of stuff. Right off the bat is the single core 1Ghz processor and the 128MB RAM. For such small memory, multi-tasking isn't feasible. Your apps will constantly be killed (removed from memory) and reloaded (app and some saved state). Being reloaded from disk is slow enough. Reloading all the time, it's insane.

For a person who is used to using a smartphone running a dual-core and above with more than 512MB RAM (read: butter smooth), this lag can get a little frustrating.

Low Memory and Browsing

Even with the lag, you can do away with simple stuff like playing music over bluetooth while texting and some browsing... of mobile sites. Yes, I specifically mentioned "mobile sites" because with larger sites, the phone simply chokes.

I'm no stranger to websites that eat up a lot of memory. Even my day job is about trimming down and making performant web sites and apps. And a regular web page with your regular dose of JavaScript madness eats up no less than 50MB of memory. For a phone that only packs 128MB for everything, large sites will just pwn the device.

Battery Life

I know that it only packs around 1300mAh of juice. That's reasonable for its price. But when in use... I don't know what to say. Today, I had the device full but had it connected the entire time I was in the office. I packed up and left the office 8PM. When I arrived home, I was texting a friend. It wasn't long before the indicator for the battery went red, around 10PM. And I was like "WTF!".

I may be asking too much from the device. In addition, there's no battery monitor like Android (or at least someone hasn't made one). However, I have my suspects. I already tried bluetooth for an entire day, it does last a day. Add in WiFi on but phone in idle, then it will last you until the afternoon. Surfing, however, will eat the battery up as pages are heavy, require lots of cycles (demmet JavaScript) and a lot of LMK action.

Screen accuracy

I don't know if it's just me but I have big fingers, but the screen is small. The problem now is that I can't hit the buttons properly. Instead of a P, I hit O. And this isn't just that. Speed-typing isn't possible. You can't press unless you lift the other away or else, you'll get another letter.

Another related problem is that the FirefoxOS it comes with doesn't have custom keyboard support. I have a friend that owns a feature phone just about the same size and screen area. A 3x4 keypad would have been the best bet. Unfortunate that custom keyboard support isn't available.

Conclusion

I can't say for sure of the Cherry Mobile Ace with FirefoxOS is "an amazing phone" because I have been using mid-range Android devices. My expectations might have been too much for a small phone. However, there's some glint of hope for the device, by not thinking that it is a phone, but instead... a small JS-powered array of sensors.

Yes. Imagine for the price of P999, you get certified-level access to internal APIs and an bunch of sensors like compass, accelerometer, camera and all that housed in a little plastic case called a phone. Yep, think out of the box. The possibilities are endless here.

mobile open source firefox os

© Joseph Descalzota