Saturday, December 20, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The specs are pretty good (is a 64-bit octa core processor, 13MP rear - 5MP front camera, 4G dual SIM, 2GB RAM, 16 GB internal - expandable with up to 32GB, 2500 mAh battery, 5.5" 720p IPS display with corning gorilla glass 3 protection), and I think this device is going to be a hit. Two reasons:
1. Cynogenmod: very customizable, and ability to root the device
2. Sold elusively on Amazon with a very attractive price tag of 8999/-
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
The short answer is: the one that works best for you, and the one that you would like to use daily. Here are some of my views:
1. Firefox OS: I really love this OS. The OS is very lightweight as are its apps. The adaptable search is great and makes you feel that you have a new phone each time you do a search. The truly open source OS is great as a daily driver phone if your only app needs are : email, whatsapp, travel apps and literary every thing that is a web app. However, don't expect to find video editing or document / spread sheet processing or VOIP apps on this platform, at least not yet. Another issue is that the only devices running Firefox OS and available in India (as of this writing) are severely underpowered. Otherwise, this is the best choice as compared to Android and even lower cost Windows phones.
2. Windows Phone: This was the OS that I used for more than 2 years on a daily driver phone, after I got really frustrated with constant issues with my Android phone. The OS takes a fresh new approach to UI design, with the beautiful live tiles. But then the usability ends there. It frequently comes in the way of what you want to do - poor app collection, even the big name apps which are present are seldom updated, and the most disliked "Resuming ..." screen when switching between apps. If you get past this however, the OS is super smooth, it never lags. Even after using the device regularly for 2 years, with lots of apps and data stored, the device never slowed down - it was as fast as it was on day 1. With many low cost (sub 5K) devices running Windows phone coming to the market, this might be just the right OS for you - if you don't care about the apps i.e.
3. Android: For some strange reason I never liked Android. At first I didn't like it because it adopted Java instead of other more open and 'easy' programming languages like Python. Then I didn't like it because it more or less was controlled by Google, rather than being truly open source. Then I hated it as Samsung never updated the OS on my phone even as it was capable - I had to go the cyanogenmod way to get the latest. In the end I got frustrated enough to dump this as my daily driver OS. The introduction of Android One had rekindled my interest in Android, but after using it for a few weeks - it was clear that the frustrations of using Android are still there - random slowdowns, random freezes, and if you are not careful spywares. Even so, Android appears to be the de-facto choice for many. Devices running the OS simply give people the best value for money as of now.
4. iOS: If you want to have the best of every OS, then this is the OS for you. If you want to carry a 'true' computer in your pocket - this the OS for you. If you want to have the latest and the greatest apps - this is the OS for you. If you don't want to fiddle much with the device and want it to just work for you - this is the OS for you. I had switched to using an iOS device as my daily driver nearly an year ago for these exact reasons. There is no denying that this is the best mobile OS currently available, albeit with some 'restrictions'. Also, there are only limited choices of devices you can buy running this OS - only one company makes it : Apple. The best value for money for and iOS device you can get is an iPod touch - but that is not a phone and cannot be actually your daily driver device. The next best is iPhone 5c - this is a better choice than 4s and it has got better and newer hardware - even though some of you may not like a plastic casing device from Apple.
5. Others: And there are others. Blackberry OS - I never used this one my daily driver OS - but people say it a dedicated email machine, not every one uses email these days. Jolla OS - this one is too late to the party - it will have some takers, but I think this is not the future. Ubuntu OS - this one never seems to come - is it year end yet?
Friday, December 5, 2014
(EBay link to buy: http://www.ebay.in/itm/231385146489)
Update: After doing a bit of searching on Youtube, I found the following video, seems the same SKU
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
But the bummer of the whole thing was when I installed the SIM card on the phone. The phone never stabilized on the network signal, which seemed to go on and off. After some time the phone restarted. And this kept on happening. I changed the SIM to another spare one, and the same thing repeated.
There is also another issue with the piece I received, the battery doesn't seem to charge fully. Infact, it never goes beyond 97% charge, no matter how long you wait.
With these basic issues, I am left using this thing like an iPod touch, only not as good! I have contacted Snapdeal, and would report back on what happened. In short, I don't think it would be prudent to review this product based on this particular faulty unit.
Update: Snapdeal sent me a replacement device. But to my horror it too has the same problem with keeping a stabilized network signal. Given the experience, I would strongly *NOT* recommend the product, unless if you are just an enthusiast!
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The windows tablet has hit a new price point with probably the first sub 10k device from India. This is the second device from Notion Ink with Windows. The first one was reviewed here on this blog. There is a large possibility that I will be reviewing the Cain 8 as well, so keep checking this space.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
The only issue I have with all the Firefox OS phones released so far is the very bare minimum processing power of each that is somewhat detrimental to the first time user experience. I have recently being playing around with WebIDE for app development on Firefox OS, and I feel that there needs to be slightly beefier hardware to make the UI responsiveness better. In that respect, the 'coming soon' Alcatel Fire E phone might just cut it well (http://www.homeshop18.com/alcatel-one-touch-fire-e-mobile-phone-white/mobiles/mobile-phones/product:32163929/cid:17247/?pos=7)
Thursday, October 2, 2014
At this price you get pretty decent spec phone with a quad core, 1GB ram, 5mp AF camera, and a VGA front camera, 800x480 - 4.5" screen.
At this price point it would well be the cheapest 3g capable smartphone in India right now. Now we need to wait and see when Windows based phones can hit this price point.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
It is a big NO. Have a review I unit of Karbonn Sparkle android one phone and it has got a host of pre-installed apps that I cannot simply uninstall. These include: olyx, snapdeal, saavn, QuickOffice, news and weather, moneycontrol. I am also finding a lot of Google applications to be bloatware : Google + to be specific.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Back in 2010, I was so excited to hear about an Indian company called Notion Ink, planning to design and develop a tablet in India, that I emailed their founder and current CEO Rohan Shravan expressing my desire to somehow contribute to this whole process. At that time I was not in India, and pondered about my ability to actually contribute with my minimal experience in hardware design. Notion Ink at that time was in Hyderabad. I didn't end up contributing anything, except exchanging a few mail with Rohan. Later Notion Ink moved to Bangalore, and released Adam and then its successor Adam II. They were interesting, but none of them gained wide acceptance. One of the problems Notion Ink faced was distribution. And then second problem I strongly felt was that there was a complete lack of 'awareness advertising' of their beautifully designed a superiorly useful products. Another factor was an external problem: the Android (the OS on which Adam I and II are based) tablets were getting extremely cheap. With the full control of Android development resting with Google, whatever software customizations that Notion Ink made probably ended up no where and were never 'main-stream'. The software 'philosophy' that one has is only as much useful as the number of people using it. If no one actually used any of the "cool" software features - it is destined to be doomed - and hence is the requirement of 'awareness advertising', something Notion Ink still lacks to this date.
Notion Ink Cain
So when I heard the news of Notion Ink releasing Cain - a Windows based 2-in-1 exclusively on Snapdeal (see: http://www.snapdeal.com/product/notion-ink-cain-2in1-touchscreen/1556812847), I was pleasantly surprised. Not only because the tablet was no longer a custom Android ROM but was a full fledged PC with the ability to run 'standard Windows application', which are humongous in number. Another subtle reason for which I was happy for Notion Ink was that it was for the first time selling the device on a major e-commerce platform in India. Earlier Adam sales were mostly restricted to buying from the Notion Ink portal itself - or for a brief period on another ecommerce site. Notion Ink is for the first time getting some real advertising.
Without further ado, let us delve in to the device itself.
Notion Ink Cain (http://notionink.com/) comes powered by Intel Bay Trail processor (Z3735 @ 1.83 GHz), which is a quad core processor. Bay Trail is a successor to Atom processor and is based on new Core design, and addresses most of the shortcomings of its predecessor. The processor also has GPU core (clocked at 646MHz), which is powerful enough to drive HD movies without shutter. Bay Trail processors are designed to be power efficient and are expressly designed for mobile computing devices, that sets it apart from desktop class Intel processors.
The Cain has 2GB of RAM, which is unfortunately soldered and is non-upgradable, 32GB of internal storage (approx. 24GB useable on initial boot) and host of ports (USB 3.0, Mini HDMI, Micro SD card slot, Micro USB - that also acts as a standby charging port). The device also comes with slot for attaching a 3G ultrastick (for 3G data connectivity).
The screen is 10.1" diagonally with a resolution of 1280 x 800, and features capacitive touch with 10 touch points.
There is nothing remarkable about all the specs, to see detailed specs visit http://notionink.com, what makes the difference is however the superior design and build quality of the device. More over Notion Ink is so confident about the quality of their hardware, that they claim to provide full device replacement in case of any defect over the warranty period of the device.
On the software side the device comes with Windows 8.1 preinstalled. There are a lot of naysayers on the interweb about the Windows 8 operating system, but I absolutely like it and is my daily OS on my home desktop. The device also comes with a 1 year subscription to Office 365 + 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. While 1 year subscription to Office 365 is a definite plus, I am not sure if I would like to pay 3K+ INR annual subscription fee for a software that I only occasionally use. I would rather use free alternatives like LibreOffice when the subscription expires. Also I am not sure whether the 1TB storage on OneDrive is tied to Office 365 subscription.
Here are some quick shots of the device:
|Absurdly quick unboxing! To match the 5 sec boot time of Notion Ink Cain ;-)|
|The mint letter. I love this personal touch from the team at Notion Ink.|
|What is in the Cain package? The one that I unboxed had the unit, keyboard flip cover, charger, Offce 365, a 500GB external hard drive, and a lovely letter with mint from Notion Ink.|
|Cain's screen is a little glossy, but that doesn't hinder normal use. Color reproduction and viewing angles are decent, if not stellar.|
|Cain is a well designed portable computing device.|
|The tablet works well, but it is a little heavier to my taste to replace my Kindle as a reader when I am in bed.|
|Though well designed, in a laptop mode the Cain can not really be placed on your lap. It is just not as stable. Even on desk if you have the habit of moving around your laptop, the case stand comes apart - a solution use a clip!|
|You can install a lot of Windows applications on the device, even on the external USB 3.0 drive. Here I have installed the absolutely 'Made In India' molecular modelling software by VLife Sciences - VLifeMDS (see: http://www.vlifesciences.com/) - on the Notion Ink Cain. Great combination right ?|
|The provided wireless mouse is useful in desktop mode, however I just tend to touch the screen to get things done faster.|
There is a huge ecosystem of apps on Windows. I haven't tried a lot of apps, but the ones that I have tried work great. Apart from the standard apps, there are also modern apps that can be installed from the Windows Store. Have only tried two at the moment: Kindle app and the Freshpaint app. The Kindle app from Amazon is well made for Windows 8 and works great for reading books. I however, find the weight of the device slightly on the higher side (although it is very light weight at 630 grams) for a book reading device. The Freshpaint is a great painting app from Microsoft, if you love painting and making sketches.
I am not really interested in games, so I have not tried one till now, but plan to do so later.
Keyboard, Touch response
The keyboard and the magnetic snapping reminds me of the Microsoft Surface. I find the keyboard to be quite good for light to moderate typing. However when I started using the keyboard for some coding purpose I found that the keypad bends slightly near the centre. This seems normal, but gives a strange feeling of not having a even stable surface to type. The integrated touch pad, is ok, but I feel it should have been a little larger. The touch pad keys could also have been a little flatter.
Screen touch response on the device is pretty good and is at par with any top notch tablet you can buy currently. That said, many desktop applications may not be touch optimized, so you will have to fall back to the good old mouse to stay productive.
Reaction from others
Over the course of the review the device was shown to a number of people. All absolutely loved the device. The sweetest reaction came from an owner of computer shop: "This is absolutely fantastic device. I would easily pay 25 K for a Designed in India device, around 20K is too good!"
Overall, I feel that Notion Ink has a winner here. With collaboration from Intel and Microsoft, and Notion Inks own design talents put into the device, you get a solidly build device of high quality plastic, hardened aluminium and soft velvet keyboard cover. All the ports are placed evenly and are always accessible - which is a very positive point for an ultraportable. The exclusive availability and prominent placement on Snapdeal solves the last puzzle for Notion Ink - the advertising and selling - of a beautifully crafted useful product.
Highly recommended 'Designed in India' device. Hope Notion Ink can also put a 'Made in India' tag for their future devices.
1. The unit actually belongs to my colleague Amit Bedi. I was waiting for this line to be written using the Cain itself ;-)
2. Just tested Skype call on Notion Ink - works great - including with the back and front camera.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
They day 1 experience has been really bad. Constant freezes and shutters to just get my contacts and email as well as a few frequently used apps - Connect A2 (Whatsapp), Zomato, Notes (connected to evernote) working. Not sure if I would take this experiment to even complete a week!
I have used the WiFi dongle with a number of service providers including BSNL, Vodafone and Idea and all of these work without a hitch. The WiFi dongle can either be used with a laptop or can be used with any USB power adapter (minimum 500 mAh output capacity). I also tested it with a car charger - in side a car - and is a perfect solution for on the move WiFi hotspot, with least taxing of your smartphone battery.
The product is available at Snapdeal (see: http://www.snapdeal.com/product/micromax-mmx-219w3g-data-card/1739902074#bcrumbSearch:micromax%20wifi%20dongle)
Here are some shots of the product:
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The price of this device is 5,999/- INR and is actually the lowest priced WP powered phone available in India at the moment. This is good news. But the bad news is that this price is still too high for large adaptability of the platform. The WP powered phones need to come below 5K INR, and at the same time maintain quality to attract a large audience.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
At this price you get a dual core processor, with 256MB RAM and 512MB internal storage, along with 2MB rear shooter (with LED flash) and a VGA front camera. In terms of sensors there is only one: the gravity sensor. The screen is a 3.5" HVGA display, which is reasonable at this price point. It also comes with the latest version of Android, which makes these phones ultra affordable, a segment that is being targeted by Firefox OS.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
1. Micromax @ Amazon
2. Spice @ Flipkart
3. Karbonn @ Snapdeal
My take? All three have the same specs, but the design of Micromax looks the best. Understandably it is already sold out on Amazon.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
(see: http://www.bgr.in/news/spice-android-one-dream-uno-mi-498-listed-on-flipkart-priced-at-rs-6999/). Flipkart has promptly removed the listing and is no longer available.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Saturday, September 6, 2014
One of the prime objectives of the blog has been to provide one stop information for premium affordable devices. To that extent I have made a lot of effort, but I probably need to work and devote a lot more attention to my writing style to make things more legible. Another, less important objective of the site was to support myself for the devices that I will be reviewing for the blog using the referral programs from various sites (Flipkart being the prime of them). That goal is served less. For the amount of support that I get from referral sites is paltry compared to the cost of devices I have to incur for reviewing. Given this, I will not be further investing in buying the devices from my end for reviewing on this blog. Moving forward, I will only review a device, if I get a device from the PR of a company for review purpose. The blog will then focus more on the news and analysis of related to product announcements made for the premium affordable category.
I hope you enjoy the content here. Do write up in the comments for feedback, suggestions and anything you like or hate about my past posts on this blog!
The race of smartphones to the bottom had long begun. This space has been largely lead by low cost Android devices that easily challenged many high end feature phones, to the extent that the later is almost extinct for good in this price bracket. But the real challenge is the lack of unified choice (other than a number of non-uniform feature phone interfaces) for first time phone users who probably can not afford or just do not want to spend a lot for their first communication device.
The way a vast majority of us do communicate however has radically changed over the recent years. The number of calls, and texts have given way to Whatsapp and Skype calls. The older mobile networks that used to carry overwhelming traffic of voice and text traffic has now been shifting to transfer of packets of data. That is what defines the smartphone era. There is a lot more that you can do over packets of data than plain old voice and text traffic. And that is the space that Apps on smartphone OSes cover.
Smartphones OSes are however desktop class OSes that require considerable hardware resources. Over the years the cost of this hardware has been constantly decreasing while at the same time offering incredible performance improvements. Apple created history when it launched iPhone with industries first 64-bit mobile processor, which have until recently being only used for desktop computers. That however is both high end and high cost devices. Not the once that are affordable to every one on the planet.
About two years ago, I had made a post on my ideas of building a new open Smartphone OS with the intent building an ultra low cost programmable device, which I called Kosh (see here: http://tovganesh.blogspot.in/2012/01/kosh-building-mobile-user-experience.html). Around the same time Mozilla announced Boot2Geeko (B2G)project. The result was the Firefox OS, which now has made possible a smartphone at $25 price point. But does this setup offer a good package? Does it serve as a complete replacement for a feature phone? I check out one such device, the Intex Cloud FX, to find out the answers.
The Firefox OS is a Linux Kernel based OS for smartphones and other devices and is being actively developed by the non-profit Mozilla foundation that is best known for the Firefox browser on the desktop and mobile devices. (Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_OS)
|The Firefox OS architecture diagram. (Ref.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_OS)|
Firefox OS UI (as of version 1.3 - the version that is publicly available as stable - as of this writing) borrows a number of things from iOS and Android, yet it feels unique. There is the usual grid of icons and a dock from iOS, the notification pull down and quick settings panel from Android, a lock screen that looks borrowed from both iOS and Android. But then as you look further there are different UI elements that are unique to Firefox OS. The most interesting one being smart collections and the 'smart search'. The smart collections is like folders of iOS / Android, but they are kind of intelligent in that they automatically update themselves with the apps in that category available in the Firefox marketplace. For instance if you put a 'Shopping' smart collection on your home screen, this collection will automatically list Flipkart, Snapdeal, eBay and a host of other shopping apps. Further, if a new app becomes available in this category, it will automatically be populated. This is kind of cool new way to discover new apps in a category.
The other important element of the UI is 'smart search', labelled as "I'm thinking of.." on the home screen. The home screen is always accessible by pressing the 'home button' - usually a capacitive button at the bottom of the screen. The search feature is not as system wide as the one offered by iOS spotlight search, but actually provides intelligent suggestions for apps based on what you are searching for.
Other than this, there are usual standard apps: Phone, Contacts, Messaging, EMail, Calender, Camera, Gallery, FM Radio, Clock, Music, Video, Filemanger and a Data usage app that are inbuilt. The Contacts app can connect to your cloud service (Google/Outlook/Facebook) to import and sync contacts. Calender app can also sync with your Google / Outlook calender. Data usage app allows you to monitor your data usage on the mobile device and receive alerts when you are using too much of mobile data. Apart from this there is a Settings app that allows you tinker with all the device related settings, a Marketplace app where you can search and download specific app (I find it using less as the search and smart collections are much better ways to discover apps), and a Calculator app.
The notification system on Firefox OS is kind of hit-and-miss when it comes to apps. While third party apps like Connect A2 (an unofficial WhatsApp client), seem to work very well; I was not able to consistently get notifications for inbuilt SMS app for some reason. For other apps - which are purely webapps - like for instance Twitter and Facebook, there is no way to get any notifications, at least in the current implementation.
While first devices running early builds of Firefox OS came over an year ago, none were available in India until recently. Two local OEMs (Intex and Spice) have partnered with Mozilla foundation to release ultra cheap Firefox OS based devices. I have been playing around with one such device: Intex Cloud FX over the past one week, following is a closer look at the device it self.
The device and specs
First let us start with the device spec. The biggest and the most noticeable spec of the device is price. It is what sets it class apart from other devices. At ₹1999/-, it is easily the cheapest smartphone you could get in India from a branded company. It is little higher than the promised $25 price range by Mozilla, but even at $35 it is a no barrier buy for a large number of people.
How did Mozilla bring down the price of the device to such a low price point? A price point that most entry level feature phones sell? The crux of this lies in a collaboration that Mozilla build up with Spreadtrum (see: http://www.spreadtrum.com/en/news/press-releases/spreadtrum-and-mozilla-take-aim-at-global-smartphone-accessibility/) to build a reference platform for such low cost devices. Intex Cloud FX is powered by an Spreadtrum 1.0 GHz and an SOC.
|The Spreadtrum SOC used in Intex Cloud FX. Ref: http://files.linuxgizmos.com/spreadtrum_sc6820_block2.jpg|
The Spreadtrum SOC SC6821, is an ARM Cortex A5 CPU at its core, with integrated support for EDGE/GPRS, Bluetooth, WiFi and FM radio. The chip also has numerous other support functions on a single chip that are usually needed by a smartphone. The highest screen type this processor can handle though is limited to 3.5" HVGA screens. Coming back to the specs the rest of which reads like the following:
- 1GHz single core CPU
- 3.5" captive screen with HVGA resolution
- 128 MB RAM, 256 MB ROM, ~60 MB internal storage, expandable storage upto 4GB
- Sensors: G-sensor
- Primary Camera: 2.0 MP, no front camera
- 1250 mAh battery
- Dimensions ( L x W x D)(in mm): 115.9 x 62 x 11.8
- Weight: 104.0g (net)
Here are some shots of the packaging and the device:
|Firefox OS branding on the packaging is very prominent.|
|Packaging is good, so is the phone build quality.|
|In ear head phones quality is average, but are well made.|
|USB data cable cum power adapter. The cable is about 1.2 M long.|
Daily use: Phone, Text
They work without an issue. The call clarity and reception is just good. The provided headset also works fine for calls. Issues with the SMS apps: Sometimes I do not notifications of the new text on the lock screen or in the drop down notification panel. The SMS app also does not seem to work in landscape mode which makes typing a bit tricky on this device.
Connectivity: WiFi, EDGE and Bluetooth
The device provides all standard connectivity options WiFi, EDGE and Bluetooth. The USB can also be used as a mass storage device, generally for the purpose of data transfer with a computer.
Bluetooth connectivity is very basic. I was able to connect this to the Spice Smart pulse, and it simply worked as a bluetooth head set, the contacts were not visible on the Smart pulse.
The Web Browser
This is the heart of the OS. The Firefox browser on this mobile device is well designed in terms of UX and navigation. You can easily open and switch tabs, add bookmark or add app shortcuts to the home screen.
Music and Video
Works as advertised. Although I did not try to play any HD videos. There is an Youtube app as well. You are better off using it over a WiFi connection, works flawlessly though. The FM radio is OK, but I found the reception to be somewhat patchy.
|Many apps are available: Weather, ESPN, Wikipedia, Piano and other popular suspects.|
|The shopping smart collection|
|I am thinking of...|
|Lock screen is neat. You can access the camera from here.|
|There is a 'restart' option! Long press on the power button.|
Here is a quick run down of the apps I tried:
(Social - Facebook, Twitter, Linked, Pinterest, Tumbler)
All of the above social apps work and are usable.
(IM - Connect A2, Line)
Connect A2 works with Whatspp after an update. I was able to install Line but was not really able to use it.
(Navigation - Here Maps)
Works like a charm. Including the limited area offline maps (although there is no way to move the offline maps to SD card). The Nokia Hear Maps is actually one of the best third party apps I liked on the Firefox OS. There is no GPS on the device, so the location is approximate based on A-GPS (Cell network + WiFi positioning).
(No VoIP apps yet)
I did not find any apps that support VoIP in the marketplace. Although it appears that Firefox OS does provide API support for VoIP.
(Photos - your photos are copyright Spreadtrum!)
Ok this one is kind of bummer. Seems like that the photos you take have their Exif (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchangeable_image_file_format) set to copyright Spreadtrum. That is like saying Canon owns the copyright of the photo you took because you used a canon camera to shoot the photo!
|Why my image is copyright Spreadtrum?|
Though a 2MP camera, the quality of photos is about ok. Well-lit shots are good, but sometimes washed out. Indoor shots or average. The trick to taking reasonable photo is to hold the mobile really steady. Also the time taken to process the first shot after you open the camera app is somewhat long (about 30-40 seconds!), which may be frustrating. Subsequent shots take about 2-3 seconds. Here are some samples.
(Taking screen shots)
Yes you know it is a smartphone when you can take screen shots ;-)
Press the power button + double tap the home button to take a screen shot.
They are somewhat limited on the marketplace. But was pleased to find some familiar ones: Cut the rope, Fruit Ninja (but was not able to properly play this), Chess, Tetris, Packman (unofficial), 2048, Flappybird (unofficial). The gaming performance is below average, at times frustrating on the device. This is not really a device you would want to play any serious games.
This is very tricky to judge. If you count apps as the only measure of ecosystem, I would say Firefox OS has a pretty good start. Also, given than every webapp is an app in Firefox OS, the initial barriers for developers is relatively less. However, I do not think just the usual apps make an ecosystem. Apps and other supporting devices that far surpass the original capabilities provided by the device are what make an ecosystem. In that sense Firefox OS has quite a poor ecosystem as of now.
I found the battery life to be erratic and unpredictable at best. At times it gives a battery life of about a day at other times it drains off in about 6 hours with pretty moderate usage (Web: Twitter and Connect A2), and 1 or two phone calls and text per day, with a single active SIM. I have not performed any systematic battery test so cannot conclusive tell about the battery life. But if you want to compare it with what feature phones of similar price range offer, then the feature phones win out with a large margin. If battery is your preference, a feature phone is a better device. The Cloud FX could be your smart companion in such a scenario.
For a reference my 2007 desktop (Intel Core 2 Duo, Chrome, Windows 8.1) gives 440.6ms with the same benchmark. With IE the numbers are best at 263.5ms, while Firefox sits in the middle with 363.7ms. All the browsers in the test were running their latest version at the time of this writing.
The benchmarks should be taken in the context, but you can easily see that my 7 year old desktop is still faster than the top line mobile devices of today, that too by a wide margin. Although I was extremely surprised when I ran the same benchmark on my iPhone 5s (Safari) and it gave 407.9ms - that is almost as powerful as my desktop - finally! I have a hunch that the processor coming in the next iteration of iPhone (mostly to be announced next week) will easily surpass my desktop at least in this benchmark.
I believe over the coming years, the hardware on mobile devices will close the gap and even surpass performance in many cases. Those will be the times when open web devices like Firefox OS may shine - not only in cost but also in experience.
Device freeze and other issues
Till now I have experienced at least 2 device freezes that required me to pull up the battery. On both these occasions I had opened pretty heavy website using the browser. Occasionally, I have also experienced sudden unresponsive scrolling behavior when the text is fairly long. Both of these appear to me as a basic limitation of device that as only about 128 MB of RAM.
Another issue I encountered was switching between most recent app (by long press on the home button). Almost always, this list is empty, or has at most two recent apps. Again possibly an issue of limited RAM on this device.
On the comparison to first gen iPhone
Feature phone replacement?
I have never used a feature phone on daily basis. Right from my first phone it has been a smartphone. So I am comfortable with the way smartphone OSes works. I know how to get around and much more. Basically a lot more as I can program them as well ;-)
I needed to find out what people who already use a feature phone feel about the Firefox OS. So I gave this device to one guy who had never used a smartphone, but wanted to try out one. He easily installed the SIM (as this device has a standard SIM) and then memory card from his existing feature phone. Then I waited. After about an hour he came back and said he did not like it. He said it seems there are a lot of options, but he simply could not figure out how to make a call - let alone use the camera!
Next I gave the same guy the Spice Smart pulse (that I reviewed here: http://theaffordable.blogspot.in/2014/07/spice-smart-pulse-watch-that-i-am.html) to see what was the reaction. Though termed as as 'smartwatch', the Spice watch basically runs a feature phone interface. With in 15 mins he said he liked the device. He was able to figure out everything from calling to messaging to even taking photos.
My simple understanding from this one off experiment is this: Firefox OS is not a replacement if you are already using a feature phone - keep it with you - and probably save to upgrade to a better experience device such as the forthcoming Android One devices. However, if this is the first time you are buying a phone - I would strongly recommend you the Intex Cloud FX. This is very much the future - it provides you with a smartphone that is actually programmable using open web technologies - and is also open source and community driven as opposed to being propitiatory and controlled by one corporation. If you are ready to tinker around you should also join the Mozilla community as a volunteer and contribute to the Firefox OS project (see: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/contribute/?icn=tabz) and be the part of a global movement.
In the end I actually like the Firefox OS. It is simple and uncomplicated. And the possibilities of great webapps are limit less. For now the hardware is a limiting factor though.
Where can I buy the device?
Currently Intex Cloud FX is only available via Snapdeal for ₹1999/- (see: http://www.snapdeal.com/product/intex-cloud-fx/1356760619). However, it should be available in open market soon.
NDTV gadgets has a more 'standard' review, if you are interested see here: http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/reviews/intex-cloud-fx-review-a-bold-new-direction-585416
Ars Technica has also said that they will be reviewing Cloud FX (see: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/09/weve-got-a-35-firefox-os-phone-what-do-you-want-to-know/). I consider this huge. Wait to see what are their views.