As mentioned by the Mozilla blog, Firefox OS has arrived in the Philippines!!

I had been scouring Cherry Mobile phone shops all over the metro last month, immediately after I got word that they have already started selling their first Firefox OS device, the Cherry Mobile Ace! I had been to several stores in the Robinsons and SM malls only to find that the unit has not been released yet 🙁 Luckily, upon the advice of Sir Bob Reyes of Mozilla Philippines, I was able to finally get my hands on the Ace when I ventured to SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, where the Cherry Mobile store there was already selling the unit for PhP 1,499 (barely US$ 36)! 😀

Update: Cherry Mobile has posted an announcement that they’re having a sale this coming weekend (December 13-15), and they’re selling Ace units at an even cheaper price — PhP 999! At less than US$ 24, it appears that the Ace is the cheapest Firefox OS device thus far!

The bootup sequence of the Ace
The boot up sequence of the Ace (L-R): Cherry Mobile Ace logo branding, then the Firefox OS branding. The next screen shows the lock screen and then the home screen.

I had been wanting to get a replacement Firefox OS device for quite a while now, since my first/previous Firefox OS device, the ZTE Open, bogged down because of a depleted battery. I think I must have used it as my personal wifi device a lot, it drained way sooner than it should!

The Ace comes with a 12-month warranty, extendable to 15 months if you use the eWarranty app to register your phone once opened!
The Ace comes with a 12-month warranty, extendable to 15 months if you use the eWarranty app to register your phone once opened!

The nice thing about waiting for a locally-available device is the warranty. I got burned on the ZTE because even if I went to the service center in Greenhills, the fact that I bought it online and had it shipped here in the Philippines prevented me from availing the warranty. With the Ace, I get to have warranty for the next 15 months!

Most people will mistake the Ace for an earlier incarnation of Apple’s iPhone. The specs are quite basic — single-core 1 GHz processor, a mere 128 MB of RAM, 256 MB storage, and a screen that most Android users would not honestly want to have. But here’s the thing — it’s BLAZING FAST! After all, it’s not encumbered by the spec-heavy requirements of an Android OS.

On its first week, I was able to make it last five days before needing recharging. This was coupled with a couple hours’ worth of using it to access Facebook and Gmail, on WiFi. Not too bad, considering that I’d need to recharge my smartphone every other day 🙂

DSC_4689The Ace is powered by a 1,100 mAh battery, as seen in the photograph. Removing it shows two SIM slots, so for those in the Philippines who need two telcos, you won’t have a problem switching SIM cards with this one. There is also a slot for a micro SD memory card — which is important for users wanting to take pictures, videos, and keep music in the Ace, because all media files will require an external memory source, since the internal memory is reserved for system storage and the installed apps.

On the camera, the 2 MP camera works well given there’s good lighting conditions. I made a comparison with the Sony Xperia Z1’s camera and the Ace’s; you can clearly tell the difference in terms of the sharpness of the color and overall vividness of the shot, but it will suffice given the price range of this phone 🙂

A side-by-side comparison of photos taken using Sony Xperia Z1 (left) and Cherry Mobile Ace (right).
A side-by-side comparison of photos taken using Sony Xperia Z1 (left) and Cherry Mobile Ace (right).

Typical rants you would hear about this phone is that it doesn’t have 3G (yep, it is only up to 2G), the screen is too small, the keyboard’s too basic (“no predictive text?”, says yours truly lol), etc. etc. Clearly, this is no phone suited for those who have been accustomed to advanced OSes like Android and iOS. For one, Firefox OS is still in its infancy, and I guess it would be fair enough to compare it with the beginnings of Android and iOS in its earliest phone releases, and not with the newest ones right now in the market. Another point would be the target market itself. Mozilla has intended Firefox OS to bridge the gap for those switching from “feature phones” to smartphones in developing countries, where the price of the typical smartphone is already prohibitive for the lower classes.

What’s in it for me, then?

As a consumer, I primarily bought the Ace as an alternate phone; also, I need to see what HTML 5 can bring to the table in terms of usability, compared to the mainstream OSes.

As a developer, having this enables me to improve my coding skill — better code would translate to a slimmer app, given that there is limited space on the device. This would correspond to users dealing with less time getting the app itself.

And lastly (and most importantly), as an advocate, this allows me to let people know that they have a choice, and that that choice need not be limited to the biggest and expensive ones out there today.

Now — onward to testing my apps on my new phone! 😉 If you got yourself an Ace too and have any questions, just post them below. I’ll see if I can answer them. Better yet, there’s already a Filipino community of Ace (powered by Firefox OS) owners on Facebook. Join us! 🙂