For the most part, smartphones today are the most capable devices. Camera. Music player. Sound recorder. Entertainment guide. Newspaper. Work. For the advanced user, this is what you expect from your smartphone and it is what you get, mostly. But what if you aren’t that. You just want a phone that is smart enough to keep you posted as you’re stuck in traffic in the morning on your way to work and will still be having enough juice in the evening for you to withdraw some cash at an M-PESA outlet before heading home. Definitely an overpriced mid-ranger doesn’t come to mind here. Neither does a super-expensive high end smartphone.
There’s quite a number of phones that you may consider if you happen to be in such a situation. We’ve covered them extensively before but mostly bar the Windows Phones, you’ll be stuck with a low cost Android smartphone that ends up being accustomed to your home or workplace wall (while charging) than your bare hands. That’s not what we want. It’s likely not what you’re looking for too. There are exceptions like the Hot Note but I think over the last few weeks I’ve interacted with something not as big (and that’s a bad thing by the way) and not so bad. Plus, for the price of the Hot Note, you’ll get two of these. It’s the Orange Klif.
Made by Chinese company TCL, the one behind the Alcatel brand, for French telecoms giant Orange, the Klif is just a low cost smartphone that happens to not run Android. There’s nothing else spectacular about it besides two things: the price point and the platform. It is easily the cheapest smartphone in the Kenyan market at the moment. It’s just Ksh 4,000. And while we are at it, it is not misleading to say that it is also easily the less annoying of the low cost smartphones in the Kenyan market. Yeah, it takes a lot of courage to put up with the Safaricom Neon smartphone which is the Klif’s biggest competitor in the Kenyan market and its twin sibling back in the factory floors in China.
The Alcatel Orange Klif runs Firefox OS. The Mozilla Foundation is targeting emerging smartphone markets with this device. The first generation of Firefox OS smartphones was never a success. The Mozilla Foundation was never able to make any serious headway to consider the program a success. That is why it had to be rebooted. The Klif is part of the rebooting efforts. That was necessitated by the need to bring to the market something that could compete with the hundreds of low cost entry level Android smartphones that mostly lured customers with their flashy colours and not-so-bad specifications.
The App Gap
As can be expected of a smartphone at that price point, the Klif doesn’t have a decent camera. Neither will the display and the speakers excite anyone. If you approach it looking for above par specifications then you are looking in all the wrong places. The Klif is a phone first and everything else second. At least for now. And it is meant for everyone looking forward to their first smartphone experience. It also doesn’t hurt to give it a try if you have been using smartphones for a while since it is insanely cheap but don’t go for it with high expectations.
The Firefox OS Marketplace is a desert as far as apps go. There isn’t much to write home about. Local developers are expected to play a huge role in helping to close this app gap with time but as of now, it is what it is: a desert. That may not last long though as plans are already underway to bring support for Android apps to the platform.
While the Safaricom Neon taps the power of Android albeit with a third rate take, the Klif is left with nothing but a handful of preloaded applications to show off. All my gripes about the Klif aside, I really enjoyed tweeting on it. Reading tweets on the small display is also exciting as it reminds me of the days when phones were still phones and not 21st century attempts at rethinking the Swiss army knife. When you could still catch up with everything that’s happening in our global village without telling the whole world what hardware you’re doing so from. For the guys with large hands, the Klif will hide in your palms effortlessly.
Need WhatsApp? You’ll need to go through the ConnectA2 application first. Despite a strong network connection, I was never able to get ConnectA2 to work most of the time. It takes quite some time to load. The same was the case when I was transferring/importing my contacts from the inserted microSD card.
The Firefox OS user interface is not something most will have experienced before and as such a slight learning curve kicks in but won’t stand in the way of your usage of the device. All the applications stay on the home screen as there is no application drawer. And there’s one more beautiful thing about it: you’re good to go withing few minutes of booting it up for the first time ever. No annoying prompts to set this and that up.
The one thing I really liked about the Orange Klif is the voice quality when making calls. It may not be at the level where I can describe it as excellent but it is much better than what I get on other respectable mid-range smartphones I’ve been using. The battery is also good. Then again, what would its excuse be since there’s almost nothing running in the background constantly and there are almost no specialized sensors to sip that juice?
Here are the specifications of the Orange Klif:
- Display: 3.5 inch HVGA (320 x 480)
- Camera: 2 MP with LED flash
- Processor: Dual-core Mediatek MT6572M chipset clocked at 1 GHz
- Memory: 512 MB internal storage (expandable up to 32 GB via microSD); 256 MB RAM
- Operating system: Firefox 2.0
- Battery: 1,300 mAh
- Network: 2G/3G
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Others: FM radio, Dual-SIM
- Available in black and white colours
- Good voice quality when making calls.
- It’s tough. You don’t need to be worried about dropping it.
- The browser. Being a Firefox phone, the browser is central to the overall experience and it doesn’t disappoint. Besides tweeting, I was able to do so much good to myself by turning to the browser than the standalone applications themselves.
- The camera is a hell lot awful. Not that you should expect anything better at that price but I have to point out that it’s not any good.
- Apps. While the persons this phone is targeting may be buying it as their first smartphone, it could do so much to make that experience better by having a wider selection of applications. Yes there’s 2048 Classic and other titles as far as games go but what else is there?
You will need an Orange SIM card if you’re to get the Klif working. It’s their phone after all. It’s locked to the Orange network so while it is a dual-SIM smartphone, SIM 1 must be an Orange card and you can insert your other line on the second SIM slot.
Should you buy it?
It’s cheap and it’s a prime candidate for “ultimate back up phone” if your phone usage mirrors mine or is somewhere near there.
However, this is a good proposition for everyone else who just wants a smartphone, no questions asked. It will let you check your friends’ status updates on Facebook, it will let you participate in #SomeoneTellCNN on Twitter, play music stored in your memory card as well as act as your flashlight. Seriously, there isn’t much use for the LED flash at the back of the phone besides that since photos are awful and selfies are a distant dream. For a phone that won’t need to be plugged in to a charger every day more so if your usage of cellular data is limited, it’s a steal at just Ksh 4,000 or about $40.