Comfortable soft-touch design; Very affordable; Loud speaker; Some useful additions to quick settings menu
Low-resolution display; Lackluster camera; No LTE support
The Alcatel One Touch Fierce puts a capable Android smartphone in your pocket for just $19 up front, but you'll have to live without LTE.
Alcatel aims to entice budget shoppers with the One Touch Fierce, an Android 4.2 handset with a 4.5-inch qHD display that costs just $19 up front at T-Mobile. As with any budget phone, though, there are tradeoffs. Find out if Alcatel's latest smartphone is truly a fierce competitor in the low-cost arena.
As with most smartphones, the Fierce has a power button and headphone jack at the top edge, with a narrow volume control resting at the top of the right side. There's a microUSB port on the bottom edge for charging the phone and transferring files.
The lightweight handset is comfortable to hold, thanks to a soft-touch cover that wraps around the back. Our review unit sported an attractive, steel-blue finish on the back, though the Fierce is also available in silver. A 5-MP lens sits at the top of the panel, above a small One Touch logo in the center and a thin horizontal speaker at the bottom.Kyocera Hydro Edge (4.9 x 2.5 x 0.39 inches) and Nokia Lumia 521 (4.4 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches). The handset is easy to hold at 4.7 ounces, but is slightly heavier than the 4.5-ounce Hydro Edge and the 4.4-ounce Lumia 521. While the LG Optimus F6 has a smaller 5 x 2.59 x 0.4-inch profile, it weighs in at a slightly heavier 4.9 ounces.
MORE: Best Smartphones
However, the Fierce's screen showed its limitations when we watched a 1080p trailer for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Though the handset retained the clip's colorful, snow-covered mountain scenes, the faces of the various elves and dwarves in the video were noticeably pixelated. Also, viewing angles were limited, washing out whenever we tilted the phone.
The Fierce's display registered 327 lux on our light meter, which is less than the 388-lux Hydro Edge and the 401-lux category average and F6, but brighter than the 219-lux Lumia 521.
The Fierce's lone speaker is surprisingly loud, even if the quality sounds canned. We were able to blast Kings of Leon's "Supersoaker" at a respectable volume, but the song's jangling guitars were hard to hear amongst the roaring vocals.
The handset performed favorably on the LAPTOP Audio Test, registering an 83-decibel tone at full volume, compared to the 80-decibel category average.
Holding the Swype icon will open a keyboard menu, where users can edit their dictionary, switch languages, view shortcuts and change the look and feel of the keyboard. You can also enable handwriting, which allows you to use your fingertips to doodle words with your fingertips, which the Fierce will convert into on-screen text.
The phone's default home screen features a Google search bar in the middle, with icons for Gmail, Play Store, Calendar and Camera below it. The Fierce interface has room for five home screens in total, two of which are populated by T-Mobile widgets and apps. You'll find the familiar Apps button on the interface's bottom bar, which features Phone and Contacts to the left and Messages and Chrome to the right. As with any Android device, you can hold your finger on any app icon to shift it around to your liking.
Sliding down from the top of the screen reveals a modified notifications/settings menu. With this menu open, pressing on the icon in the upper right lets you switch between notifications and settings. The quick settings, too, have a few new options. Audio Profiles let you toggle among General, Silent, Meeting and Outdoor. A Time Out button lets you determine how long the screen stays on.
T-Mobile apps include MyAccount, which shows usage data, and NameID, which identifies unknown callers. The phone packs a Mobile Hotspot app, as well as Visual Voicemail software for easy organization of voice messages. T-Mobile TV allows users to stream on-demand television content to their phones.
The device also has a variety of T-Mobile widgets. MobileLife provides a quick fix of news from various outlets, while T-Mobile TV & Movies presents a menu of shows and films that can be streamed via the aforementioned T-Mobile TV app.
MORE: Best Apps
PerformanceAngry Birds: Star Wars II" characters across the screen without any lag, and the phone's Camera app opened in a quick 1.55 seconds, with YouTube, Video Player, Chrome, T-Mobile TV, Calculator, Music and Email all running behind it.
The device scored a 4,884 on the Quadrant benchmark, clearly outperforming the Hydro Edge's score of 3,766 while falling short of the F6 (4,957) and the 6,806 category average.
The Fierce netted 13,867 on the AnTuTu performance benchmark, a significantly lower score than the 18,196 category average, but higher than the Hydro Edge's score of 9,716 and the F6's score of 12,335.
On An3DBench, the Fierce scored 7,766, which is higher than the Hydro Edge's 6,957, the F6's 7,195 and the category average of 7,352.
The handset took 10 minutes and 24 seconds to complete our Vidtrim test, which consists of converting a 1080p video to 480p. That's a few minutes short of the 7:47 category average, but 4 minutes faster than the F6 (14:21).
Some of the Fierce's camera icons are a little inscrutable, but it has a bevy of options. Along the right are choices to switch between stills and video, as well as settings (such as image size, effects and GPS location info). Along the left are a variety of shooting modes: panorama, HDR, Auto Scene Detection (the speedometer icon), Smile detection and Best Shot (the star icon).
The same haze appeared in a 720p video we shot of a Manhattan street; taxicabs looked washed out, and the scene in general lacked contrast.
[sc:video id="RicnE1cTpttYA4gzcOthixhD0c6D2fmF" width="575" height="398"]
The Fierce was similarly underwhelming when we used the VGA front- facing lens to take some self-portraits. While we had no problem making out our purple shirt and light-blue headphones, facial details were far too pixelated to see clearly.
Network and Web Browsing
The One Touch Fierce supports 4G networks but not LTE. In our testing, T-Mobile's HSPA+ 21 service was very spotty in our Flatiron offices but much smoother in the northeast Bronx.
When using Speedtest.net on 4G in the Flatiron section of Manhattan, the Fierce delivered an average download speed of 5.4 Mbps and an average upload speed of 1.06 Mbps. Things improved slightly when using 4G in the Bronx, as we saw an average download speed of 1.98 Mbps and an average upload speed of 7.48 Mbps and.
Surfing the Web was smooth on 4G, as IGN.com loaded in a brisk 3.03 seconds, while NewYorkTimes.com did so in 3.79 seconds.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Plans and Pricing
Under T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan, the Fierce is available for $19 down with 24 monthly payments of $6, which will run you $163 after two years, although Alcatel expects the retail price to drop to $139.
T-Mobile has three different data plans. You'll get 500 MB of high-speed data for $50 a month, 2.5 GB for $60 and unlimited data for $70. Adding $10 to any of these plans nets you unlimited international talk and text.
By comparison, T-Mobile's Lumia 521 has no up front cost with 24 monthly payments of $6. The full retail price is $144, which costs the same as two years of monthly payments.
The Hydro Edge is free on Sprint with a two-year plan, or $119 with no contract from Boost Mobile.
LG Optimus F6willing to spend a little bit more, the LG Optimus F6 ($50 down, then $10 a month for device) offers comparable battery life, LTE and a brighter display, but a slower CPU. But if you're trying to spend as little money as possible on a new Android phone, the Fierce is definitely worth considering.
- Best & Worst Smartphone Brands 2013
- Smartphone Buyers' Guide: 7 Things You Need to Know
- iPhone 6 Features: What We Want From Apple
|Phone Display Size||4.5|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.2.2|
|CPU||1.2-GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6589M|
|Processor Family||Mediatek MT6589M|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSD Card|
|Display (main)||4.5-inch qHD, 960 x 540|
|Front Camera Resolution||VGA|
|Camera Resolution||5 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.13 x 2.64 x 0.35|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|