Alcatel One Touch Fierce.

Arriving on T-Mobile shelves on Oct. 23, the One Touch Fierce is proof that OEMs are only able to go so far with $164. 

In the flurry of recent top-notch Android releases, you might have missed the announcement of T-Mobile's latest budget-friendly devices, the One Touch Fierce and One Touch Evolve. No, they’re not blood glucose monitors, but rather the latest installments from Alcatel, a company that has struggled to find its place here in the US.  But with its Evolve and Fierce, Alcatel hopes to make waves in the entry-level market, beckoning T-Mobile customers with dirt-cheap price tags of $100 and $164 respectively.

But if we’ve learned anything from 2013, it’s that the current state of entry-level Android has finally reached a balance of affordability and usability, and the days of settling for cheaply-made Gingerbread-powered devices are behind us. But in the case of the One Touch Fierce, it appears that Alcatel made all the wrong cuts in all the wrong places.


The Good

The Alcatel One Touch Fierce delivers admirable performance and a nearly-stock Jelly Bean experience. The Fierce is one of the more handsome entry-level devices we've seen in a while, and the size is just right. 

The Bad

The Fierce's 4.5-inch qHD display is downright atrocious, from its underwhelming resolution to its frustrating unreliability. The camera is also pretty terrible due to its lack of autofocus, which makes it next to impossible to capture a decent shot.

Conclusion

Alcatel got part of the formula right for a solid entry-level contender: great build quality, fluid performance and an unbelievable $169 price tag. But it also got a few things wrong, and in a big way: both the display and the camera are some of the worst I've ever seen. The Fierce's $169 price tag goes a long way in making the One Touch Fierce an attractive entry-level choice, though be wary that with that steep discount comes some major sacrifices.

Inside this review

More info

 

The hardware

Appearance isn’t everything, though if it were, the One Touch Fierce would have already won half the battle. It’s one of the more handsome entry level devices we’ve seen in a while, leveraging a sleek design, premium (albeit plastic) finish, and solid build quality. At 5.13 inches tall, 2.64 inches wide and weighing only 130 grams, the Fierce feels great in both your hand and your pocket -- those who shy away from the behemoths flooding the market will feel right at home here.

Alcatel One Touch Fierce. Alcatel One Touch Fierce.Alcatel One Touch Fierce. Alcatel One Touch Fierce.

I'm a firm believer 4.5 inches is an ideal size for a smartphone display -- not too big, not too small – but Alcatel hasn't taken full advantage of that fact, mucking up the Fierce with an obtrusive bezel and outdated capacitive keys. Moreover, this is one of the weakest displays on the market today. Its 540 x 960 qHD resolution is far from the best, but shouldn’t actually look this poor – I experienced awful color reproduction, dismal viewing angles, and noticeably  jagged edges around text. All in all, it’s one of the most washed-out displays I’ve laid eyes on in quite a long time.

But the resolution is only half of the problem here. Call me crazy, but I noticed that the Fierce’s display is far more fingerprint-prone than most others, causing the display to seem blurry. I also noticed extremely disappointing responsiveness, having to press twice or even three times before the screen would recognize my input (ironic, given the One Touch name...). We’ve seen other companies manage to improve their entry-level displays, including ZTE on its stunning 720p Sprint Vital , so it’s fair to be frustrated in how little attention Alcatel has paid to its screen technology.

Alcatel One Touch Fierce.

Luckily, the display is the only major sore-point in terms of the Fierce’s hardware. Its 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, coupled with 1 GB of RAM, produces admirable performance in nearly every situation. You probably won’t want to do much heavy-duty gaming here, but in nearly every other task, the Fierce is both nimble and reliable.

The Fierce lacks LTE, but coupled with T-Mobile’s excellent HSPA+ network here in New York, the Fierce is fast in every sense of the word. Sure, it’s a little disappointing that the Fierce can’t take advantage of T-Mobile’s mind-blowing LTE speeds, but it’s an acceptable omission, especially at this bargain-basement price.

Rounding out the hardware side of things is the Fierce’s 1,800 mAh non-removable battery, which produces truly remarkable usage and standby times. I managed to eek out at least 12 hours with the Fierce, usually even a bit more, before I found myself hunting for an outlet. Without getting into the nonsensical battery drain tests and HD video rundowns, I can say without a doubt that I never thought twice about leaving my house in the morning without packing a charger.

Software

Alcatel One Touch Fierce

Cheers to Alcatel for shipping the One Touch Fierce with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and a lightly-skinned version at that. Alcatel has added a coat of paint atop most of the application icons, but launch stock applications like Email, Messaging and the Gallery and you’ll notice they’re largely left untouched. The tweaks that Alcatel has made, such as a Facebook chatheads-style notification system on your the lockscreen, add fun functionality to an already solid user experience. 

I would have rather seen Alcatel release the Fierce as a purely stock experience, but in reality, the colors and shapes it has splashed here and there aren’t really that offensive. Alcatel isn't really in a position to launch its own dedicated UI, so it really allowed Jelly Bean to do its job here with smooth performance and familiar navigation. 

More good news  – aside from a minimal amount of preloaded software, limited to T-Mobile’s own WiFi Hotspot and Calling, Name ID and TV apps, the Fierce is largely bloatware-free. It's also free of bells and whistles, custom apps, and other goodies we're seeing more and more of tacked onto Android. Whether that's a pro or a con will ultimately be your personal preference.

The cameras

Alcatel One Touch Fierce.

Someday the high-quality optics we’ve seen on recent flagships will trickle down to entry-level devices, but today’s not that day. The One Touch Fierce sports a 5 MP shooter utilizing Android’s stock camera experience that produces mediocre photos that suffer from a whole host of problems. But that's not the deal breaker here -- what makes the One Touch Fierce truly frustrating to shoot with is its lack of autofocus. It's an almost unforgivable sin that makes capturing a decent photo next to impossible. The camera's built in features like face detection, HDR mode, and manual settings can only go so far in remedying the experience. Forget about catching fast moving children or pets, or night shots, or just about anything aside from a well-lit, stationary subject.  

The Fierce's front-facer and camcorder are equally disappointing, hidered again by that lack of autofocus. All in all, the optics here are a tough sell, and are good for nothing more than shots bound for heavy filtering.

Alcatel One Touch FierceAlcatel One Touch FierceAlcatel One Touch FierceAlcatel One Touch Fierce Alcatel One Touch FierceAlcatel One Touch Fierce Alcatel One Touch FierceAlcatel One Touch Fierce

The bottom line

Alcatel One Touch Fierce.

It’s an exciting time for the smartphone market when you can walk out of a big-name carrier with reliable device for less than $200 off contract. And the One Touch Fierce is just that – at $164 outright, it’s surprisingly well equipped with a fast processor and a lovely (and nearly up-to-date) Jelly Bean experience.

But at a price like that, sacrifices are unavoidable: the Fierce’s camera is utterly disappointing, and its lack of LTE is a bit of a bummer. The largest sore spot here is the display, though – its one of the worst on the market today, and may just be a deal breaker for some -- myself included. Even if you're able to get past that awful color reproduction and quality, the nail in this display's coffin is its wonky responsiveness. 

Don't let this turn you off of entry-level models all together. LG is doing great things with its entry-level Optimii, like the F3 and the F7, both available on T-Mobile as well. There's also a host of former flagships that have undergone dramatic price cuts, like the Galaxy S II and S 3. You might have to fork over a bit more than the super-low price of $164, but the improvements you'll see are well worth the extra few bucks.

That said, I'm pretty excited to see what Alcatel comes up with next. It got a few important things right with the One Touch Fierce, and with some tweaks and lessons learned, One Touch 2.0 might actually have what it takes to compete. But until then, be warned that that too-good-to-be-true price tag comes with some serious drawbacks.

 
There are 39 comments

RaiderWill says:

Some of us do not want to spend a ton of money on a telephone..
Just like some of us don't want to spend a ton of money on a cellular plan..
If this market is NOT for you, fine.. spend away to impress your friends..
and leave the smart shopping to those of us that could care less about impressing anything but our Bank Accounts.

Troothdotcom says:

Uhm... OK =)

Posted via Android Central App

besweeet says:

Wanting to spend more to get more doesn't automatically meant that those who want to go that route are doing it only to impress those around them.

zuco bandit says:

"Wanting to spend more to get more doesn't automatically meant that those who want to go that route are doing it only to impress those around them."

Ya it pretty much does

Why the rant?

Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.

Tyndall says:

Spending less does not always equate to spending wisely, nor making the most out of limited resources. If the device gives a unsatisfactory experience, then the fact that a few dollars was saved will not make up for that fact. I believe what the reviewer was implying was that there are more compelling devices in the same or nearby neighborhoods price-wise that would give a more satisfying experience over the longer haul.

I do not think the reviewer was encouraging anyone that the they had to go out and buy a flagship caliber device to have a good experience, quite the contrary.

tdizzel says:

Looks like somebody just got their allowance cut and can't afford a nicer phone

Posted via Android Central App

zuco bandit says:

Boy Samsung and apple just LOVE suckers like you. A Fool and his money are soon parted.

NoNexus says:

He has a $50 Prism or something like that. Cut him some slack, he is jealous

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zuco bandit says:

"He has a $50 Prism or something like that. Cut him some slack, he is jealous"

No, he's not a pretentious fool. Like some people

Ryandroid86 says:

Perfect timing... I was just about to buy this out-right today for my GFs B-day. But after that review. Ill still with the LG F3

DaroneBowers says:

Get the F6 from LG instead. Quad Core, LTE and 4.5 inches for $250

poywatch says:

It is dual core and not quad core.

Duncan1982 says:

Alcatel is probably aimed at the older generation who really dont care what trickery smartphones can do, so maybe this is an apt market for them lol

Posted via Android Central App

annedev says:

it's a good phone. Only the camera that could be a little better with 8Mp.

hmmm says:

I like the look and form factor of the phone.

BoB16731 says:

yea both have carrier IQ installed got these today at work

http://i.imgur.com/IcNBvn5.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/72j2To1.jpg

hmmm says:

Lol, they actually list that as an app? I can't believe it. What do you tell people if they ask what that app does?

NoNexus says:

At least they are being up front about it

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BoB16731 says:

The truth is bad lol . but I have to give them credit they are not hiding it

Posted via Android Central App

Duncan1982 says:

Well said tyndall, Anndrew was writing an unbiased review, mearly pointing out that in his hands on experiance, there are fundamental flaws with the bracket the phone is entering and there are better phones for around the same price, that would provide a better user experiance.

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jlczl says:

What better android phones are available for $100 new?

Posted via Android Central App

NoNexus says:

Finally, a phone the Nexus line can beat in camera performance. I think Google put them up to it

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Amir47 says:

N4 on craigslist for $220 is 10 times the phone the fierce is.

Posted via Android Central App

I thought I would be able to use this phone with the ibotta app, but it is not compatible because the camera has no autofocus. I am so upset. I wish I had read this review before buying this stupid phone.

Jay Wyatt says:

I agree this is the Worst phone I've ever had. They need to discontinue this horrible phone

Chris Adams9 says:

Sorry but i disagree with your blog good sir i own this phone and its actually better than what you give it credit for the display is rather good, back camera is good now the front camera yes it is a little crappy sadly but the phone itself is wonderful

Yup its a lot better then the five reviews I have read about this phone I got on 12/28/2013 of course I got mines from metro pcs for $99 but overall it beats every Android phone I've had in the past

theIceberg says:

AGREED, AND I GOT IT FOR 30 BUCKS ON SALE!..CHECK MY COMMENT BELLOW HEHE

I can not save any photos from Facebook, Please someone tell me how! I'd appreciate it so much!

Jay Wyatt says:

This phone is Trash. I've taken this phone back twice. It powers of for no reason then t mobile tells you oh well it's it's not they're problem . My dad has the same phone got it two weeks ago and has already received three phones this phone is not worth the hassle at all!

theIceberg says:

NEW PRICE $30 on sale NOW!!! This phone is worth the $30 they are selling it for! (at Metro pcs, owned by Tmobile). Hi guys!!..I just finished my contract from Sprint and I had the Samsung Galaxy S2. With that said, I was looking for the cheapest phone that had at least a 5mp camera and a decent size screen... and I found this. With Jellybean 4.2.2 (more than my Galaxy), a 5Mp camera, and a quadcore 1.2 GHz...I gotta tell you..I got this phone for $30 at Metro PCS...yes.. I said $30 and it's worth that much as I am now not planning to spend hundreds on a phone...for now...So now I'm temporarily happy with a phone that does technically everything my Sprint phone did, PLUS now has actual more than 3g speeds since Sprint sucksd, AND I got all my apps working on the new phone. The pictures are the screen is not AS BAD as described in the article to tell you the truth. Go to the store, and check it out..on sale NOW!! let me know what you guys think...yes yes, I love bargains hehe.

David Rahrer says:

I just ordered one of these at $29 from MetroPCS. After reading more, the only thing that concerns me is the lack of autofocus. Can anyone who owns one say whether or not this phone can read barcodes and take images of checks for phone deposit? If it can't do that, I can't use it and may as well send it back unopened. Thanks.

The camera is horible tried to scan a barcode on my prescription to refill couldn't even scan it with the wallgreens app. Other than the camera it's ok

blueopp11 says:

You know besides from the camera this phone actually has impressive response times and runs smoother than anyone would imagine , i have found no glitches with this and a friend of mine who has the Galaxy S4 was quite upset at how much more his phone was and for the fact that he uses it for social networking and basic functions that this phone is quad core and runs so smoothly and i payed $50 with a $20 MIR through metropcs which runs on t mobile's 4g and 4g lte networks now , all in all its a great phone for the price , $30 in the end ? as a replacement because i lost my phone .. i would recomend this phone to anyone who isnt a picture fanatic!

lisa harman says:

Just an FYI, the shopping channel "ShopHQ" has THIS exact phone as Today's Special Value (until 11pm Thurs night, the 13th, CDT) They are selling it with apps, chargers, ear buds etc for $89. & it's thru T-Mobile for a flat $50/month free text, talk & 500mb of data ** With No Contract. Seems like a great deal if ya want to get outta the contract merry-go-round. I've had Verizon for 11 straight years, same #, etc. My contract's up in March so for the 1st time, I'm thinking about leaving them for a $52/month SAVINGS for the EXACT PLAN!!

S Roy1 says:

I just bought my T Mobil Alcatel Fierce about a month ago. The touch screen is insensitive to my touch AND now the battery won't charge, looses all power when turned off/not in use. That's not a good thing. Will be looking for a different phone tomorrow.

S Roy1 says:

I bought my Alcatel Fierce a month ago. Yesterday it stopped taking a charge, the battery continues to deplete in power even when plugged in and/or not in use! Not good. Will be looking for a new phone!

S Roy1 says:

Also way insensitive to touch...ugh.