Review: Alcatel OneTouch Fierce for T-Mobile
The Fierce runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with some minor customizations from Alcatel. The most obvious changes are the icons, which have a different look. The basic behavior of the Android operating system is close to stock.
For example, the lock screen is the basic stock Android version. There's a simple unlocking tool with no access to shortcuts, not even the camera. The lock screen can be protected with a handful of different locks (pattern, face, pin, password), and can display lock screen widgets if you wish. The notification shade can be accessed from the lock screen.
There are five home screen panels littered with T-Mobile content when you first boot up the phone, but the home screens can be customized any way you like with apps, shortcuts, widgets, and so on. The main app menu is a standard alphabetical grid and there are no options to customize it. You can, however, choose to view all apps, just those downloaded by the owner, or widgets. You can also access the Play Store (to download new apps) via a shortcut at the top of the screen. Apps can be dumped into folders on the home screens, but not in the main app menu.
The settings tools are all arranged as they are on most stock Android devices. The options are all laid out in a vertical lists, with the tools lumped together into several groupings. Interestingly, the Fierce lets people turn on/off five different calling profiles, which is not something most Android devices offer. Other unique customization tools include the ability to automatically set on/off times for the device, and several gestures for silencing calls or alarms (flipping the phone over).
The Fierce has a quad-core 1.2 GHz processor from MediaTek under the hood. It's no Snapdragon. The Fierce exhibited several performance problems while we reviewed it. Screen transitions were not always smooth, apps opened slowly from time to time, and scrolling was herky-jerky.
The only difference between the Fierce's phone app and other devices that run Android 4.2 is that the tabs across the top of the dialer have been rearranged. Other than that, it uses the stock dialer app. There's a large dialpad that's easy to use for punching in numbers. The tabs at the top let you easily switch to you call log or your contact database. The search tool is at the bottom of the dialer, as is a “new contact” button. I like that the call history lets you view all, incoming, sent, and missed calls under separate tabs.
Individual contact cards offer plenty of room to store data, notes, and images, and the Fierce lets you create the usual Android home screen shortcuts and widgets to quickly reach contacts.
The Fierce doesn't ship with anything other than the stock Android communications tools. That means you get access to Gmail, email, Hangouts, and Google+. These apps all function exactly as they do on other Android devices, which is to say well. You won't have any trouble staying in touch with family, friends, and colleagues.
A few words about the keyboard. It's not that great. Alcatel is using its own keyboard skin and I found it difficult to use. Some of the vital buttons, such as "Alt" to get to number keys and special characters, are far too small. You're better off downloading and installing the native Google Android keyboard app from the Play Store. I found it worked much better.