Review: Alcatel OneTouch Fierce for T-Mobile
The Fierce includes the typical slew of Google-made media purchasing and consumption apps. That means you get the Google Play Store in which to buy music, movies, TV, books, and magazines, and all the separate apps from which to consume them. The set up works fairly well, as all the apps are color-coded and have a similar design for navigation. The Fierce also has stand-alone music and video player apps that work well with your existing sideloaded content, as well as the excellent YouTube application.
The Fierce also has T-Mobile's Live TV streaming app. This service, which costs $10 per month to use fully, lets Fierce owners view a decent selection of live television and movie content. Performance depends heavily on having a strong network connection. It performed equally well over HSPA+ and LTE, but you need at least a couple of bars of service or playback begins to get stuttery and pixelated.
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Last, the Fierce has an FM radio if you're really into the local broadcast thing. You need to use headphones (which act as the antenna) in order for the radio to work.
Alcatel offers its own take on the camera application with somewhat customized software. It's a shame there's no dedicated camera button, and the camera is a little bit sluggish when first launched.
Like most cameras, the Fierce's software offers two control strips, one on either side, with the viewfinder in the middle. The basic controls — shutter buttons, settings button, gallery access — are all on the right side of the screen. The left side of the screen has a control strip that shows four shooting modes at a time. This strip can be swiped up or down to access more shooting modes, which include normal, HDR, panorama, PhotoSphere, Smile Shot, and several others. It's a slightly neat idea, but I wish you could customize it. There are also two buttons floating at the top of the viewfinder. One lets you adjust the flash and the other switches to the user-facing camera.
The full settings tools offer an abundance of flexibility when it comes to controlling the camera software. Owners can set location tags, turn on/off the shutter sound, manage exposure, add color effects, select from a wide range of scenes (night, sunset, party, etc.), alter white balance, control the timer, and so on.
The camera app is easy enough to figure out, but it is a bit janky. It can be slow to act, slow to focus, and temperamental.
The Fierce's camera is limited to 5 megapixels. It's not that good. I was expecting mediocre results, and that's what I got. Pictures were often filled with grain, focus was soft throughout, and colors looked dull. Exposure was often good, but using the flash in low-light settings produces disastrous results. The Fierce's camera suffices for people who don't care much about mobile imaging, but serious photogs definitely need to look elsewhere.
Results from the video camera are only slightly better. Video was more apt to be in focus and accurately exposed, but grain was still a problem. I thought colors looked a bit dull, too. Further, you don't have control over the resolution of your video results, which are limited to just 720p HD. Again, the Fierce suffices for basic video capture, but budding YouTube stars will want to invest in something more capable.
The Fierce uses the stock Android gallery application. It is functional for managing your local photos and online photos. There are some simple editing tools, such as crop, rotate, red-eye, and filters to help with color/white balance. It's not a bad app, and sharing to other social networks is quite easy. The Fierce also has the newer Google+ Photos application. This a separate app/service that is married to your Google+ account. It has its own editing features, including the Auto Awesome tools that automatically animate your photos, etc.
The Fierce has Bluetooth 4.0. I didn't have any trouble pairing and connecting the Fierce with other Bluetooth devices, including headsets, smartphones, and PCs. Calls were atrocious when sent to a standard Bluetooth headset. They were really poor in both quality and volume. Music sounded OK when sent to my favorite pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones, but definitely not great. The Fierce was able to pass files to other nearby devices without issue.
Chrome is the only browser preloaded on the Fierce. It's decent at rendering web sites and offers nice controls when it comes to tabs, bookmarks, and so on. It was slow on the Fierce, though. Even when on high-speed Wi-Fi, Chrome was slow to load web pages on the Fierce's screen. Browsing speeds were acceptable over LTE and HSPA+, but just barely.
The Fierce uses the stock Android clock, so that means you can choose either a digital or analog clock. They could each be easier to see. Both use incredibly thin white font/designs that often get lost in the background image. If you choose your wallpaper carefully it won't be as much as a problem. The Android clock application includes world clock, alarm, timer, and countdown functions.
Google Maps is the only navigation software installed on the Fierce. Google Maps interacted with the GPS radio just fine. It was able to locate me in short order, and to within about 30 feet. Google Maps is solid software, but it ran a bit slowly on the Fierce. It was just barely able to keep up when navigating turn-by-turn. I'd blame this on the Fierce's processor, more so than anything else, which struggled at other tasks as well.
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