Hands-On: Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2
Alcatel is back with another "hero" device. This monster of a phablet banks on an ecosystem of accessories to set it apart from the competition.
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Alcatel today announced the Hero 2, a reimagining of its flagship phablet. The device boasts impressive specs and an even more impressive array of accessories to set it apart from other large-screen devices.
Thanks to its 6-inch screen, the Hero 2 has a massive footprint. Unlike Huawei, Alcatel didn't make any attempts to create a slim and sexy handset. This thing is bulky and blunt in its appearance. It is thick, heavy, and wide. I was able to hold it OK, but using it definitely requires two hands.
The Hero 2 is made from a mix of plastics and metals. The rear surface is made of aluminum, and it has a metal frame holding things together. Other elements are made from plastic. Alcatel kept the bezel to a minimum on the front, which helps a bit.
The edges are rounded nicely and the back contoured comfortably so it rests in your palm a little bit better. Thank goodness it doesn't have squarish, blocky edges. The back surface of the phone is one gigantic cover that feels a tad cheap to me. Alcatel competes on the lower end of the market, but its main flagship smartphone should have higher quality materials in my opinion. It has a plain look overall, and doesn't threaten the likes of the Mate 7 or Note 4 (except maybe with its low price of 350 Euro).
The screen looks really good. It stretches across six inches and offers full HD resolution. I thought it looked clean and crisp and colorful. It was plenty bright - able to outshine the harsh spotlights shining on it in the event space.
The volume toggle is on the right edge of the phone, positioned very close to the top. It's a bit hard to reach, given the phone's size, and the profile is minimal at best. It could be a lot better. Travel and feedback were not that great. The screen lock key is even smaller, but it has decent travel and feedback. The charge port is on the bottom, the headphone jack is on top, and the left edge is free of any controls.
Alcatel uses a light skin over the Android user interface. It's not difficult to learn how to use and looks modern and clean. The pre-production devices on hand were very, very buggy, so there was a lot of screen lag, crashing, and other software-related problems. We assume these will be resolved by the time the device ships.
There are at least three major accessories Alcatel hopes will help sell consumers on the idea of the Hero 2.
First, there's a flip case. The flip case is similar to the ones sold by Samsung and LG. It offers a preview window so you can see incoming alerts without opening the cover. There's also a flip case with an embedded LED for notifications, and a flip case that folds into a stand.
Second, there's an e-ink companion screen. It has a 4.9-inch screen and boasts 5 days of battery life. The e-ink screen can be used to check messages, notifications, as well as read browser-based content and e-books. It was very buggy and slow to respond to user input. It's not that expensive, though, at 80 Euro.
Third, there's the Sidekick 2, a second-generation companion handset / controller. The Sidekick connects to the Hero 2 via Bluetooth and can be used to answer/make calls, serve as a speakerphone, and even control your TV thanks to a built-in IR transceiver. It hooks into the Hero 2's media player for streaming, and can control PowerPoint presentations. It's extremely cheap at 30 Euro.
Last, there's a crazy pad called the MagicFlip. The MagicFlip is a large, bulky pad with a DJ application. You can use the pad to control the music on the screen and interact with the DJ application. It snaps onto the Hero 2 via magnets, but connects through a pin array on the bottom of the phone.
One has to give Alcatel credit for its vision. I just wish the execution were a bit better.