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Hands-On with the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows

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Jan 6, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Making good on a promise it made last year, Alcatel has shown off its first Windows 10 smartphone. Rather than start from scratch, the copy repurposed the Fierce XL handset, swapping Android for Windows. Here are our first impressions of this handset bound for T-Mobile.

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Alcatel OneTouch is doing something with the Fierce XL that few other phone makers have done: it has installed Android and Windows on the same hardware. The Fierce XL first debuted with Google's operating system last fall. Now, Alcatel is back with a Windows version. The only difference between the two is the operating system, the hardware is identical.

The Fierce XL is a rather plain and simple-looking phone. Its lines are clean, and the phone makes no claim to be setting any standards in design. The colorful rear shell forms the back and top/side edges, with the screen and chassis sitting within. Alcatel clearly took no small amount of inspiration from Nokia's long line of Lumia smartphones, right down to the cyan coloring.

Thanks to the 5.5-inch screen, the XL is a sizable device. It's not overly large, but it's bigger than most mid-sized handsets. Alcatel managed to keep the profile slim. I found the XL comfortable to hold and use thanks to the smooth polycarbonate and gently rounded edges. It slips into pockets with ease and is appreciably light.

Materials and build quality are good, but definitely not high-end. This is an entry-level-ish handset, so we're talking budget plastics and construction. The fit and finish is decent, although I've seen better.

FierceXL  

The front panel is made of glass. The display is surrounded in a black bezel. Alcatel picked a 720p HD screen for the XL. It's decent. Windows 10 helps the screen a lot, thanks to its liberal use of squares and rectangles (which have flat edges). I didn't see any pixels from an arm's length, but you can spot them here and there if you bring the phone close to your eyes. The screen is plenty bright and viewing angles are rather good.

A thin chrome grille covers the earpiece above the screen, and the user-facing camera is visible up there as well. The phone relies on three capacitive buttons placed in the bezel below the display for controlling the Win10 UI. The buttons don't have any sort of profile for finding them, but they do light up and work well.

The volume toggle and screen lock button are both on the right edge of the phone. Each button has a good profile, but travel and feedback felt a little weak to me. There are no controls on the left side of the phone, and you'll find the headphone jack on top and the USB port on the bottom.

It is rather easy to remove the rear shell thanks to a notch carved into one corner. It feels a bit cheap to me, but Alcatel was smart to include a removable battery and support for memory cards. The camera module stands out from the blue back panel thanks to a chrome rim. The flash is below the lens, and the speaker is to its left.

Windows 10 flies on the XL. It may have a lowly Snapdragon 210 chip on board, but that's all the power the XL needs to operate smoothly. There are still some bugs in the Win10 code, but that Microsoft's fault, not Alcatel's. In my time with the phone, however, it performed fine. The screen transitions were quick and apps opened swiftly.

Alcatel hasn't announced pricing for the Fierce XL, but it will likely be less than $150. The Android variant of the XL sells for $129. T-Mobile customers don't have many options for Windows handsets, and the XL marks the carrier's first dedicated Windows 10 Mobile smartphone. Alcatel said it will sell the phone unlocked later this year. If you're a T-Mobile customer and in the market for an inexpensive Windows phone, the Alcatel Fierce XL is worth a look.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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CES 2016
T-Mobile
Alcatel
Windows
 

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