Alcatel One Touch Fierce (T-Mobile) review:

Cheap, but not worthwhile

Alcatel One Touch Fierce (close-up)
With fixed focus, you can forget about getting clear close-up shots. Lynn La/CNET
Alcatel One Touch Fierce (indoor)
In this indoor photo, the light outside from the window has an odd blue tint. Lynn La/CNET
Alcatel One Touch Fierce (SSI)
In our standard studio picture, objects look blurry, and you can see digital noise in the white background. Lynn La/CNET

Video quality fared a bit better, but not by much. Though it took a few seconds for the camera to readjust itself for lighting, both moving and still objects looked smooth for the most part, and audio picked up well. I also like how you can take photos while recording and pause recording without stopping it altogether, a trait that's common in Android handsets.

I also liked how videos uniquely previewed in the photo gallery. When you browse through your gallery, any videos you've recorded autoplay and loop, similar to a GIF. Aside from it being trippy, it's a neat way to look at your movies quickly without having to open up a video player.

One Touch Fierce (camera)
Not only does the Fierce's camera take mediocre shots, it also has a rather unintuitive UI. Josh Miller/CNET

Unfortunately, I did once again run into some trouble with the camera's UI when recording video. When you tap on the video icon to switch to video mode, the camera automatically starts recording. This is jarring, since a video icon doesn't usually signal "record," but rather, a big red dot should. (Oddly enough, a red dot does appear when you tap the video icon, but only after the camera's already started recording). This resulted in a lot of two-second videos of random things because I had no idea I was shooting. Sure, give anyone a few more days and they'll probably get used to it, but that still doesn't make the UI any less user-friendly.

The bulk of the recording options for both cameras include all the features I've already mentioned. You'll also get image stabilization, time lapse recording, three audio modes including muting, three video qualities, and special effects, which manipulates faces (bulge out the eyes, pinch in the mouth, etc.) while you record. Lastly, the 5-megapixel camera also has special background effects, and the highest you can record video and play it back is at 720p with 30fps.

I tested the quad-band handset (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) in our San Francisco offices and call quality was excellent. Voices sounded clear and strong, with volume being at an adequately loud level. During times of absolute silence I didn't hear any background noise or extraneous buzzing, none of my calls dropped, and audio was steady and consistent. Likewise I was told that I sounded great as well, and my friend even asked if I was talking from a landline. Unfortunately, audio speaker could be better. I thought maximum volume remained a tad bit low and whenever my friend spoke, I could hear a subtle tinniness with each word. In general, however, voices were clear and were easy to understand.

Alcatel One Touch Fierce (T-Mobile) call quality sample

Listen now:

As an HSPA+-enabled phone, T-Mobile's 4G data connection was adequate and consistent. On average, CNET's mobile and desktop site loaded in 8 and 13 seconds, respectively. The New York Times' mobile site took 8 seconds and its desktop page loaded in 13. The mobile site for ESPN loaded after 7 seconds and its full site took 11 seconds. On average, it took 1 minute and 56 seconds to download the 35.01MB game Temple Run 2. Finally, Ookla's speed-test app showed me an average of 3.29Mbps down and 1.48Mbps up.

Alcatel One Touch Fierce Performance
Average 4G download speed 3.29Mbps
Average 4G upload speed 1.48Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 35.01MB in 1 minute and 56 seconds
CNET mobile site load 8 seconds
CNET desktop site load 13 seconds
Power-off and restart time 28 seconds
Camera boot time 2.94 seconds

A slower-than-expected 1.2GHz quad-core processor powers the Fierce. The camera lags, and on average it takes 28 seconds for the device to reboot. Quadrant results clocked in at 4,880, which is barely comparable to last year's HTC One X.

Though small but necessary tasks (like switching from landscape to portrait orientation, returning to the home screen, and calling up the keyboard) are carried out relatively smoothly, it takes a hair longer than usual to carry out said tasks. When it came to gameplay, I noticed that frame rates weren't very high while playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP, and the handset would take a handful of seconds just to launch Temple Run 2.

Alcatel One Touch Fierce (Quadrant)
Quadrant results for the Fierce's quad-core processor. Lynn La/CNET

Anecdotally, the 1,800mAh battery provides a decent amount of power. On light to medium usage it can last throughout the workday and into the night without a charge. It has a reported talk time of 8 hours (on 3G), and a standby time of about 19 days. During our battery drain test for talk time, the phone lasted 10.28 hours. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.783W/kg.

While you may be tempted by the One Touch Fierce's price, satisfying 4G speeds, and reliable call quality, I still don't recommend this device. Especially considering its laggy processing performance, unimpressive camera, and poor touchscreen.

If you want to stay with T-Mobile, consider other devices like the LG Optimus F3. Though it costs $100 more, it packs a vibrant, responsive screen and LTE capabilities. If you're open to an alternative OS, the Nokia Lumia 521, which is a Windows Phone 8 handset, is a $144 steal with a better camera.

In addition, there are better prepaid handsets from different carriers as well. Both Virgin Mobile's Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE and Boost Mobile's LG Mach have 4G LTE data speeds, but are currently only $55 and $40 more expensive, respectively. The Victory also has NFC while the Mach has a physical keyboard -- proving that you don't have to shell out a whole lot to get a better device.

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