The Alcatel Fierce 4 is about as basic as smartphones get, but for $69 through MetroPCS, basic isn't all that bad. This budget phone features a sleek design, respectable battery life and a decently colorful display for a fraction of what you'd pay for a pricey flagship. But while the Fierce 4 is good enough for everyday tasks, you can find better cameras and performance on similarly affordable competitors.
The Alcatel Fierce 4's plastic, no-frills design is in line with the device's budget price, but the phone is far from an eyesore. Alcatel's handset features a slick, aluminum-brushed back panel, though it's pretty prone to fingerprint smudges. The 5-ounce Fierce 4 feels substantial without being too heavy, and its curved rear edges make it comfortable to hold. The rear panel pops off pretty easily, so replacing the SIM or microSD card won't be too much of a hassle.
The phone's slim, inconspicuous power and volume buttons blend in almost too well with its edges; it took me a little while to find them and get used to pressing them. The Fierce isn't ideal if you want the slimmest phone possible, either; its 0.32-inch edges are notably thicker than those of your average flagship, but are comparable to budget competitors such as the ZTE Obsidian (0.4 inches) and the Blu R1 HD (0.3 inches).
The Fierce 4's 5.5-inch, 720p display won't blow you away, but it's a fine solution if you absolutely have to finish that last episode of Luke Cage on the way home. Colors in the trailers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looked accurate, from the neon red of blaster fire to the bright blues that illuminated the Rebel base. The display does sacrifice detail, though, and many character faces looked airbrushed as a result.
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The Fierce 4 exhibited an average brightness of 365 nits, which is dimmer than the ZTE Obsidian (426 nits), the Blu R1 HD (452 nits) and the 428-nit average for smartphones. This lines up with my real-world testing; I often went to Settings to make the Fierce's display brighter, only to realize the brightness was already maxed out.
Alcatel's phone fared better in color tests, producing 107 percent of the sRGB color gamut with a respectable Delta-E color-accuracy rating of 1.32 (closer to zero is better). The Fierce 4 topped both the Obsidian and R1 HD in color representation, and was more color-accurate than both.
The Fierce 4's 8-megapixel camera is a bummer even by budget phone standards, taking inconsistent and mostly fuzzy shots.
The handset's camera was at its best during the day and when outdoors. I could easily make out storefront logos and building details in my shots of a busy Manhattan street, though colors looked slightly drab.
I had similarly mixed results when recording video of the same scene. The rapid movement of cars and pedestrians was fluid, but the overall image was very fuzzy.
Unfortunately, things worsened under low light. My shots of a dimly lit Mexican restaurant looked blurry and had a yellow tint, making Oxido's normally delicious food look a bit less appetizing.
When I photographed the restaurant's interior, a set of tables and windows became a big blur.
You probably won't want to share any selfies you take with the Fierce 4's 5-MP selfie cam. My self-portraits were always blurry and, worse yet, inconsistent in color. After taking three quick shots in a row, I saw that one had a greenish tint, one was red and one looked natural.
The Fierce 4's camera software is as basic as it gets, though there is a Beauty mode that efficiently airbrushes every possible detail of your face.
With a quad-core 1.1-Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, the Fierce 4 is quick enough for most basic tasks, but also noticeably sluggish. I often felt a slight delay whenever I scrolled through web pages in Chrome, and apps occasionally took longer to launch than I'd like. When playing the graphically intense Mortal Kombat X, I experienced long load times and borderline unplayable frame rates.
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Alcatel's phone scored 1,012 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, lagging behind the ZTE Obsidian (1,353; 1-GHz Cortex CPU) and the Blu R1 HD (1,579; 1.3-GHz Cortex CPU), both of which were tested on the older Geekbench 3 benchmark. All three phones performed well below our 2,906 smartphone average. While these two benchmarks are designed for different processors, the Fierce's score gives us the sense that it would fall well below the competition on any test.
The Fierce had a slightly better performance on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, scoring 4,267. That's better than the Obsidian (2,616) but below the R1 (5,260) and way behind our 14,673 average.
Software and Interface
The Fierce 4 is fairly light on bloatware, save for a standard suite of MetroPCS-specific apps. There's the myMetro app for checking on your account and making payments, a Name ID app for finding and blocking unwanted numbers, and first-party apps for checking visual voicemail and turning the phone into a mobile hotspot. There's also a metroZone app that highlights news stories if, for some reason, you prefer to get your news from MetroPCS.
Carrier software aside, the Fierce 4 rocks a pretty plain version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which means you'll get clean app icons, plenty of customization options, and a convenient drop-down menu that makes it easy to adjust things like brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the fly.
The Fierce 4 musters up a decent amount of battery life on a single charge, though you'll probably want to have a charger handy if you're going to have the phone out with you all day. It lasted 7:34 on our battery test (web surfing over LTE on MetroPCS), making the Fierce 4 longer-lasting than the ZTE Obsidian (6:08) but not quite as enduring as the Blu R1 HD (8:36) or our 9:08 smartphone average.
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Carriers and Value
The Fierce 4 is currently exclusive to MetroPCS and sells for just $69. You'll also be able to get it on T-Mobile later this fall. The Fierce 4's carrier selection is the same as that of the ZTE Obsidian, but a bit limited compared to the Blu R1 HD — which works with AT&T, T-Mobile and any MVNO carrier on a GSM network, including MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless.
The Fierce 4 does almost everything a $70 phone should, offering a colorful display, decent battery life and a mostly clean version of Android that you can customize as you see fit. This phone's curvy design is nicer than what you'd expect for the price, though the device is fairly thick and susceptible to fingerprints.
The Blu R1 HD is a strong alternative, offering better battery life and performance for a cheaper $50, though you'll get that lower price tag only if you opt to deal with a bunch of Amazon ads. The Moto E is still our favorite phone for under $100, but it's getting increasingly harder to track one down. That leaves the Fierce 4 as a respectable, low-cost Android option, even if it won't completely wow you.