Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2 Review
Interface and Functionality
The OneTouch Hero 2 runs on Android 4.4.2, which is far from stock – a heavily customized, but poorly optimized UI is what greets users from the get-go.
A custom user interface is something one can expect on every device nowadays – with the Android jungle being overpopulated with so many beasts, every manufacturer tries to create a custom experience to set themselves apart from the rest. Unfortunately, more often than not, this could result in a slow, laggy user experience, and the Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2 has fallen in this trap with full force. Navigating around the device, launching apps, and even returning to the home screen requires a certain dose of patience from the user, as the device is prone to respond slowly and stutter often.
It is hard to say the UI doesn't remind us of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – the home screen transitions look identical, the app drawer is organized more or less in the same way – divided into two tabs – one for all apps, and one for user-downloaded apps (no widgets tab, though). There is also a handwriting-to-text functionality for the included stylus, which sounds very reminiscent to what Samsung's phablet does, however, it left us generally unimpressed.
We can see some cool ideas from Alcatel, as far as user experience goes – for example – the proprietary Music, Radio, and Sound Recorder app icons can be flicked up or down to show a mini-version of the respective app, allowing quick access to its most essential controls (play, pause, change song, find station, record, stop, etc.). There is a cloud backup app, and a OneTouch Share media sharing app, which essentially turns the phone into a media server that can stream anything you wish to make available to other devices. Unfortunately, the latter can only be used by users, who also have the OneTouch Share app installed.
The manufacturer has also included a handwriting-to-text functionality, which converts letters, numbers, and symbols into digital form, to be sent as a text message, email, etc. Again, it reminds us a lot of the Galaxy Note line, as it has the very same built-in gestures, which allow the user to easily correct mistakes, insert text, delete words, etc., however, it is far less sophisticated – the stylus' tracing line lags and stutters in a very uncomfortable manner, distorting the writing experience, and in turn – causing the user to make errors. This is made worse by the fact that the phablet does not block finger input while the stylus is in use, which means that when the user rests their hand near the display, each accidental touch disrupts the writing / sketching process. Add to that the fact that letter recognition is far from perfect and we can say we pretty much gave up on trying to make this feature work for us.
Using the pen as a navigational tool is still a viable option – a good choice when one wishes to keep finger smudges off of their smartphone's screen; though, this will require some getting used to, as the stylus often requires more pressure to be applied, in order to register a touch.
The OneTouch Hero 2 also offers a split-screen functionality – much like the high-end Samsung Galaxy series, as it works in the same manner. Holding the back button will give us access to an app drawer on the left side of the screen. Grabbing and sliding two apps from that drawer will launch them in split-screen mode. The drawer itself is customizable to house whichever apps the user desires (and support split-screen, of course).
Nothing unique strikes us when we open the contacts app. All names are arranged in alphabetical order and have a medium-sized picture attached to them. Searching through the contacts can only be done via typing out the desired name in the search bar, or by some good old-fashioned scrolling through. The dialer app offers an easy-to-arrange favorites screen and a detailed call history, which is always a nice thing. Its keypad can also be set for a one-handed mode, which shrinks it to one side of the screen, giving the user better thumb-access.
The calendar is a standard ordeal, offering a monthly, weekly, and agenda view. Everything is clearly visible and usage comes natural. We also like that the calendar and clock apps have dynamic icons, which always show the relevant time and date – the clock icon even shows seconds. The calculator is, too, nothing unique, though, it also offers a single-handed mode like the dialer, making it easily usable with just a thumb.
The OneTouch Hero 2 also comes with WPS Free Mobile Office (by Kingsoft), a currency converter, compass, My Tracks (an app, which records travel data), Dropbox, and other preinstalled apps – all of them can be downloaded from the Play Store, so they barely add value in the mix, and can be classified as unneeded by some.
The stock SMS app is pretty much the standard Android ordeal. We like the attachment menu, as it is not short on options – from pictures, to video, audio, calendar events, or even a slide show – the only option it lacks to round it off is location sharing.
The email app is a direct copy of Gmail, the pre-Material Design version, which is fine, as it has proven to be easy and effective to use.
Processor and Memory
A powerful-on-paper octa-core CPU gives us a choppy user experience in the UI, but does a good job once we are in a demanding, full-screen app
The MediaTek MT6592 chip, paired with 2 GB of RAM, in the OneTouch Hero 2 is a powerhouse on paper – an octa-core monster clocked at 2 GHz, should make for an undisrupted experience most of the time – but for whatever reason, using the phone for common tasks, such as checking emails, websites, the Play Store, and others, is often accompanied by stutters, which do not make the phone unusable, but still detract from the experience.
We can say, however, that once inside a performance-heavy app, such as a game, the handset performs without hiccup. Playing games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Dead Trigger 2 felt smooth, though, most of the time, the user may wish to keep details set to low or medium, in order to ensure a consistent framerate.
Nevertheless, we've seen the MT6592 perform better than what we've experienced with the OneTouch Hero 2, so we are a bit disappointed with Alcatel's optimization, or lack thereof.
Do note that the phone tends to heat up quite fast, so it probably isn't the best idea to use it for heavy gaming on a regular basis, and especially not while it's plugged in a charger.
Internet and Connectivity
Browsing on the 6-inch, 367 PPI screen is as comfortable a viewing experience as a mobile phone can provide.
As a testament to the UI's poor optimization, the first time we started the phone's stock browser, it crashed unexpectedly. Nonetheless, once it actually launched, browsing with it felt on par, quality-wise, with the included Google Chrome. In fact, we quite liked the way its controls are placed and were often torn, when deciding which of the browsers to use.
We were impressed with the phone's Wi-Fi antenna, as it was able to detect the faintest signal and turn it into a usable connection – we were able to connect to a router, situated on the 3rd floor of a building, while standing on the street, outside the structure.
In terms of connectivity, the phone is well equipped – with Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, a 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio, and an LTE Cat 4-capable (150/50 Mbit/s) cellular one.