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Alcatel One Touch Premiere (U.S. Cellular) Review
The Alcatel One Touch Premiere for U.S. Cellular costs too much in monthly data to be a feature phone, but is lacking too many features to be considered a smartphone.
- Solid email support and Web browser
- Plays many music and video file types
- Requires a data plan
- Cramped keyboard
- No app store
- Short battery life
- Sluggish performance
The $9.99 Alcatel One Touch Premiere is either a feature phone that isn’t priced like one, or smartphone that doesn’t work like one, depending on how you look at it. Either way, you should probably keep looking. As a messaging-focused feature phone, it isn’t half bad. But as a smartphone, it’s nowhere on par with the competition. And since it’s priced like a smartphone, we’re going to rate it like one.
Design, Call Quality, and Data Plan
The One Touch Premiere measures 4.66 by 2.28 by 0.48 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.30 ounces. It’s a comfortable size with a solid feel, but budget flourishes abound. The glass panel over the display, for instance, doesn’t feel properly fitted into the frame of the phone—you can actually feel the edges of the glass raised just over the plastic. The back panel is a matte blue soft touch plastic, and the front and sides are two shiny black plastic rings. There’s a volume rocker on the right, a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, and a power jack on the left.
Given the relatively compact size of the phone, you only get a 2.8-inch display. And unfortunately, at just 320-by-240 pixels, text and images look pretty grainy. There are six function keys right underneath, which is about two too many. Almost every time I meant to hit the Back key I turned the screen off instead. This probably says something about my memory, but it also means the keys are likely too close and poorly placed. Below the line of function keys is a four-row QWERTY keyboard.
Although they are made of a nice, grippy plastic, the One Touch Premiere’s keys are cramped and tiny. I found it difficult to type without accidentally pressing other keys in the process. I actually found myself wishing for a larger screen in place of the keyboard, which is really the opposite of how a messaging phone should make you feel.
A 3G handset with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, voices sounded okay in the phone’s earpiece, but dipped in and out a bit in my tests. Calls made with the phone sound robotic and muffled, and noise cancellation is poor. The speakerphone is too low to hear outside, though calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset. Standard Android voice dialing worked over Bluetooth, though the app crashed a number of times. Battery life is disappointing at just 4 hours and 2 minutes of talk time.
U.S. Cellular is the seventh-largest carrier in the U.S., and runs its own 3G and 4G LTE networks in parts of 26 states. Prices are good, but not significantly better than any of the big four carriers. Instead, U.S. Cellular sells itself on a higher level of customer service and network quality. Our readers agree, giving the carrier our Readers’ Choice award last year, for reasonable prices and a reliable network.
The biggest issue here is data pricing. The One Touch Premiere is powered by Android, yes, but it isn’t quite a smartphone; I’ll touch on this more in the next section. And even though the Premiere isn’t a smartphone, U.S. Cellular requires that you pay $15 for a monthly 200MB data plan. When you take that into consideration, you might as well go for a genuine smartphone, like the Samsung Galaxy S III, whose data prices start at $20 for 300MB of data, but $25 gets you a much more reasonable 2GB of data—not to mention countless other features the Premiere can only dream of.
Smartphone or Feature Phone?
The One Touch Premiere is running Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread), but it isn’t an Android smartphone—at least not in some of the ways in which it really counts. When most people hear the word smartphone, they think of apps. And while the Premiere comes with a few pre-loaded apps to get you started, it doesn’t come with a way to get any additional third-party apps. Android’s app store, Google Play, is strictly off limits. I tried to install it on the phone and received the message “This device does not support download of applications or content from Google Play.” That means you can kiss those 600,000+ apps goodbye.
I was able to install Amazon’s Android app store on the phone through the Web browser, but that doesn’t have anywhere near the same number of apps as Google Play. You also don’t get any of Google’s excellent, standard Android apps, like Google Maps. So even though this phone has some smartphone trimmings, like a decent Web browser and email capability, it’s closer to a feature phone in more ways than not.
You get three home screens you can swipe between that come jam packed with apps and widgets. There’s lots of bloatware preinstalled, and you can’t delete any of it. As far as the UI is concerned, Gingerbread is a hopelessly outdated version of Android lacking many of the features and refinements you’ll find in version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above. It isn’t bad for a feature phone, but again, the Premiere is priced more like a smartphone, which makes the old operating system and missing features difficult to justify.
From a performance standpoint, the One Touch Premiere is lacking across the board, smartphone or not. It is powered by a 600MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 MSM7627 processor, which hasn’t been relevant for a few years now. Everything about this phone feels slow, from opening apps to swiping through your home screens.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The One Touch Premiere comes with 159MB of free internal storage. There’s also a microSD card slot beneath the phone’s back cover with a preloaded 2GB card; my 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine as well. Music tracks sounded fine through both wired headphones as well as Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones. I was able to play AAC, MP3, OGG, and WAV test files, but not FLAC or WMA. For video, the phone plays MP4 and H.264 test files at resolutions up to 800 by 480, but not AVI or Xvid files. This is better multimedia file support than most feature phones, but lacking compared with other smartphones.
The 2-megapixel camera has an LED flash. Performance is average, at best. There’s a 1.3-second shutter delay, and then it takes another 3 seconds to save the image. Colors are fairly accurate, though pictures are somewhat dark no matter where you take them. Images are also a bit soft, but compared with other 2-megapixel sensors, they look about average. The camera records video at an ultra-low 352-by-288-pixel resolution, which is so small, it’s hard to see.
The Alcatel One Touch Premiere could be a decent feature phone, if only it were priced like one. Instead, the monthly required data plan pits it against heavy-hitting smartphones, like the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S III, the Motorola Electrify M, and even the older, keyboarded HTC Merge. Next to those phones, it just can’t compete. So if you’re looking for an inexpensive messaging phone, you’re better off with the Samsung Freeform 4, which has a solid keyboard and better call quality. You won’t get all the same multimedia features, but you’ll save nearly $200 per year in data fees.
By Alex Colon, PCMag
- Service Provider: US Cellular
- Operating System: Android OS
- CPU: Qualcomm MSM7627T
- Processor Speed: 600 MHz
- Form Factor: Candy Bar
- Physical Keyboard: Yes
- Screen Size: 2.8 inches
- Screen Details: 320-by-240 TFT LCD
- Camera: Yes
- Megapixels: 2 MP
- Camera Flash: Yes
- 802.11x: 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth: Yes
- GPS: Yes
- Storage Capacity (as Tested): 159 MB
- microSD Slot: Yes
- Network>: CDMA
- Bands: 1900
- High-Speed Data: EVDO Rev A, CDMA 1X
- Battery Life (As Tested): 4 hours 2 minutes