With the huge success of the Galaxy Note, which is now in its fourth iteration, and the arrival of the Nexus 6, it seems that devices with 6 inch (or thereabouts) displays are becoming mainstream. But the Galaxy Note 4, Huawei Ascend Mate 7 and the Nexus 6 (all winners of our Editor’s Choice Award) aren’t the only 6 inch phones around. One very interesting alternative is the Alcatel Onetouch Hero 2.
The Alcatel brand is best known in Europe, mainly because it originates from France. In 2004 Alcatel entered into a joint venture with TCL, a Chinese electronics giant, to create Alcatel Mobile Phones. In time Alcatel sold its part in the venture, however the name lives on in Alcatel Onetouch.
The Hero 2 was announced in September of this year, it has a 6 inch full 1080p HD display, a 13 megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, a 3100 mAh battery, and comes with a stylus. I received a Hero 2 a few days ago and I have been playing with it ever since, this is what I discovered.
|Display||6” Full HD IPS 1080 x 1920 pixels, Dragontrail glass|
|Processor||2.0GHz, octa-core Mediatek MT8392, Cortex-A7|
|Storage||16GB, microSD card slot, up to 32GB|
|Camera||13.1 Megapixel Rear Camera with Optical Image and Video stabilization (OIS+EIS), 5MP Front Camera|
|Connectivity||NFC, GPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth|
|Networks||GSM, 3G, 4G LTE|
|Software||Android 4.4 with Google Play|
|Dimensions||160.5 x 81.6 x 7.9 mm, 175g|
|SIM slots||1xMicro SIM|
The design of the Hero 2 is superb. From its aluminium body to its vibrant 6 inch display, the Hero 2 feels slim, stylish and friendly. Personally, I didn’t think I would ever say that about a 6 inch smartphone. For me a phone with a 5 inch display has always been the limit, I could accept a 5.5 inch display if pressured, but I was comfortable with 5 inch display devices. However the Hero 2 has gone a long way to convert me. The bezels and the top/bottom spaces are minimal, which means there is as much room as possible for the display.
The sides of the phone are aluminium while the back is made of plastic. On the right side is micro SD card tray, the volume rocker and the power button. On the bottom edge are two speaker grills, the micro USB port, and the stylus holder. There is nothing on the left hand side save for the SIM card tray. On the top is the headphone jack and the IR blaster. The left hand side is intentionally sparse as it leaves room for the MagicFlip covers.
The device has some pre-installed apps which are designed specifically for the stylus.
On the back is the slightly protruding camera lens, the flash and a special connector for the MagicFlip covers. The back of the phone doesn’t attract fingerprints, however if your fingers are at all greasy then smudges can appear.
The stylus is easily accessible and works well with the display. The device has some pre-installed apps which are designed specifically for the stylus, including Sketch Mate and Fast Maths. The former is a note taking app and the latter a kind of calculator that recognizes handwritten sums.
Several different covers are available for the Hero 2. Known as MagicFlip covers they come in two categories, dumb and smart. The dumb ones are simple flip covers which use a magnetic to clip onto the left side of the phone. The smarter covers use the same magnetic clip mechanism however they all use with the special connector. This connector allows the phone to interact with the cover. For example, one cover has a LED display which shows the time and various notifications.
The display on the Her0 2 is a pleasure to behold. The TFT, full HD, IPS display has a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. This translates into a pixel density of 367 ppi. The colors are vibrant and the display is bright. The display is built using a One Glass Solution (OGS) which helps make the Hero 2 thinner than I was expecting. At just 7.9mm, it is 2.2mm thinner than the Nexus 6. The display is protected by Dragontrail glass which allows the glass to be as thin as possible while offering scratch resistance and hardness. The glass is coated with an Oleophobic layer to reduce fingerprint marks.
The choice of the MediaTek octa-core MT8392 is interesting for this device. MediaTek’s octa-core range is often found in low- and mid-range phones due to its price/performance ratio. The MT8392 houses 8 Cortex-A7 cores and a quad-core Mali-450MP GPU. Clocked at 2.0Ghz, the MT8392 is probably the fastest Cortex-A7 based processor available on the market. For apps that perform lots of simultaneous tasks (i.e. with lots of threads) the performance of the MT8392 is excellent. For apps which are singled threaded, the slower performance of the Cortex-A7 (compared to Cortex-A15, for example) will show, however since the processor is running at 2.0Ghz, “slow” is a relative term!
The Hero 2’s AnTuTu scores are good at 29725. This makes the device on par with the HTC One (M7). For Epic Citadel, the demo app for the Unreal 3D engine, the Hero 2 managed 50.2 frames per second (fps) on the High quality setting, strangely the fps was lower in High Performance mode.
It is often bandied about the Internet that MediaTek processors have problems with GPS. This may be true anecdotally, however in this case it is far from the truth. The GPS in the Hero 2 works perfectly and can get a lock indoors and outdoors without any problems.
Unfortunately the weakest aspect of the Hero 2 is its battery. Although a 3100 mAh unit should be good enough to keep the Hero 2 powered through a working day, my testing has found that you may need to plug in the phone for a boosting charge sometime during the day.
I ran my customary set of tests: YouTube streaming, Epic Citadel, and playing music from Google Play Music. My Epic Citadel test showed that the phone will handle about 2.75 hours of intensive 3D gaming. Simpler 2D games will likely run for much longer. YouTube will work for around four hours on a full charge, while streaming non-cached music from Google over 4G will last around 15 hours.
During the course of a slow Sunday and on into Monday the device gave me 1d and 3h of battery life with 3.5 hours of screen time. All tests were performed with the screen on half brightness, with Wi-Fi and sync enabled.
The phone has all the standard connectivity options like dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth, NFC, 2G GSM, 3G, and 4G LTE. The Her0 2 comes in two variants, the 8030B and the 8030Y. Both have the same 2G and 3G bands (GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz, 3G: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz), which basically gives you worldwide 2G and 3G coverage (with the possible exception of T-Mobile in the USA). However the two models do vary on which LTE bands they support. The 8030B supports LTE 700 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 / 1800, which covers places like the USA and Canada, while the 8030Y supports LTE 800 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600, which is for Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is most likley that you will get this phone through your carrier and they will obviously provide you with the right version.
The 13.1 megapixel camera on this phone is excellent, and the experience is enhanced by the great 6 inch display. Photos are taken quickly and overall the color reproduction is good. Also the phone doesn’t tend to over expose shots, something that other (lesser) smartphones often do.
The included camera app is simple to use and yet has a whole host of features including HDR, Sports mode, and even a built-in QR code scanner. There is also a manual mode which lets you change just about every setting including shutter speed and ISO.
The best thing is to judge for yourself. Where I live it is now Fall and Winter is almost here, this means there aren’t many flowers out and there are lots of leaves on the ground, but I hope this selection of photos is useful:
The Hero 2 comes with Android 4.4.2 with a lightly customized skin from Alacatel Onetouch. The launcher uses its own graphics and icons to good effect and the overall UI design is pleasing. The customization is light and there was never a moment when I thought the UI was slowing down the phone. The notification blind is nicely designed with the background showing the screen behind it using a semi-transparent effect. The settings page is black-on-white rather than white-on-black as with stock Android, however the redesign is pleasing and likable. Overall the UI moves fast, flows freely and enhances the overall experience.
Alcatel Onetouch include a number of pre-installed apps, some to take advantage of the stylus like Sketch Mate and Fast Math, while others are just bundled third party apps like Deezer and Kobo. Peel Smart Remote is the app for the built-in IR blaster. With it you can control your TV, DVD player, Air Conditioning unit, and so on. My TV set is from a fairly obscure manufacturer, however the app managed to find it and I was able to controll the TV’s basic functions without any problem.
Another neat trick that the Hero 2 has is the ability to run some apps in a split screen mode. Split Screen is activated from within the settings and allows you to have one app on the top half of the screen and another app no the bottom. There is also a slider (actually a blue dot) which allows you to change the proportions of the two windows. Not all apps are compatible with the split screen mode, however it does work with lots of popular ones including Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Chrome, YouTube and WhatsApp.
The device also comes with a special version of Cross DJ which has been customized by Mixvibes. You can also buy the specially designed MagicFlip DJ cover which works together with Cross DJ. If music is your thing, then this is quite a useful setup.
Alcatel has its own apps store, know as the “App Center”, however the Hero 2 also comes with full Google Play support and all of the normal Google apps are available.
Overall the Hero 2 is a great device. The design makes it seem less of a huge phone than it really is. The 6 inch display is clear, sharp and a pleasure to use. The processor package is fast, and the UI is always responsive. The 13.1 megapixel camera is a joy to use, and the picture quality is good for a mobile phone. The software is nice including the pre-bundled apps, while the custom UI only adds to the overall experience. The only reason the phone didn’t score much higher, is the battery. If you are the kind of person that is always near a USB port (for example at work) then the battery life won’t be a problem, but if you need your phone to last a long time between charges then this might not be the phone for you.