I’ve been a fan of smartphones since the early days of Windows Mobile and Symbian. Even with their clunky interfaces and likewise-clunky hardware, what’s great with smartphones is that they offer a platform for connecting while on the move. Today’s smartphones have evolved quite a lot, with fluid interfaces, precise touchscreens and attractive hardware.
Not everyone can afford a top-of-the-line device, though. While the Apple iPhone remains a premium smartphone in emerging markets, the differentiation in Android devices (or what some will call fragmentation) has resulted in the rise of the cheap Android smartphone.
Android manufacturers have implemented a few trade-offs that let them produce Android phones at a lower price. For example, some would use lower-quality screens and slower processors, or skip some features and functionalities like connectivity options. This market segment is dominated by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Y.
Dual SIM Capability
Alcatel recently sent me a OneTouch 918N — better known as the “Glory” — for review. This particular Android smartphone comes with a feature that has become popular in emerging markets like India and the Philippines: dual-SIM functionality. Support for more than one SIM card lets a user switch across different numbers in a jiffy, and reduces the need to carry more than one device.
The practice of owning more than one phone has stemmed from networks offering unlimited texting and calling offers within their networks. In the Philippines, for example, carriers offer promos that let users send unlimited SMS for about PhP 15 (about US$ 0.35) per day. Some would be fine with texting friends and contacts within the same network, but others would want to maintain more than one mobile network.
Priced at PhP 5,699 (US$ 135), the Alcatel Glory is positioned as a budget-friendly smartphone with a few extras. The Glory competes directly with Samsung’s own dual-SIM offering, the Galaxy Y Duos, and to some extent the lower-cost Samsung Galaxy Y.
But while the Galaxy series is a more popular phone because of the brand and its customizability, one main gripe with the Galaxy Y and Duos is the screen resolution — a paltry 320×240 pixels. This results in poor viewing experiences, and sometimes limits the apps that one can run on the phone.
Thankfully, the Alcatel Glory does not have this limitation. The screen resolution is still limited by today’s standards, at 480×320 pixels. However, it’s serviceable. With the 3.2 inch screen size, you get a pixel density of 180.28 PPI. This is a big improvement compared with the Samsung Galaxy Y (133.33 PPI) and the Galaxy Y Duos (125 PPI).
The Alcatel Glory comes in a plastic construction, although the outer casing comes with a rubberized surface at the front and back, and a chromed surface along the edges. Judging from first looks, the Glory does not look like an entry-level smartphone. It does feel rugged, because of the rubberized surface.
The phone comes with four hardware buttons: the Home button at front, volume buttons and the sleep/power button at the right. The home button lights up when the screen is turned on. The phone also has the standard Menu, Search and Back softkeys, but — like most low-end phones — these don’t light up.
The left side of the phone contains the micro USB charging port. The top part houses a 3.5mm audio jack.
In terms of processing power and software, the Alcatel Glory comes with a single-core 650 MHz processor and runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, with 256MB of RAM. Storage is 170 MB. I believe these specs might be deal-breakers for hardcore Android fans. The processor itself is lower than the 825 MHz processor found in Samsung’s entry-level Galaxy Y series. The limited storage might make it difficult to install applications.
Surprisingly, the Alcatel Glory feels as fast as the Galaxy Y in real-world scenarios. Even with the slower processor, the phone handles itself well. Some attribute this comparison to Samsung’s more resource-intensive TouchWiz UI. However, some apps don’t perform so well given the lack of processing power. A Quadrant benchmark came up with a score of 801, which is a bit lower than the Galaxy Y at 820.
The phone comes bundled with a 2GB microSD card, which expands application storage. But, I would recommend installing Link2SD to help manage the external storage better. Most Android apps only move part of the app to the SD, with a significant portion still residing on the internal storage. Link2SD lets you move the entire .APK, library files and Dalvik cache to SD. Link2SD also lets you remove the bloatware that comes as “system” apps on your smarphone.
Battery lasts more than a day with only one SIM active, and with sparing use of data connectivity. With both SIM cards running, the phone lasts less than a day. Note that you can switch on SIM cards selectively through a settings screen (both on, or either one turned on).
I usually run the phone with only one SIM active, but with data turned on and shared via WiFi. The phone lasts about 8 hours on a single full-charge.
The Glory comes with built-in apps and games that an Android newcomer might appreciate, although experienced Android users might want to uninstall these so-called bloatware. In terms of input, the Glory comes shipped with CooTek TouchPal, which is a direct competitor to the Swype keyboard preinstalled on Samsung Galaxy devices. TouchPal works the same — by letting a user slide and swipe fingers on the onscreen keyboard instead of tapping to type words.
Folks more used to Swype will still be able to install this keyboard through Swype beta. I have had some issues with the sensitivity and precision of the screen, though, especially while typing using either Swype or TouchPal Curve. Having tried both keyboards, I must say I prefer Swype. TouchPal can be slow on the Alcatel Glory due to the limited processor, although there is a workaround that involves disabling the custom dictionary that saves your own words on the fly.
The Alcatel Glory’s dual-sim functionality is integrated into Android. At first boot, or when you change SIM cards, the phone asks you which to use as default for voice calls, SMS and data. You can choose which SIM to use for outgoing calls and SMS on the fly. This does not work with third-party SMS apps, although you can always define the default SIM under Android settings.
The phone can use either SIM card’s data, although only SIM1 can connect using higher-speed 3G or HSDPA. SIM2 can only use GPRS, which can be limiting if you want to be able to switch data connection across different networks.
The Alcatel Glory uses a dual-standby setup, though, which means you can receive calls and SMS on either SIM while at standby. But, when you’re in an active call or a data connection, the inactive SIM will not be able to receive calls.
In terms of multimedia functions, the 3 megapixel camera is decent for daylight shots, but picture quality suffers in low-light conditions due to lack of a flash. The speaker, located at the back of the phone, is quite loud, which is excellent for talking via speakerphone.
The Alcatel One Touch Glory comes with an FM radio, which requires the headset to be plugged in to work. The phone also comes shipped with TuneIn radio, which lets users listen to Internet-streaming radio stations from around the world.
- 650MHz single-core processor
- 3.2 inch LCD display at 320×480 pixels
- 512MB ROM
- 256MB RAM
- Support for up to 32GB mircoSD (2GB included)
- HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 3.0 w/ A2DP
- 3.15MP camera
- FM radio tuner
- Li-Ion 1300mAh battery
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
In the box
- Alcatel One Touch 918N smartphone
- USB to micro USB cable
- Charger (standard 5-volt micro USB charger)
- Earphones with mic
- OEM screen protector
- Dual-SIM capability
- Better screen than the Galaxy Y
- Rugged finish, yet still elegant-looking
- Looks more high-end than other phones in this price level
- Slower processor than the Galaxy Y
- Lack of third-party accessories
- Can be rooted via SuperOneClick
The Alcatel One Touch Glory 918N is a good entry-level smartphone that can hold itself well against its contemporaries like the Samsung Galaxy Y (and the Duos) and other local brands like Torque and Cherry Mobile. The only disadvantage to the phone, I believe, is the lack of third-party accessories. While every corner mobile stall can offer you a jelly case or mesh protector that fits any Samsung Galaxy model, store owners would do a double take when they see this smartphone.
First-time smartphone users won’t miss the speedy quad-core processors of today’s top-of-the-line smartphones, or the bigger screens that more expensive phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III will offer.
For the fashion-conscious, Alcatel has actually released the One Touch Glory X 918N, which comes with user-replaceable front covers. This model is sold at PhP 300 (US$ 7.15) more, but comes with a lower-resolution 2 megapixel camera.
More advanced Android users would be glad to hear that the Alcatel One Touch Glory can easily be rooted through SuperOneClick. I’ve successfully rooted the phone and installed V6 SuperCharger, SD-Booster and Link2SD, which helped improve performance drastically.