On the surface, the $249.99 Alcatel Authority looks like nice option on Cricket Wireless. The smartphone runs Android and connects to Google's vast ecosystem of software and services. The phone also is compatible with Cricket's Muve Music song-rental service, putting unlimited and portable tunes within the handset's reach. That said, newer options on the no-contract carrier have come along offering more for the same price. For example, the ZTE Engage has a fresher version of Android, while the LG Optimus Regard adds to this faster performance plus 4G data. All that makes the Authority add up to an unsound decision.
The Alcatel Authority lacks the stunning beauty of today's superphones, which sport breathtakingly slim designs or all-metal construction. Like its sister phone on Cricket, the LG Optimus Regard, the Alcatel Authority has a chassis made from the more mundane gray-colored plastic. In line with its sibling, however, the handset feels solidly built and, weighing 4.8 ounces, has heft that I find reassuring. I also like the faux-silver trim running around the edges of the device that adds a touch of sophistication.
Measuring 5 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, the Authority is longer yet slightly thinner than the Optimus (4.37 inches by 2.29 inches by 0.45 inch). Above the phone's screen sit a notification light, trim earpiece grille, and tiny lens for its front-facing VGA resolution camera.
Below the display are four capacitive buttons that I admit threw me for a loop at first. With stenciled-in icons for home, settings, back, and search, the keys use the old Android Gingerbread layout, which I haven't seen in quite some time.
Beyond that, you won't find many physical controls on the Authority. The left edge holds a thin volume rocker while up top sits a tiny power key near a 3.5mm headphone jack. On back of the phone is the 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, circled by an attractive silver oblong. I think it complements the square but softly tapered lines of the handset well.
There's a long, thin speaker slot here too and the plastic battery cover sports a scale-like textured surface that grips fingertips yet repels fingerprints. A 1,530mAh removable battery lives under the cover, along with an SD Card slot that you can access without disturbing the battery.
Display and interface
With its 4.3-inch, 800x480-pixel-resolution LCD screen, smartphone newcomers perhaps will find the Alcatel Authority's display captivating. I certainly didn't. While the screen is relatively bright, its viewing angles are extremely shallow. If I tilted the handset in any direction rather than staring at the display dead-on, both brightness and color fidelity immediately deteriorated. Also, the Authority's low-resolution screen translated into blocky images and text, especially in side-by-side comparison with the 4.8-inch, 1,280x720-pixel Samsung Galaxy S3.
Pressing the power button on the top of the Authority fires up the phone's lock screen. It displays a large digital clock along with date and network status. To unlock the device, you must swipe across the screen left or right, which sends you to one of the five home screens. Cricket sprinkles a default selection of apps and widgets across them but you can customize each screen with the app shortcuts and Android widgets you choose. Placed on the bottom of every screen are quick-launch icons for the phone dialer, the vertically scrolling application tray, and the Web browser.
Software and apps
A throwback to another era, the Alcatel Authority's Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread operating system is a blast from the past. First launched in December 2010, Gingerbread is positively archaic, given the lightning-fast development of the mobile device industry. Still, as an Android phone the Authority offers access to Google's universe of services, staples such as Gmail, Google+, Google Talk, Google Latitude, Google Maps and navigation, local search, and YouTube. For more capabilities, the Google Play store stands ready to supply additional apps and software for download.
One thing I am truly grateful for is the Authority's lack of copious amounts of bloatware. There are apps for accessing your Cricket account and backing up your phone, Cricket 411 conducts local searches, and Cricket Navigator offers turn-by-turn driving instructions. Honestly though, you'd be better off using these apps' Google equivalents since they're both free and better-designed. I can say the same thing for Cricket's app store (called Storefront), which has a modest number of titles and background wallpapers, but can't even begin to compare to the depth of Google Play.
Cricket throws in two games titles: Block Breaker 3 and Uno. They are merely trial versions, however, and to rub salt in the wound, can't be uninstalled. There are basic organizer and productivity features, such as a calendar, instant messaging and e-mail support (including Microsoft Exchange), a calculator, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, an alarm clock, voice commands and a voice recorder, a weather app, Polaris Office, and a notepad. And if you need help remembering your to-do list, there's a handy task manager.