Alcatel One Touch Evolve (T-Mobile)

Today’s smartphones are getting more powerful with every release cycle, and cutting-edge hardware is becoming less expensive as newer components are made available. But not everyone needs cutting-edge hardware. If you’re looking for something that will keep some cash in your pocket, T-Mobile’s least expensive smartphone, the Alcatel One Touch Evolve ($27.99 up front plus $3/month for 24 months or $99.99) is worth a serious look. It doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of T-Mobile’s flagship phone—and our Editors’ Choice—the Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s also nowhere near as expensive. It does, however, play games, take photos, and have a modern look and feel, making it a good first smartphone for teens and frugal adults.

A svelte, all-black handset, the Evolve measures 4.78 by 2.52 by 0.46 inches (HWD). A chrome band runs around the phone, and it has an angled bottom edge that looks slick and even makes it a little easier to slide the phone in your pocket. The Evolve may be inexpensive, but it doesn’t feel that way. The removable plastic (T-Mobile-branded) back panel has a matte black finish with a cutout for the speaker and a minuscule rim that protects the 5-megapixel camera from scratches. Underneath, there’s a removable 1400mAh battery covering the full-size SIM card and a microSD slot that supports cards up to 64GB.

On the top of the phone to the right is the Power button, next to the headphone jack in the center. On the right side, near the top, is the volume rocker. Opposite the rocker on the right side of the phone is the micro USB port, no doubt there because of the angled bottom. It’s an inconvenient placement if you’re right-handed and use the Evolve in landscape mode, as the cable when plugged into the phone is in the way of your fingers underneath it as they try to naturally handle the phone.

The Evolve’s 4-inch, 480-by-800 TFT LCD is bright enough to be used outdoors, and images looked vibrant and well-saturated. At 233 pixels per inch, the screen serves up easily readable text. Letters look clear and crisp. Compared with Alcatel’s more expensive ($169) T-Mobile phone, the Fierce, its 960-by-540 4.5-inch TFT LCD, and its 244 pixels per inch, the display on the Evolve is a lot sharper and just as bright. The viewing angles aren’t great, however. If you’re watching video with a friend, make sure your heads are close together.

Included with the Evolve is a micro USB cable and a larger-than-usual wall charger.  

Connectivity, Call Quality
The One Touch Evolve integrates 802.11 b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi, A-GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, but there’s no LTE. You’ll get 3G speeds with HSPA on the GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and UMTS 850/1900/AWS bands.

In my tests, call quality wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. My voice sounded clear but synthetic, with a light static over everything. Noise cancellation wasn’t particularly effective outside on a busy New York City street. The person on the other end of the call complained about traffic noises interrupting my speech. My call partner’s voice came through loud and clear, but was a little harsh. The speakerphone doesn’t get very loud, and can be difficult to use outside in noisy environments.

T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling lets you make phone calls over Wi-Fi networks when you’re low on minutes, or when T-Mobile cellular service is less than stellar or unavailable.

Battery life was in line with other phones in this price range. In our talk tests the One Touch Evolve lasted 5 hours and 13 minutes. The Fierce, to compare, lasted 7 hours and 55 minutes.

OS, Performance
The phone runs on an 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 single-core processor and 512MB of RAM. There’s 4GB of onboard storage, but only 1.03GB is available for the user. More than a couple of apps or music albums will quickly fill that, so a microSD card is strongly recommended.

Though it’s running a not terribly aged Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, many of the icons have been altered by Alcatel, and look a little more childish. There can always be less bloatware, but it’s not horrible here: You get Lookout Security as well as T-Mobile’s Mobile Hotspot, My Account, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, and Visual Voicemail apps, none of which are removable. There’s no word from Alcatel on whether the Evolve with receive any updates OS updates.

The on-screen keyboard defaults to Swype, which allows you to drag your finger across the keyboard, for quicker letter entry. It’s an easy-to-use feature and a nice time saver. Also included is an FM radio app, where you can save your favorite station and even record audio.

The Evolve played almost every media file I could throw at it, including FLAC, OGG, and WAV, but there’s no support for 1080p video. It’s capped at 720p. The rear-mounted speaker sounds tinny and doesn’t provide much volume, but that’s to be expected from a phone of this caliber. My headphones got plenty loud, even on the lowest volume level.

In our graphical performance tests—Nenamark and Taiji—the Evolve scored 23.5 and 9.14 frames per second, respectively. Not great scores, but good enough for an inexpensive phone. Popular games like Temple Run 2 and Fruit Ninja ran smoothly, though I suspect some of the more intense graphical games in the Google Play Store will choke the Evolve. Web browsing was very smooth, and switching between games and other apps was quick and fluid.

The 5-megapixel camera takes decent, but not great photos. Most lack proper exposure and show washed-out colors, and indoor photos are noisy, but they’re not unusable. The camera is fast, though, offering quick continuous shooting when you hold down the shutter button or volume rocker. The lack of flash really limits the low-light photos you can take, and, of course, you can’t use your phone as a flashlight.

The phone records 720p video and is able to keep its frame rate consistent no matter the light levels. Your footage will suffer from the lack of image stabilization, and graininess when shooting indoors, but again, for a budget phone, it’s not bad. The VGA-quality front-facing camera is just that: VGA-quality. You won’t see any detail unless your subject is very well lit.

The Alcatel One Touch Evolve isn’t the best Android phone on T-Mobile. That’s the Galaxy S4. But for $100 total, it’s not a bad deal at all, offering good performance and features for the price.

If you need a physical keyboard you can try the free-on-contract myTouch Q, but it runs an ancient version of Android. For about $70 more, you can grab the Evolve’s 4.5-inch counterpart, the Alcatel One Touch Fierce, which packs a quad-core processor and 1GB or RAM, but still lacks LTE. If you’re on T-Mobile and are looking to enter the Android ecosystem with little investment, the Evolve worth a look.  It’s cheap, can run apps like Facebook and Candy Crush Saga, and it looks good doing it.

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We Are the 5 Percent

Cory Gardner and Kathleen Sebelius
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) listens as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about the troubled launch of the website on Wednesday.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

“Here’s my letter,” said Rep. Cory Gardner. The central Colorado congressman, who looks like an eager Batman sidekick grown up and made good, waved “the letter that my family got canceling our insurance.” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius looked on, framed by TV and still cameras capturing every flutter of the paper.

“We chose to have our own private policy back in Colorado so we could be in the same boat as our constituents,” said the congressman. “And yet my insurance policy has been canceled. The White House website says, if you like the plan you have, you can keep it. Did I hear it wrong?”

Sebelius, who had sweated through three hours of questions (almost half of them, to be fair, from friendly Democrats), talked to Gardner as if trying to troubleshoot for him. “I don’t know how long you’ve had your plan,” she said.

“Why aren’t you losing your health insurance?” asked Garner.

From there, the discussion turned into a familiar shaming exercise about why administration officials or liberal congressmen won’t sign onto the health care exchanges. Democrats find that easy to dismiss; Rep. Henry Waxman, the snappy ranking member of the committee, asked Sebelius if she could follow Gardner’s advice and secure a health plan that “would be able to protect you from cheap shots?”

Now that Obamacare is being implemented, the rest of the GOP is going to feel the pain of the middle class.

But after the hearing, Gardner kept on fulminating about the broken “you can keep it” promise. In a TV statement, and in a short conversation with reporters, Gardner repeated the president’s phrase like a mantra. An insurer had informed Gardner and his family that their old plan was unavailable, replaced by something with a “significantly higher” cost. They were among the 15 million people who bought insurance on the individual market, and now among the 7 to 12 million whose plans would be ended by Affordable Care Act regulations.

“We’re like millions of Americans who lost our plan after the president said if we liked it we could keep it,” he said. “We called them up, and I said, ‘Is this due to Obamacare?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

To Republicans, this is the latest in an ongoing series of Obamacare “smoking guns,” proof that the law never should have passed. And it’s more than that. It’s a shift away from the fruitless, theoretical, absolutist attacks of the past few months. Let Sen. Ted Cruz go on about liberty and tyranny and the evils of the living Constitution. Now that Obamacare is being implemented, the rest of the party is going to feel the pain of the middle class.

That pain is most acutely felt, right now, by the 5 percent of Americans who shop on the individual insurance market. For more than three years, health care reporters had been warning that these plans would be altered or scrapped as they comported with new regulations, and for at least the last month conservatives had been circulating the letters from companies warning of the change. Gardner actually released his one month ago, the sort of dramatic gesture that might have gotten more attention had congressional conservatives not been betting all their chips on a government shutdown.

Since the shutdown ended, some of the conservatives most identified with Manichean calls to shrink the government are calling for something new. Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, won a new national following with a book (The Battle) about how each new government program put a brick on the “road to serfdom.” Yet in an Oct. 18 speech, he warned conservatives against “insane” attacks on “the government social safety net for the truly indigent.”

“We somehow want to zero out food stamps or something,” said Brooks. “It’s nuts to want to be doing something like that. We have to declare peace on the safety net.”

This week, in a speech at D.C.’s other conservative mega–think tank, Utah Sen. Mike Lee did a similar reshuffle of conservative talking points. It was worth building a federal system that rewarded good behavior and lifted up the poor, even if that meant—clutch your handkerchief—some redistribution of wealth. “Many middle-class parents may pay no income taxes—but they do pay taxes,” said Lee. “Working parents are not free riders.”

What Brooks, Lee, and Gardner all realized was that conservative Republicans needed to acknowledge what government looked like in 2013. The “if you like it, you can keep it” story, which they should have glommed on to earlier, inverts the health care narrative that had always made Democrats sound like Samaritans and Republicans sound like misers. Before, the “exemplar” story of health care was of the sick person (preferably young, preferably cherubic) being denied coverage because of villainous HMOs. Now, the networks were full of exemplars whose insurers had been held down and smothered by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ invisible army of regulators.

This has Democrats spooked, for the moment. On Wednesday, as Republicans got ready to roll out a bill literally named “The If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It Act of 2013,” Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu promised her own version. “The promise was made and it should be kept,” said the Democrat, who’s up for re-election in 13 months. “It was our understanding when we voted for that, that people when they have insurance could keep what they had.”

So the sad insurance company letters will roll in, and Republicans will keep making them famous. As the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn puts it, this tact gets Republicans out of a jam on their own health spending plans. Almost every member of the party is on record for Medicaid reforms that would end the program for millions of people, hypothetically more than are getting the bad news about private insurance plans now. Democrats, for now, are set to be the party of pain and suffering. That’s surely why Republicans at the hearing didn’t actually call for Sebelius to quit her job, or for the president to fire her.

“If this were the private sector, heads would roll,” said an eager reporter to committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton, after the hearings.

“I had the opportunity to work at the White House myself, as a political appointee,” said Upton. “I served, every day, at the pleasure of the president. I knew that if I didn’t do my job, I probably wasn’t going to be there. Because she is there, she is serving with his pleasure, and, uh …”

He trailed off, but the point was clear. Republicans have a better target than Sebelius.

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Chris Brown heading to rehab after assault charge

FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 file photo, singer Chris Brown, center, departs the H. Carl Moultriel courthouse after he was released from jail following his arrest for allegedly punching another man, in Washington. A representative for the R&B star announced Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 that Brown has decided to go to rehab to “gain focus and insight into his past and recent behavior, enabling him to continue the pursuit of his life and his career from a healthier vantage point.” (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Troubled singer Chris Brown is heading to rehab.

A representative for the R&B star announced Tuesday that Brown has decided to go to rehab a day after he was released from jail following his arrest for allegedly punching another man in Washington, D.C. Brown remains on probation after his 2009 attack on then-girlfriend Rihanna and could face jail time as a result of the arrest.

“Chris Brown has elected to enter a rehab facility,” a statement said. “His goal is to gain focus and insight into his past and recent behavior, enabling him to continue the pursuit of his life and his career from a healthier vantage point.”

Brown’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said Tuesday night the singer checked in at an unspecified facility to be treated for anger issues.

“He just decided he wanted to take some time off and do some introspection,” Geragos said.

Brown and his bodyguard were arrested early Sunday morning after an altercation at The W Hotel in Washington. Brown was initially charged with felony assault after a man said Brown or his bodyguard broke his nose with a punch when he tried to get a picture with the singer. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor Monday and he was released from jail.

Though his troubles in Washington are no longer as serious as first thought, the arrest could still have ramifications for the 24-year-old Grammy Award winner.

Brown was placed on four years of probation after pleading guilty to assaulting Rihanna in California. He was required to take domestic violence courses and perform 1,400 hours of community service.

Brown’s probation was briefly revoked this summer after a hit-and-run incident and a judge ordered him to perform an additional 1,000 hours of community service because there were questions about whether he actually completed his initial penalty.

Geragos has said the singer will be exonerated. He said Brown’s decision to enter rehab is not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing in the Washington case.

The singer faces up to four years in prison should a judge decide to revoke his probation again.

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Diddy Opens Up About Estranged Father in Revealing Interview

He’s never been one to reveal anything about his past, but in a rare interview Sean Diddy Combs shared details about an important figure in his list.

The 43-year-old rapper took to his Twitter account on Wednesday (October 23) and posted his latest Revolt TV segment.

“I’ve never spoken openly about my father ..but launching @Revolttv moved me to share and let ppl kno the truth #free,” Diddy tweeted.

During the interview entitled “Confessions,” Diddy sat down in his apartment and explained why he misses his father.

“They say you can’t miss something you never had, but that’s only a little right,” Diddy stated. “There’s a definitely been times as I’ve gotten older that I’ve missed my father – his presence – not being there… There’s thing that you would ask your father. There’s also things that you would celebrate with him that would make him proud.”

Also discussing the influence his drug dealing father had on him, the “Bad Boy for Life” singer said, “I have his hustler’s mentality, his hustler’s spirit, his drive, his determinations, his swag.”

He continued, “My father was a hustler. He was a drug dealer and he was a hustler, so I learned early in life that there’s only two ways out of that dead-end jail. It made me work even harder.”

“Sometimes you can’t just answer why things happen, but I definitely think the route that I went on – staying out of the streets and hitting the books and trying to be somebody – I think he played a role in that,” he added.

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Oracle eyes optical links as final frontier of data-center scaling

Oracle is exploring silicon photonics, an optical technology drawing widespread interest, as a potential weapon in the battle against data-center power consumption.

Advances in CPU and memory design could boost efficiency dramatically over the next few years. When they do, the interconnects among components, servers and switches will effectively become the power hogs of the data center, according to Ashok Krishnamoorthy, architect and chief technologist in photonics at Oracle.

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Optical connections, which will eventually be needed for high-speed links within rows and racks of servers, promise efficiency gains over copper cables but need to get cheaper first. A key part of that effort will be integration, the time-honored work of bringing the functions of many separate chips into one. Silicon photonics is a likely technology for doing that, though it probably won’t ship in volume for two years or so, said Linley Group analyst Jag Bolaria.

Oracle isn’t often associated with networking and may not even manufacture or sell the technologies it’s now studying. But as a big player in computing and storage, it could benefit from fostering a future technology that helps make faster, more efficient data centers possible.

Like other Oracle hardware divisions, the photonics unit has its roots in the former Sun Microsystems, which began work on short-reach optical communications in 2004 and has had a photonics partnership with the U.S. military research agency DARPA since 2008. Silicon photonics is part of Oracle’s larger effort to help data centers and private and public clouds meet future computing needs, Krishnamoorthy said.

“We see bandwidth and computing demand growing unabated,” he told an audience at the recent Open Server Summit in Santa Clara, California. “Can we scale infrastructure and systems to meet demand?”

Silicon photonics holds the potential to help do that, Krishnamoorthy said. In his conference presentation, he used power consumption as a measure of efficiency, while adding that space and cooling are also critical issues.

Work that the industry is already doing may make both CPUs and memory several times more efficient over the next several years, Krishnamoorthy said. At that point, connectivity will consume a much bigger percentage of a data center’s power than it does now. “If we do our job here, then we have sort of this gaping interconnect problem,” he said. Oracle’s goal is optical interconnects that use about one-tenth as much power as those in use now.

For high speeds over long distances, optical links are already standard. Multi-gigabit carrier backbones can carry a whole city’s data as waves of light, which are converted to and from electrical signals on each end. When individual servers start generating enough information, data-center architects will have to use optical technology just to connect them the top of the server rack.

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Miley Cyrus Tweets Princess Photo, Announces Tour

Claiming to have be done with her image as a Disney Channel starlet, controversial pop superstar Miley Cyrus may be trying to project her new image onto her old life.

On Twitter, the 20-year-old posted a collage of images drawn by artist Michele Moricci featuring classic Disney princesses, except in much more “Miley-esque” postures.

A few of the featured images include Snow White, looking like the singer at her VMA performance, Cinderella twerking, and Ariel, losing her mermaid tail, and trading it in for Miley’s iconic racy bear outfit.

In related news, Miley just released some big news to critics and fans alike, announcing on Saturday Night Live, and tweeting, “I’m gooooing on tooooooour!! #Bangerz2014Tour.”

No dates have been announced for the shows yet, but stick with GossipCenter for all the latest announcements.

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Chael Sonnen would like to reach out to Anderson Silva to be assistant coach on TUF: Brazil

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