Alcatel 1C 3G. At $89 the lowest cost smartphone (Review)

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How much is it? $89. Nah it can’t be! Meet Alcatel 1C 3G. The hero of the pre-paid set.

But it has a large 5.34” very modern 18:9 screen, capable camera (front and rear), 16GB storage, brushed aluminium body, fingerprint reader and a good all-day battery. Yes, it has.

Welcome to perhaps the most surprising smartphone of 2018. And it can be yours for 8.9% of those $1,000 flagships we all covet.

Alcatel 1cBut that is not why you buy an $89 phone. You give it to the kids (and can afford to lose it). Or to replace the expensive smartphone you dunked in the toilet until your contract runs out. Or money is too hard to come by, and you just need something reliable.

I am not claiming it is anything more than it is. A reliable, 3G smartphone for making calls, doing email and a little bit of web surfing. By the way, there is also a 4G version coming for I believe, $10 more – crazy price.

Review: Alcatel 1C Model 5009A 3G model

(4G model has similar specifications but a different model number).

Alcatel 1C global Website here.

It is exclusive to Telstra as a pre-paid, locked device. Website here

On top of the purchase price, you need to buy a monthly voice/data package ranging from $30-60. As this is a 3G device (very low data use) go for the cheapest Telstra package. MVNOs that resell Telstra may have better, cheaper, plans.

Because this is an $89 phone, we can only judge it against the Value Segment <$199 paradigm. On that basis, it is 5-out-5.

Alcatel 1C Model 5009A – Specifications and comments

The Telstra spec sheet is here. In case of any errors, please refer to it.

5.4-inch, 960 x 480, 201 ppi, 18:9, TFT LCD, 71% S-T-B-R

The screen is bright and crisp. Colours are a little muted. A semi-matte glass (not Gorilla Glass) covers it. It is a fingerprint magnet and not very readable in bright daylight. But hey it is in the new 18:9 format and that is rare on a phone of this cost.

MediaTek MT6580M, four core, 1.30 GHz, GPU: ARM Mali-400 MP2 400 MHz

OK, it is no powerhouse. There is often a momentary lag between tap and execute. But it is capable of running Android 7.0 and all apps. It is fine for basic games.

1GB RAM, 16GB storage (10GB free), MicroSD to 32GB (claimed 128GB)

This is fine for Android 7. At times 1GB RAM was exhausted, and we had to either close some apps or reboot.

Rear Camera: 8MP, 3264 x 2448, f/2.0, 12μm, Autofocus, auto HDR and single LED flash. Interpolated to 13MP

Interpolated means applying a Bicubic algorithm in post-processing. This generates extra pixels based upon adjacent pixels. In other words the best guess. Interpolation can lead to greater graininess and more noise. We shot all images at 8MP for this reason. For my money, it is an 8MP, and the only benefits are marketing ones!

It is perfectly acceptable for good light shots. Our tests shots were sharp and the colours accurate. But all our shots were at f/2.8, not f/2.0 as advertised.

Video (H.264) at 1080p#30fps was jerky. Video at 720p@30fps has EIS.

Alcatel 1C
ISO 134, 1/250 sec, f/2.8, HDR, 8MP, 4:3. File Size 2.7MB. It has slightly muted colours and lacks a little definition.


Alcatel 1C
ISO 218, 1/50sec, f/2.8, HDR, File Size 2.1MB. Colours are a little muted but its a good picture for the price.


Alactel 1C
ISO 201, 1/20sec, f/2.8, File size 2.5MB. Way to much noise even when shot at 8MP. Using interpolated mode, it was even more grainy.

Camera Front: 5MP, f/2.2, 1.12μm 2592 x 1994, Fixed focus and single LED flash. Interpolated to 8MP

The LED flash is a bonus, and it can record video (H.264) 480p@30fps (no EIS). Selfies are acceptable. They have muted colours.

Comms: Wi-Fi N 2,4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 2.0 OTG

The 3G version has a theoretical data speed of 21/5.76Mbps. On four bars reception from Telstra, we achieved about 75% of that. Alcatel claims it supports VoLTE and Voice over Wi-FI. We suspect that is only the 4G version only.

These speeds are adequate for email and limited web surfing. Make sure you turn off any, repeat any, cloud backup like photo’s to Google Drive etc. If you need to back up there make sure it can only happen over Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi N achieved 65Mbps at 2 metres from the D-Link AC5300 router. This is about right for a 2.4GHz single band modem. At 20 metres it was barely 5Mbps.

Sensors: Accelerometer (pedometer), Gyroscope (3-axis), Magnetometer (compass), GPS, and Fingerprint reader.

We tried it as a navigation device running Home Maps off-line or Google Maps (on-line – care about data charges). But the processor becomes overworked, and real-time turns (at speed) were sometimes too slow.

The fingerprint reader was accurate about 75% of the time.

As a phone: All the usual things including phone and text.

Hands-free use is adequate but a little quiet. Ringer volume is a little low at 70dB. Speech/Music is <70dB.

Other: Radio, MP3 Player, 3.5mm jack (buds supplied), Notification LED, Android 7.0

It plays MP2, MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR, APE, FLAC, WAV. The tiny earpiece speaker suffers from low volume and no bass or treble. It is fine for voice.

It is unlikely that you will see an upgrade to Android 8.0.

2640mAh battery, 5V/1A charger supplied

The battery lasted 9 hours on the first day (heavy use). On days two and three it went 22 and 36 hours. The supplied 5V/1A charger took nearly 9 hours (claimed 3.5 hours).

Using a 5V/2A charger, it reduced to just over 4 hours. (Post review note: We suspect the slower charging 5V/1A may have been due to a faulty micro-USB cable that kept intermittently cutting out).

Build: Brushed aluminium back on a plastic frame. 146.90 x 70.60 x 9.20 mm x 156g

It looks durable enough. It uses a modern 18:9 screen so appears slimmer. Available in black or gold.

GadgetGuys’s take. Alcatel 1C 3G – It is what it is!

Alcatel 1CI was not expecting too much from an $89 handset. Those brand snobs out there may say I was right. But after three days of use, I found it perfectly adequate as a phone with some smart benefits.

Yes, I missed my $1500 Samsung Note 8 for is glorious 6.4” AMOLED screen. But this was clear and bright enough.

Yes, I missed 1Gbps download speeds, but this was fine for the average user. With the caveat that the 4G model will be faster.

Yes, I missed one of the world’s best cameras, but this took not too shabby ‘social quality’ photos.

On the negative side, it’s a pre-paid locked to Telstra. The 1GB of RAM often slows it down. It will not have an upgrade to later Android.

The Alcatel 1 4G and 1X 4G have Android Go (specially designed to run an Android Lite and lite apps versions) and an upgrade path.


  • Bloody cheap but you need to buy a Telstra pre-paid as well
  • Should be available from Telstra MVNOs that may have better plans
  • The camera is fine for good light shots
  • Selfie flash!
  • Battery life can stretch to two days – or more
  • Fingerprint reader


  • Slow recharge time with the supplied 5V/1A charger (use a 5V/2A charger)
  • Sometimes laggy and needs a reboot (memory cleaner will often fix this)
  • 1GB RAM and no apparent Android upgrade path. Still, it is a disposable item.


As a value $89 smartphone it beats all GadgetGuy paradigms, so we are rating it 5-out-of-5.

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Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
It is amazing value and quality for $89
Dont expect it can do more than it does