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.
But 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.