Alcatel 3V review: Modern design with some tradeoffs for $150

  • Editors' rating
    7.6 Very good
  • $149.99

Pros

  • Bright 18:9 LCD large display
  • Solid battery life
  • Rear fingerprint scanner

Cons

  • microUSB charging port
  • Slow to open and switch apps

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While modern flagship smartphones are priced at $800 to $1,000, there are many decent options that cost less than $300. Alcatel has one for only $150 that offers modern design features with a few tradeoffs in performance.

The Alcatel 3V from TCL Communication was released a couple of weeks ago and I've had one of my T-Mobile SIM cards in it as a secondary device for more than a week. It's a solid choice, for the price, but I tend to use the high end models so was a bit frustrated by the experience.

Specifications

  • Processor: MediaTek 8735A quad-core
  • Display: 6 inch 2160x1080 pixels resolution 18:9 aspect ratio LCD
  • Operating system: Android 8.0 Oreo
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: Rear 12 megapixel and 2 megapxiel cameras. Front 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, FM radio, GPS
  • Battery: 3000 mAh
  • Dimensions: 142 x 70.1 x 8.4 mm and 155 grams

There is no NFC radio so wireless payments through Google Pay will not work with this device. It also uses the older microUSB standard port for charging, but it does have a 3.5mm headset jack.

The Alcatel 3V supports the following bands. GSM: 2/3/5/8, UMTS: 1/2/4/5, and 4G LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/28.

Hardware

Years ago, $150 phones were complete crap. Thankfully, that is no longer the case and you can actually use a cheap phone for accomplishing most of your daily tasks.

Opening up the Alcatel 3V box revealed it was clear we have come a long ways when it comes to low cost Android smartphones, but turning it on and using it revealed there is still a bit further to go.

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The phone is big (about the same dimensions as the Note 8), but that is to be expected for a phone with a 6-inch display. It has nice curved matte finish edges that transition from the front glass and into a curved back. It is also not too heavy, but also not so light that it feels cheap in the hand.

One of the first things I noticed when Alcatel announced its new devices at MWC was the move for each of the 5, 3, and 1 series to have 18:9 displays. TCL Communication makes the LCD panel and it looks great with a solid 1080p resolution. There is no notch, but the bezels are not too large at all and actually remind me a lot of what I see on the HTC U12 Plus.

Sensors, the front-facing camera, and headset speaker are found above the display. A standard 3.5mm headset jack is positioned on the left side of the top. A mono speaker and microUSB port are found on the bottom. A long volume button is on the left side while the power button and SIM/microSD card are located on the right.

The dual cameras are stacked vertically about a quarter of the way down from the center of the top on the back. A flash is just to the right of the cameras. The rear fingerprint scanner is centered below the cameras and above the Alcatel label.

The fingerprint scanner works quickly to unlock the phone, but is not as lightning fast as we see on Huawei and other phones.

The camera takes decent photos and the two megapixel secondary one is there just to help with gathering depth data. Portrait mode shots cannot match the quality of the latest Androids and iPhone X so it won't be mistaken for a DSLR, but for social shots it is fine.

Software

The Alcatel 3V currently runs Android 8.0 Oreo and this eval unit has the 5 April 2018 Android security update installed. It is a very stock Android experience, without the Google news feed home screen panel.

Other than the stock Google apps you would expect to see, Alcatel has installed an image gallery, Mobisystems OfficeSuite, a sound recorder, and the SwiftKey keyboard. I personally prefer that Android manufacturers add an image gallery app as I find they provide advanced functionality, compared to stock Google Photos.

The image gallery app on the Alcatel 3V lets you view your images in day view, month view, collage, and slideshow. I personally enjoy creating collages to share with people since I tend to like my images to tell a story and always seem to have more going on than what can be captured in a single shot. You can select up to nine images for a collage and then choose from different template layouts and borders to create your collage. Images can be dragged and dropped as you desire too.

Alcatel also has its own camera app for shooting images with the cameras. Modes available include auto, pano, time-lapse, social, light trace, portrait, and night. Social mode lets you shoot and create collages on the go.

Pricing and competition

There is not much competition in the $150 market. My sub-$300 collection post shows the latest phones around this price range, but it is tough to beat the Alcatel 3V.

It is available in black from Amazon with a current arrival date out two to three weeks.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

At first glance people will think you have a mid-level $400 to $500 phone in hand with that large 6-inch 18:9 display, dual rear cameras, and well-built construction. The only obvious signs that you have a less expensive device is the use of microUSB and glossy black plastic on the back panel.

While the hardware is solid, the device does struggle a bit in the performance arena due to the processor and minimal amount of RAM. Tapping on an app icon to launch an app usually results in a timely pause as the app launches. Scrolling is not instantaneous and moving up and down long pages of text may annoy you after a bit. I haven't seen apps pause or quit so the performance is not errant, but likely just due to the minimal hardware specs.

The phone takes decent photos and the second rear camera lets you capture portrait photos. There are some artifacts in these photos and it isn't going to challenge the $1,000 iPhone X, but don't forget this is a phone that costs less than the insurance on the iPhone X.

I was able to easily go a full, long day of use with the Alcatel 3V. This day included browsing the internet, working with email, viewing social networks, and taking some photos. I tried watching a Google Play movie and it was a good experience with sound out of the mono speaker being fairly standard.

The Alcatel 3V is not going to challenge the $500+ mid-range or flagship market, but Alcatel did a good job in providing a low-cost alternative that looks like a phone much more expensive when laid side-by-side. It is a solid spare phone or a first phone for your children.

Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Service Provider AT&T, T-Mobile
Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo
Processor
Clock Speed 1.8 GHz
Manufacturer Mediatek
Processor Core Qty Octa-core
Display
Diagonal Size 6.00 in

Where To Buy

Price
$149.99

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Where To Buy

Alcatel 3V

Part Number: 5099A
Price
$149.99