Alcatel 1C review: Excellent value for a budget handset

Alex Kidman 13 August 2018 NEWS

The Alcatel 1C isn't a fancy phone by any stretch of the imagination, but it's impossible to argue that it doesn't represent good value.

Quick Verdict
The Alcatel 1C is a slow phone with a terrible camera, but its solid battery life and genuinely low asking price make it a worthwhile buy if all you need is a basic smartphone.

The good

  • Good battery life
  • 18:9 display
  • Fingerprint sensor

The bad

  • Ordinary app performance
  • 3G only
  • Locked to Telstra

Alcatel's entire smartphone business is built around providing very low cost handsets for the market that can't (or won't) spend into the mid-range or premium price points. For years it's offered affordable phones, most of which were tough to recommend due to their limitations. While the Alcatel 1C isn't fancy by any measure, the sum of its parts and low asking price point make it a very easy recommendation if you're after a simple replacement phone on the Telstra network.

Alcatel 1C: Design

There's certainly nothing all that exciting about the Alcatel 1C's design. Where the Alcatel 5 and Alcatel 3V have designs that reach above their price point, the Alcatel 1C is exactly what you'd think a cheap mobile phone might be, from its plastic body that tries – but largely fails – to look premium with a striped rear that's meant to evoke a more metallic finish.

At 146.9 x 70.6 x 9.2 mm with a carrying weight of 150g, the Alcatel 1C is light enough in the hand and easy to grasp if you're not a fan of larger handsets. Like the rest of Alcatel's 2018 output, the Alcatel 1C features an 18:9 ratio screen, meaning it's higher and (technically) larger than some competitor phones in terms of screen size. You're still staring at a low resolution display, though, at just 960 x 480. This is what you get for spending less than $100 on a phone.

What you do surprisingly get for a phone at this price point is a fingerprint scanner for unlocking the Alcatel 1C. There's no onboard NFC, so no sign of Google Pay to be seen. Still, most phones at this price point skip over biometric security, so it's a nice addition. In use it is rather slow. More than once I've had to tap it twice to get it to actually recognise my fingerprint during testing.

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Alcatel 1C: Camera

The Alcatel 1C has a single rear 8MP camera as well as a front-facing 5MP camera, which is low by 2018 standards, even for a budget phone. Alcatel pumps this up by shooting (by default) at 13MP/8MP through interpolation, although even there the results aren't exceptional, although they're entirely acceptable for a phone this inexpensive.

Alcatel 1C review

Alcatel's camera app is very simple with few customisation options beyond choosing the "Social" camera mode that shoots Instagram-ready square pictures.

Alcatel 1C review

You will need patience to get good shots out of the Alcatel 1C and you certainly shouldn't expect anything decent in low light or with fast-moving subjects. That's totally beyond the Alcatel 1C's capabilities, so if camera power is a key feature you're after, you're likely to be disappointed.

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Alcatel 1C: Performance

Sub-$100 phones are always slow and it's not fair to compare them against their mid-range or premium brethren, because that's very much not the point. Running off the quad-core Mediatek MT6580M with just 2GB of RAM, the Alcatel 1C was never going to be a performance monster. That's very ably demonstrated by its benchmark results, which are very ordinary indeed.

The Alcatel 1C wasn't capable of running our standard 3DMark Slingshot Extreme Test, but again this is par for the course for very low-cost phones. If your gaming habits don't extend much beyond Facebook games it'll be fine, but for anything more taxing, it will border on unplayable if it runs at all. Which could, of course, make it a great phone to give to kids if you're worried about excessive screen time, because the Alcatel 1C's low gaming power means they're not likely to even try.

Those benchmarks extend out to using the Alcatel 1C on a day to day basis. It's a slow phone and again that's expected for a handset in this kind of price range. Single app use on Android is slow and you're just asking for trouble if you try to do two tasks at once, like stream music while browsing the web on the Alcatel 1C.

The Alcatel 1C is available in Australia locked to the Telstra network. While it's not officially the replacement for Telstra's own ZTE-sourced handsets, it largely fills that gap in pricing terms.

One trap to be aware of here is that the Alcatel 1C is a 3G-only phone, not a 4G-capable one. That means its speed, even in areas with good Telstra 4G coverage, is always going to be markedly slower. There's a decent argument that you might not see the benefit out of faster data on a slower device like the Alcatel 1C anyway, but if data access is key to you, it's going to be worth spending more for a fully LTE-capable handset.

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Alcatel 1C: Battery life

The Alcatel 1C doesn't pack strong internal components and on paper, the inclusion of a 2460mAh battery would suggest it shouldn't have much battery stamina either.

That's where that lower-resolution display and low-end processor step in, because this was one area where the Alcatel 1C pleasantly surprised me. The Alcatel 1C's Geekbench 4 battery score was indeed one of the lowest I've seen, but its actual battery time was quite solid. That suggests that while it's not working very hard during Geekbench 4's linear test, its battery endurance is decent. Here's how it compares against a range of cheaper handsets:

Charging is still via the older, but no doubt cheaper to build microUSB standard. There's no sign of rapid charging or wireless charging. Again, you're paying under $100 for the Alcatel 1C, so that's to be expected.

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Alcatel 1C: Should you buy it?

Do you want a fast phone with a great camera and up-to-date Android? The Alcatel 1C isn't for you. Neither is it for you if you want a flashy phone, or one with a great display or unique features.

That's because the Alcatel 1C very much knows its market. It's for anyone who wants a simple, inexpensive smartphone at (just about) the lowest possible price point. You've got to be willing to accept that the camera is ordinary and that you'll be waiting a while for apps to respond every time you use it.

But if all you want is basic and you want to spend less on the handset than on many of the mobile plans for the network it's locked to, it's hard to argue that the Alcatel 1C doesn't represent value for money.

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Alcatel 1C: Pricing and availability

The Alcatel 1C retails in Australia through Telstra for $89 outright. It is locked to the Telstra network and additional unlocking fees may apply depending on when you opt to unlock it after purchase.

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Alcatel 1C: Alternatives

If you're after something a little more stylish than the Alcatel 1C at nearly the same price point, consider the Nokia 1. It's a better looking handset and it's also more likely to stay up to date with the inclusion of Android Oreo Go than the Alcatel 1C is.

At the kind of price point the Alcatel 1C commands, you could also look at the lower-cost feature phone market, including 2017's Nokia 3310 3G if that's more your style.

If you want more grunt or a better camera, the practical reality is that you are going to have to spend more than the Alcatel 1C's asking price. If your budget can stretch to it, phones such as the Motorola Moto E5 are also worth considering.

Alcatel 1C: What the other reviewers say

Site Comment Score
GadgetGuy "Perfectly adequate as a phone with some smart benefits." N/A
Tech Guide "Pound for pound the Alcatel 1C is one of the best value smartphones money can buy." 9/10
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Alcatel 1C Specifications

Product Name
Alcatel 1C
Display Size
5.3 inches
960 x 480
Mediatek MT6580
Operating System
Android 7.0
Front camera
Rear camera
146.9 x 70.6 x 9.2 mm
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