The Alcatel 3 has a lot to offer the budget-conscious smartphone buyer.
For folks who want a decent yet affordable smartphone that doesn't look like it came out of a Happy Meal box, Alcatel is always a solid choice. Its phones strike a smart balance between form, function and affordability, an approach epitomised in one of the company's latest handsets, the Alcatel 3.
Revealed at MWC 2019, the Alcatel 3 sits at the higher end of Alcatel's budget offerings. With a large 5.9-inch screen, a capable Snapdragon processor and a dual-lens camera, it delivers on all the key features of a modern smartphone while leaving out the luxuries the average person rarely uses.
Extra-wide 19.5:9 aspect ratio
Sleek metallic frame
One of Alcatel's greatest strengths is its ability to make cheap phones that don't look, well, cheap. This design philosophy is immediately apparent in the Alcatel 3. A shiny metal shell lends the phone a premium sheen that wouldn't look out of place alongside one of Samsung or Huawei's flagship handsets. The screen, too, punches above its weight, measuring in at a hefty 5.9 inches and stretching from edge to edge to minimise bezel.
Speaking of the screen, Alcatel has taken an odd approach in designing it around a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. That's wider than both your standard 16:9 widescreen ratio and the 18:9 ratio common to recent smartphones, though it's not quite as broad as the ultra-wide 21:9 ratio employed by modern filmmakers. This peculiar decision means you may encounter horizontal or vertical black bars when watching certain videos, as well as stretched or squashed interfaces in some apps.
The Alcatel 3's premium facade starts to falter when you go beyond surface-level appearances. That screen, for instance, clocks in at a resolution of 720 x 1,560. While this is often presented as "HD", it's not full HD as it doesn't meet the 1,920 x 1080 threshold. This matters less on a phone screen than it does on a TV or PC, but it's worth keeping in mind if you plan on watching high-definition movies on the go. Depending on how sharp your eyes are, full HD content may look a little blurry on the Alcatel 3's "HD" screen.
Beyond aesthetics, the Alcatel 3 packs all the basic features you'd expect from a modern Android smartphone. There's a fingerprint sensor on the back, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD card slot for expanding storage by as much as 128GB.
Alcatel also sells the Alcatel 3 on its support for "Face Key", a facial recognition system that can lock and unlock your phone from a simple glance. As impressive as this sounds, it's worth noting that Alcatel's implementation isn't the same as that of other smartphone manufacturers like Apple. Technologies like Apple's FaceID rely on a 3D camera to ensure accuracy and reliability when detecting faces; Face Key, on the other hand, uses a 2D camera to compare faces. This is considerably less accurate and quite insecure, moreso than a traditional PIN.
It's also worth mentioning that the Alcatel 3 runs Android 8.1 ("Oreo") out of the box. Oreo was succeeded by Android 9.0 ("Pie") in 2018, so the Alcatel 3 might feel a little dated at first. Fortunately, Alcatel is rolling out an upgrade to Android 9.0 that should arrive by the time the phone hits Aussie shores.
Dual-lens 13MP/5MP rear-facing camera
AI scene detection promises to enhance your photos automatically
It's a sign of just how fast mobile technology advances that Alcatel is able to equip the budget-friendly Alcatel 3 with a dual-lens camera, a feature restricted to top-of-the-line flagships just a few years ago.
You're getting a decent combination here, too, with the rear of the phone housing a 13MP f/2.0 standard lens alongside a 5MP f/2.4 depth-of-field lens. Together, these cameras should be ample for the kinds of photos most people take on their smartphones, whether it be portrait shots, landscapes or close-ups of your latest culinary delight.
On the software front, Alcatel is talking up the AI-powered scene detection capabilities of the Alcatel 3. According to Alcatel, this enables the camera to detect the subject of your shot (from a pool of 21 subject types like person, plant and animal) and automatically tune the camera settings to produce the best shot. That's a bold claim, one that we've seen quite a few smartphone manufacturers make to varying degrees of success. We'll have to wait until we go hands-on to determine which side the Alcatel 3 falls on.
The Alcatel 3 has a little something for selfie-lovers, too. The front-facing 8MP camera supports a "Face Beautification" feature designed to enhance your self-portraits with a range of behind-the-scenes tweaks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, support for AR emojis lets you map a 3D character to your face and send animated clips to your friends and family.
Most of Alcatel's smartphones run on budget-oriented MediaTek processors, but the Alcatel 3 is different. It uses a chip from Qualcomm's popular Snapdragon line: namely, the Snapdragon 439.
This is an interesting move for Alcatel, one that promises marked performance gains over many of its previous smartphones as well as those from its rivals. Compared to the Snapdragon 430 in phones like the Nokia 6 and Motorola Moto G6 Play, for instance, Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 439 platform delivers 25% better performance across the board.
While neither the Nokia 6 or the Moto G6 Play delivered remarkable performance when we reviewed them, they were capable enough to handle typical day-to-day use. With that 25% power bump, the Alcatel 3 should be similarly adequate for general tasks like web browsing, using social media apps and playing simple 2D games.
Unfortunately, Alcatel has played it safer with the Alcatel 3's RAM. 3GB is decidedly average for a modern smartphone, even one in the budget tier. That probably won't matter under general use, but if you start multi-tasking between apps or want to load up a 3D game, memory limitations may cause significant slowdown or even total lock-ups.
3,500mAh battery is above-average for a budget handset
No fast-charging means a lot of time spent chained to a power outlet
It's only relatively recently that budget smartphones have grown as large as the Alcatel 3. This is a boon not only for folks who love watching movies on the go, but for anyone tired of constantly pulling out their phone charger during the day. The larger the phone, the larger the battery can be, and Alcatel hasn't wasted any space with the Alcatel 3.
At 3,500mAh, the battery inside the Alcatel 3 ranks above average for phones of its ilk. This bodes well for battery life, especially if Alcatel's benchmarks are accurate. The company claims the Alcatel 3 can deliver 21 hours of talk time on 3G or 18 hours on 4G. On standby, it promises up to 900 hours of battery life on 4G and up to 950 hours on 3G. Impressive numbers, though we'll have to test the handset for ourselves to determine their validity.
However, it's not all lofty promises. The Alcatel 3 suffers from a complete lack of fast-charging support, with Alcatel estimating the total charge time from empty to full at 4 hours and 20 minutes. That's a serious chunk of time to be without your phone, so we'd recommend juicing up overnight when possible.
Pricing and availability
Alcatel has yet to reveal pricing or availability for the Alcatel 3.
Matt Sayer is a writer for Finder, covering all things technology and telecommunications. Along with reporting on events like CES and Mobile World Congress, he has produced comprehensive guides for popular products like smart speakers and graphics cards. He has a Bachelor of Computer Science from RMIT University and is passionate about helping Aussies leverage technology to better their lives.
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