It was back in 2015, at that year's Mobile World Congress that Alcatel started to catch the eye. In the Idol 3, it created a device that promised close-to flagship performance and specifications at a fraction of the cost. In the following years it failed to excite as much with the follow-up Idol generations, but that could all be about to change.
Alcatel has refreshed its model names to make them simpler. There are no more Idols or Pops anywhere to be seen, just numbers. Alcatel 1, 3 and 5, with variations on those themes. The standout among the budget models however is clearly the Alcatel 3v. It's a big, glossy phone with a long aspect ratio screen at a high resolution. Will this be the sub-£200 phone to buy this year?
Alcatel 3v preview: Design
- 162 x 76 x 8 mm
- 155 grams
- Midnight Blue and Midnight Black colours
With so many phones leaning towards 18:9 ratio screens, making a phone that looks unique is becoming more of a challenge than before. The front is almost all screen for many of them, and the same is true of the Alcatel 3v. Side bezels are fairly slim, with slightly thicker framing at the top and the bottom.
Apart from that, there's nothing else to talk about on the front except the usual collection, including the front facing camera, earpiece and ambient light sensor on the top panel. There aren't any capacitive or physical buttons on the front, they've been dumped in favour of virtual onscreen ones.
It's on the back things get a bit more interesting. Alcatel has covered the rear of the phone in a really attractive, glossy finish, reminding us a little of the HTC U11, except - for budget reasons - this isn't created using a high-end glass treatment, it's more a chromed plastic. Even in our brief time with the phone, it seemed almost impossible to keep fingerprints off, but looks good and felt comfortable in the hand, despite the phone's larger size.
Placed centrally on this glossy back you'll find a fingerprint sensor within easy reach of an index finger, along with a dual camera and dual LED flash, as well as the rather large Alcatel logo.
Around the edges you catch a glimpse of a little more cost-cutting, as the entire thing is predominantly plastic. That is to be expected at this end of the scale though, and isn't at all surprising, or off-putting.
The right edge is home to the textured power button and removable SIM tray, while the left has the slender volume rocker. You'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge, and the usual suspects on the bottom edge: micro USB and two grilles covering the speaker and microphone.
On the whole, it's a really attractive phone and one that's surprisingly compact given the size of the display. Top marks to Alcatel's design team for this one, it's a budget phone you won't want to hide away.
Alcatel 3v preview: Display, features and camera
- 1080 x 2160 IPS LCD 6-inch display
- Dual 16MP + 2MP camera
- Facial recognition
The biggest feature in the 3v, and what will likely draw in the consumers, is the display. It has what Alcatel is calling a 2K resolution display, and looks as brilliant on first impressions as it does big. The actual resolution is 1080 x 2160, which is the 18:9 version of full HD, also known as full HD+. Still, on a phone this cheap, that resolution is welcome indeed.
Text and detailing looked crisp and sharp on first impressions, and the entire panel was bright, colourful and without any obvious flaws. Which is pretty surprising at this price point, and is more than likely down to the fact that the 2.5D glass has been fully laminated to the display panel, leaving no air gaps.
One feature Alcatel has stated it's bringing to many of 2018's phones is facial recognition, and that's going to be available in the 3v too. Using the camera on the front, you'll be able to pick up your phone, or press the power button, and it unlocks using your face. According to the company, this feature can't be fooled by a photograph, and in our initial look, seemed to work well. If you feel facial recognition isn't secure enough, there's also the fingerprint scanner.
As for the dual camera on the back, that's made up of one 16-megapixel camera and a 2-megapixel camera, that combine to offer the same bokeh-effect in portrait photos as we've seen on dozens of other handsets. It can capture 1080p video at 30 frames-per-second and has a bunch of other fun features like a manual shooting mode, panorama, PDAF, video stabilisation and time lapse among others.
Software, performance and battery
- Quad-core MediaTek processor
- 2GB RAM/16GB storage
- Runs Android Oreo
On the software side of things, it's the usual scenario for Alcatel. The 3v runs a fairly clean-looking version of Android Oreo with a few twists on stock Android. Default apps have the typical colourful icons, and no particularly crazy additional apps or functions were mentioned to us during our time with Alcatel at MWC.
To keep it running smoothly at a budget, Alcatel opted for a quad-core MediaTek processor paired with 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage, which perhaps is the one slight low point in an overall decent package. The 16GB/2GB combination is low by most comparisons, but thankfully, there is support for microSD cards up to 128GB.
Given the processor and memory setup, we do worry a little about overall performance. It likely won't be the speediest phone around, but we'll need more time with it to be able to tell whether or not that assumption is safe.
In addition to that, the 3,000mAh battery should be plenty to get most users through a day, particularly in a phone with a 1080p display. Perhaps another downside here is that it's equipped with a micro USB port and has no fast-charging, which means a hefty 4 hours is required to fully recharge it.
On the whole it's a very promising device for the low end of the market. It's got an 18:9 ratio display, attractive, shiny finish on the back and enough features to keep the consumer entertained. The fact it has a 2K resolution screen in a phone that costs less than €200 is clearly the biggest selling point though.
At this price, and with its feature set, the 3V is a very compelling device and one that has potential to shake things up a little in the bottom end of the market. There are some compromises, like the lack of fast-charging, and very minimal amounts of memory. But in this market, compromises are needed to make phones affordable. Whether they're the right compromises or not is yet to be seen.