The Alcatel 3 is the company’s mid-tier offering for an affordable and budget-friendly smartphone. It features a fingerprint reader, rounded display and support for the latest version of Android – 9.0 Pie. All for the price of £150.
I really like the design of the Alcatel 3, it features a notch cut-out display and a blue-to-purple gradient back which is subtle but looks great. The front of the device is a single large sheet of glass with the sides and the back made from plastic, which helps keep the cost down.
The device feels great to hold in the hand although the plastic back can easily be covered in fingerprints and smudges which can make it a little slippery to hold, although it is easy to wipe down and clean. One downside of having a plastic back is that I have noticed a few micro-scratches show up on the back of the phone, although it’s nothing noticeable or severe.
On the front of the device, you’ll find the 5.9” display and front-facing camera, which is housed within the teardrop notch. There is also a notification and charging LED as well as the ambient light sensor on the chin of the device. It is still nice to have the notification LED around and I’m glad that phones are still including it, even if they can’t be found on high-end flagship devices.
The device also has a good range of connectivity options with a headphone jack on the top, dual SIM or microSD and SIM card slot on the left-hand side and micro-USB on the bottom, alongside the bottom-facing speakers. On the right-hand side are the sleep and volume buttons.
This means that you can use whatever pair of headphones you’d like to, which is always nice, and have the choice between two SIMS or expanding the built-in storage. Although, I still would’ve liked to have seen USB-C on this device as it is a 2019 device and USB-C is a more modern and current port in comparison to micro-USB.
On the back is the dual-camera array as well as the fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor placement is very good as it resides where my index finger naturally rests, so I can quickly unlock the device.
The display on the Alcatel 3 is a rounded 720p display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Despite having a lower high-definition resolution, the pixel density of the display is still relatively high so I can’t notice individual pixels.
The LCD display looks great as it provides great looking colours as well as contrast. I do wish that it were a little brighter in sunlight, but it manages to get bright and dim enough for comfortable indoor use during the day or night.
Viewing angles are good and I couldn’t notice any colour shifting when looking at the display from an angle. Automatic brightness was turned on by default, but I ended up turning it off as the brightness adjustment was very slow and noticeable.
The Alcatel 3 ships with Android 8 Oreo but can be upgraded to Android 9 Pie. I think it is great that Alcatel has offered the upgrade to the latest version of Android as many manufacturers, unfortunately, do not offer major release upgrades.
There are a few differences between a stock Android experience that you’d find with a device such as the Google Pixel. Alcatel’s “skin” features differences such as more translucency and transparency effects and a few icon changes for included apps – but aside from that, there are no drastic changes.
You can also choose, for the home screen, between having an app drawer or having all the installed apps displayed on the home screen like iOS. There are some bundled apps included from Alcatel and third parties, these can be uninstalled or disabled but they are still there in the first place.
Overall, the software experience is very nice and snappy to use and navigate around and, speaking of navigation, you have the choice between using gestures or on-screen navigation buttons.
Performance on the Alcatel 3 is good. My general day-to-day experience of using apps has been smooth and switching between apps is fluid and lag-free. This is thanks to the device’s Snapdragon 439 processor and 3GB RAM.
Apps do take a tiny bit longer to load in comparison to a flagship device, but for the price that this device comes in at – you can’t fault it. The only other thing I’ve noticed is that some games, such as Real Racing 3, will run with lower graphics settings due to the lower powered hardware.
Lagging in connectivity and communications department, the device lacks Wi-Fi 5 (Wireless-AC) support for blazing-fast Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. But it does have support for Bluetooth 4.2 and FM radio. The device also has NFC so you can use Google Pay to make contactless payments.
The speaker on the Alcatel 3 is nothing special, it sounds quite tinny and I personally wouldn’t be happy listening to music from it – so if you want to listen to music without headphones, you’ll probably want to use a Bluetooth speaker.
The fingerprint sensor on the back of the device works well, it can quickly read my fingerprint and it is in an ideal position. When the sensor recognises my fingerprint, the device will automatically wake from sleep and unlock.
The device also supports face unlock using the front facing camera, but I haven’t chosen to use that as it only uses the camera to authenticate – so it is less secure than a typical infrared face recognition system such as Apple’s Face ID.
The Alcatel 3’s cameras are okay; the rear camera uses a 13-megapixel sensor that works alongside a 5-megapixel depth sensor.
The camera struggles a little with high dynamic range scenes such as landscapes, so sometimes the sky can be blown out, but I’ve found the HDR mode to be a good workaround for this, although taking an HDR photo does take a little more time.
I’ve also found the camera app a little slow to respond, meaning that I have some blurry photos and even some photos of the inside of my pocket. I’m hoping that this is simply a software issue so it could be fixed in the future, but this could be a big problem if you miss a moment that you want to capture. This is a shame as otherwise, the camera is generally good at taking photos that are relatively sharp.
The camera app has a simple interface and has the typical modes you’d find in a camera app such as Portrait, Panorama and Slow-Motion modes. There’s also a manual mode if you want to have more control over the settings of the camera.
The portrait mode using the rear camera array was surprisingly decent and managed to detect the edges of my face fairly accurately, although it is a little soft around the sides of my hair.
Speaking of portraits, the front-facing 8-megapixel camera is okay at capturing selfies and manages to work in most lighting conditions, although sometimes they can look a little soft but the edges of objects are sharp and crisp.
The device can also shoot 1080p video at 30-fps, it lacks image stabilisation so the footage can get shaky if you’re walking around whilst filming. The front-facing camera records at a lower resolution of 720p. Otherwise, the footage is pretty good, but it does carry some of my issues with the camera regarding exposure.
The Alcatel 3 has a fairly large battery, coming in at 3,500 mAh. I’ve found the battery to easily last me all day, sometimes even two, on a single charge. My typical smartphone usage is browsing on social media, reading and sending emails, listening to music and occasionally watching videos.
Unfortunately, there’s no support for wireless or fast charging as the device is limited to USB 2.0 connectivity. I hope that the future versions of the device will at least support fast charging, as being able to quickly charge up a phone is really handy.
If you’re shopping for a smartphone on a budget, the Alcatel 3 provides exceptional value for money. The performance and experience that it offers for such an affordable price is great and I’ve had a great time using the device – I’d highly recommend it.
Unfortunately, the camera isn’t the best, so if you’re a keen mobile photographer, I would suggest saving up a little more – but if you’re not particularly worried about photography, this is a great choice.