Recently I have covered a lot of cheap Chinese brands that are churning out Android phones. These often require buying them from grey import sites such as Gearbest, and even if you get them from Amazon, the warranty and product support are always in question.
If you are looking for a more reliable brand, then Alcatel still produce some great phone options. I was recently sent their latest A7 model to review which is available from Argos for £199 and comes with a 2-year guarantee.
The specifications of the Alcatel A7 include:
|Display||5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 16:9 ratio (~401 ppi density)|
|CPU||Octa-core (4x1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4x1.0 GHz Cortex-A53)|
|Card slot||microSD, up to 128 GB|
|Internal||32 GB, 3 GB RAM|
|OS||Android 7.0 (Nougat)|
|Front Camera||16 MP (f/2.0, 1/3"), phase detection autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash|
|Rear||8 MP, LED flash|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||4.2, A2DP, LE|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS|
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Ion 4000 mAh battery|
Design & Build
The MT6750 chip found inside the A7 is the same chipset that you see on many of the budget phones I have posted about before including the HomTom S8 and the Umidigi Crystal. However, unlike the Umidigi the Alcatel has somewhat standard looks. That’s not to say it is ugly, but there are bezels around the display, and the rear of the phone is a detachable plastic cover.
The black casing is accented with gold, and while it isn’t quite as fancy as a bezel-less display, the overall style is excellent. Even though it has a plastic back, the whole build feels solid, there is no movement on the back case, so I can’t imagine it ever snapping off. On the inside of the plastic case are the connection points for the NFC which is used for Android pay, this is something you will not get on many of the cheap Chinese phones.
The 5.5” FHD display looks good, and the touch sensitivity is very responsive, colours are bright and vibrant, overall better than some of the cheap phones I have reviewed in the past.
You get decent 32GB of storage, and you can also upgrade this via MicroSD. You also thankfully get a 3.5mm headphone jack. Presumably, to save money there is no Type-C USB. Instead, you have to put up with the old-fashioned MicroUSB, and there is no quick charging.
Software & Performance
On the face of things, the Alcatel appears to run almost stock Android which is Android 7.0, there is no word yet about any Oreo updates, but I did receive a security update shortly after setting it up.
There are no heavyweight skins to slow it down here, the default Joy launcher works well and has big cartoonish icons. Reviews online for the Joy launcher are less favourable, but during my brief time with it, I experience no problems. After a day or so I did switch to my default Nova Launcher
The lock screen has automatically rotating wallpapers which I actually quite liked, and you can save any of your favourites.
When I first got the phone I had some issues with Wi-Fi, it would work for a few hours, then just say no internet, even though other Wi-Fi devices connected fine. Following a software update, Wi-Fi has worked flawlessly, albeit only on the 2.4GHz spectrum. Unfortunately following the update, there is an app called file manager that auto starts and cannot be uninstalled. It is a well-reviewed app and didn’t cause me any issues, but it is not something I want installing or running unless I want it to.
There are a few other installed apps but none cause any issue, and I wouldn’t say it is overly bloated.
I found the overall performance of the phone to be excellent, everything runs smoothly, even with image-heavy social media apps. I am coming from a Blackberry KEYone which appears to have gone very laggy so my opinion may be skewed at how smooth this is running.
I regularly used the NFC on the phone for payments, and this always worked without issues. It is a small thing, but I have come to rely on Android pay, and it is something that puts me off some of the budget Chinse models.
I was pleasantly surprised with the camera; this is one area you expect cheap phones to be rubbish. It isn’t going to compete with a Pixel 2 or Galaxy S8. There does seem to be some graininess when I load my photos up on a big screen from Google Photos, but for your average user taking snaps, it is more than adequate. Thanks to the phone not being laggy I found taking photos to be quick and responsive. The built-in camera app also has several functions including panoramic, time lapse and instant collage.
One of the selling points of this phone is the impressive 4000mAh battery. With the back of the phone being removable you would think the battery is removable too, but it is unfortunately not. However, the performance is excellent, far superior to my old LG V20, and almost as good as the Blackberry. My first could of days using it were moderate to heavy use, and I would end the day with about 25% battery. The following days where I would mainly use it in the morning for streaming music and browsing social media while at the gym, followed by light usage in the afternoon, left me with 50% battery at the end of the day.
There is no quick charging that I am aware of, and charging does seem quite slow. This is to be expected on a phone of this price, and it isn’t a major concern thanks to the battery size.
I have to admit, I quite like this phone, maybe because I am fed up with my Blackberry. It is a decent size at 5.5” while also being quite light, everything feels responsive on it, and there are no serious problems encountered. My biggest gripe is the file manager software, but it is less invasive than some premium brands built-in software. I would have hoped for Android 8.0 too, hopefully, this will arrive soon.
It is not perfect though, I would have liked 5GHz Wi-Fi, USB-C and quick charge, but I guess these all add to the cost.
The most significant problem it will face is the pricing; there is some fierce competition in this price bracket. If importing a phone doesn’t scare you then the Xiaomi Mi A1 is an excellent option that comes in cheaper, but you basically get no warranty.
The Honor 9 Lite would be an obvious choice for a phone that has just launched; it comes in at the same price in the UK has Android Oreo and USB-C. However, the battery is only 3000 mAh. There is also the ubiquitous MOTO G5 series, at this price you could get the Plus which has the same storage, but again you get a much smaller 3000 mAh battery, I also think it is quite ugly.
If you are wanting all day battery life on a budget and don’t want the stress of importing the phone, then the Alcatel A7 looks like a great option.
You can buy the Alcatel A7 today from Argos for £199