Biding its time in the background building great phones for telcos, Alcatel is on-board for budget phones this year, with devices that dazzle in more than just price.
How do you remain competitive in the smartphone world, a market that is as crowded as it is often confusing?
Price and features seem to be the target, as the middle-ground morphs into something more expensive thanks in part to a premium phone that now exceeds the $1000 mark, reaching instead to $1500.
With phones hitting the price of a decent laptop, mid-range phones can now hit a middle-ground of $700-800, but that’s not a game every manufacturer feels compelled to play in.
Alcatel, for instance, is this year planning to play the old mid-range game, competing with three phones that will offer some interesting features and enough phone performance while keeping the pricing low. In fact, the price tags are so low, you’d probably call the entire range “budget” just simply due to how the mid-range has changed.
So let’s start with the basics, because after making one of the best budget phones we’ve reviewed in years — and doing so for Optus — Alcatel is releasing one of its own, and calling it “the most affordable 5 inch 4G smartphone”, a device that will cost — wait for it — $150 when it arrives in May.
The phone is the U5, and will deliver a 5 inch phone with Category 4 LTE (150/50) for that price, boasting a glass front and a back cover with “elaborate micro-pattern textures”, which is likely another way of saying “textured plastic”.
How Alcatel gets that price down is likely from the screen, because while 5 inches is big, the display of 854×480 is definitely not, with a very low-end screen the likes of which wouldn’t be too out of home from the Galaxy S2 back in 2011.
“At Alcatel, we know that a smartphone is a not a luxury but a necessity in our modern, hyper-connected world,” said Alcatel’s William Dowie.
“Combining ease of use and affordability, the U5 is the perfect choice for the first-time smartphone buyer who wants a snappy smartphone with some really fun camera experiences included,” he said.
The U5 isn’t all you’ll find from the company, with two other 5 inch variants delivering high-definition displays.
First there’s the A3 which grabs a 5 inch 1280×720 display and 4G LTE and pairs it with a 13 megapixel rear camera, a 5 megapixel front camera, and a metal frame with more of that textured back feeling from the U5.
Of particular interest, though, is the A5 LED, with what Alcatel describes as “the world’s first interactive LED-covered smartphone”.
That’s not quite true, because if you have an AMOLED touchscreen on your phone (like a Samsung device from the past five years), you technically have an interactive LED-covered smartphone, but Alcatel is going after a different type of experience here.
Instead, the A5 LED will offer a screen that boasts colourful patterns when things happen, such as a light show for calls, messages, alerts, and alarms, while music will turn the front of the phone into a light show that works to the beat of the music you play.
“With the A5 LED, Alcatel is delivering new fun features, like light-up notifications and unique LED cover patterns and themes you create yourself, as well as an enhanced multimedia experience and more ways to take and share selfies, ideal for people who value having fun and letting their personality shine,” said Dowie.
Outside of the flashy display, the phone offers a 5.2 inch 720p HD display, an 8 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front camera, and a price of $299 when it lands in May.