Reviewed by Louise Totton
My eldest daughter is in her final year of primary school and is looking forward to starting high school next year. When she does, she’ll be going from being picked up and dropped off at primary school with her little sister to being responsible for getting herself to and from school via train with a short walk at each end. This new level of independence is great for her but is also somewhat daunting, so we have decided that from January she will start to walk at least part way home from primary school and we will then increase the independence until she is walking all the way home from school within a few weeks. In order to do this, I have decided that I want her to have her own mobile phone so she can contact me in an emergency or if she’s running late, and I can phone her if I’m worried or to check her whereabouts.
My daughter is used to using a mobile phone – she has my old iPhone 6 which she uses at a tablet as the antenna doesn’t work and it can’t be used to make calls. So she’s used to using a decent, touchscreen phone and I was looking for something of a good standard, but that wasn’t overly expensive and that I’d be worried about her taking into school with her. We have had a very cheap phone before (circa £40), and none of us found it very pleasant to use – the touchscreen wasn’t responsive enough and the phone would on occasion run slowly. I was looking at spending a similar amount to this on a phone for her, but she wanted something a little faster and more fully featured, so she asked if she could have a better phone as part of her Christmas present.
We were, therefore, looking for a mid-range phone that is capable of running apps smoothly, has a good camera and with a decent amount of on-board storage. A large-ish screen, good battery life and ‘cool’ looks were also on the wish list, but being as we didn’t have an iPhone or Samsung sized budget, I didn’t have high hopes for this! We were over the moon to be asked to try out the Alcatel 3 (2019) mobile phone.
The Alcatel 3 (2019) seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. It is an Android phone with a 5.9” HD+ Super Full View touchscreen (720×1560 pixels), is available with either 64GB ROM/4GB RAM or 32GB ROM/3GB RAM and has a very respectable 16MP rear camera. The phone is perfect for the younger market because it is available in two cool ombre colour options and even features some cool AR emojis, a fingerprint sensor and face recognition. The phone ships with Android Oreo (8) but is upgradable to Pie (9).
We were sent the 64GB/4GB hardware in the Purple ombre colour option. Contained in the box is the phone itself, a charging cable, a European plug (no UK 3-point plug, but I’m not sure if that’s because I was sent a review version) a set of wired earphones and a small quick start guide. The lack of UK charging plug wasn’t a big deal for us, as we had loads of Micro USB chargers around the house, as I imagine most homes would. We got the phone plugged in and charged and we were ready to go.
My daughter (and I) thought that initial impressions of the phone were very good. The purple ombre colour looks very trendy, with the back of the phone being a metallic looking fade from purple to midnight blue. The back of the phone is completed by two cameras, a flash and a fingerprint sensor, and the front of the phone keeps it simple with no physical buttons, just a supersized screen with a small cut out for the 8MP front-facing camera. On the outside, there is also the Micro USB charging port, a 3.5mm headphone socket, volume and power buttons and the external speaker. There is also the SIM tray, in which you can place either a SIM card plus a MicroSD card up to 128GB or two SIM cards.
The Alcatel 3 is an Android phone, so set up and use is much more straightforward if you either create or link a Gmail account. We followed the setup process, creating a new Gmail account for my daughter and the phone was fully set up in under fifteen minutes. If you are transferring from another Android phone / account, you can just enter your existing Gmail username and password and the phone will sync your contacts and any other details you might have backed up. We were starting from scratch so have entered the important details manually.
The brightness and crispness of the screen really is impressive and is an awful lot better than I had honestly been expecting. The 5.9” screen is a fantastic size and takes up 88.4% of the front of the phone – this makes the whole thing look incredibly sleek and quite high-end; we were certainly very happy with the way it looked. We found that the screen looked great in normal and dark conditions and was even very good in bright sunlight. The touchscreen is also very responsive and feels fantastic to use and interact with. The swipes are smooth and the phone registers even the lightest of touches accurately. Typing on the keyboard is easy because of the large screen size and quality touchscreen and interacting with the phone feels very satisfying all round.
My daughter has installed lots of apps and games on the phone (what 10-year-old wouldn’t?), and because of the large on-board storage, this hasn’t been an issue. Her iPhone6 had only 16GB of storage with no option for expansion via SD, so having 64GB plus the option of a further 128GB is a massive improvement. We had got to the stage with the iPhone where we were having to delete apps and photos every time she wanted to install a new app, and for such a reasonably priced phone I was really surprised at just how much storage we got – a definite upgrade!
The phone runs a close to vanilla version of Android, meaning it is as near to the original version as you can get. I prefer phones which have a simple, vanilla version as I have found in the past that phones with their own heavy overlay (HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s Touchwiz and One UI) can suffer with lags and delays, especially as the phones get a little older, and also can have the implementation of Android updates delayed. None of this has been an issue with this phone, and it has run really smoothly and quickly, switching between apps without issue and loading apps up quickly. There has been absolutely no frustration with using the phone at all and it has it so far runs nearly as quickly as my Samsung Note 9, and faster than my daughter’s iPhone6.
Of course, the kids are far interested in some of the more ‘fun’ features that are on offer, and for my daughter this means the camera, the facial recognition unlock and the AR Emoji functions. The rear camera has a very respectable 16MP resolution, and we were all really pleased the standard of photograph it takes. It’s never going to be as good as a high-end, £1000 phone, but to your average photograph taker, it is absolutely more than good enough. The phone also has a front camera, which my daughter will probably use more than the rear one! This one has a 8MP resolution and she has already put to good use with a myriad of selfies and little videos! She also had great fun with the AR Emoji function, where the software on the phone overlays your face with a cartoon character when you’re using front camera. This character then reacts to your facial expressions, and both of my kids thought this was absolutely brilliant!
I am probably a bit behind the times, but I was also really pleased to see the phone has retained the 3.5mm headphone jack – iPhones now expect you to either buy lighting port headphones or Bluetooth ones, but fortunately the Alcatel has retained the standard port, so she can use her existing headphones with it.
We found that for the first few days, the battery life as slightly limited but I think this was whilst my daughter was getting used to the novelty of a new phone and was using it far more than she normally might. Once the newness had worn off, we have found that we can easily get a full day’s use out of it – probably a lot more but I do like to have a fully charged phone in the morning so I know it will last all day, so I plug it in every night anyway. The call quality is very good too, and we can hear each other very clearly when the call is in progress.
We are all really happy with this phone – it does exactly what we need it to do, and to a very high standard. It looks the part and my daughter feels like she has a really posh phone, and it is an awful lot easier on the pocket than buying an iPhone or Samsung would be. Obviously, it doesn’t have the same features or spec as one of the big players’ flagship phones, but that isn’t what the Alcatel 3 is all about. It is a highly spec’d and good quality low to mid budget phone that is perfect for even the most style conscious of kids. It would also be a great choice for an adult who is looking for an attractive phone that just works, without spending a fortune. It runs quickly and smoothly, has a great screen and camera, has a lot of the functions of more expensive phones and all at a very affordable price. At this price and quality, it makes a superb Christmas present for a teenager or pre-teen so they can stay safe and in touch, feel a bit cool and without stretching the Royal Bank of Mum too far!
RRP: from £129.99 (sim free)
For more information visit www.alcatelmobile.com.