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Hands On with Alcatel's Pop S Phones

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Feb 27, 2014, 12:59 PM   by Rich Brome

Alcatel this week announced a new range of phones in its Pop series of affordable, colorful Android phones. The new Pop S range has LTE 4G, unlike previous Pop phones. The range includes a small phone, a 5-incher, and a full-on phablet. We checked them out. Read on for our impressions.

The Pop S range starts with the S3. It's the smallest, with just a 4-inch screen. The specs are basic, such as a 5-megapixel camera (which isn't even auto-focus on some models) although at least it does have a front camera. Surprisingly, all three Pop S phones have LTE Category 4, for fast 4G, and Miracast, for sending what's on your screen to a nearby TV over Wi-Fi.

 

Pop S3

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The Pop S3 has a stylish and classy white glass front, as do all of the Pop S phones. The shape of the phone seems loosely inspired by the iPhone 4, from the outline to the way the screen pops up from the sides by about a millimeter. It's a design that stands out, especially in this price range.

The sides and back are one plastic shell that wraps around the phone. Unfortunately, the shell didn't fit tightly on the one we tried. It flexed, creaked, and generally felt quite cheap. There are other phones in this price range that don't feel as cheap. The side keys work well.

 

Pop S7

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The S7 steps up to a 5-inch display with qHD resolution. That's about the only step up in terms of specs. Even the front camera is only VGA, which is lame. Its design also has the lovely white glass front, with very thin bezels, giving you a lot of display area in a relatively small package. But things get very plain and generic as you move to the sides and back. It's a boring, shapeless design, and a bit thick. It feels much more solid and well-built than the S3, at least. The side keys on the S7 are somewhat small and sharp; they're unpleasant to use.

 

Pop S9

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The S9 is a full-on phablet, comparable to Samsung's Galaxy Note series in size. The display measures 5.9 inches. It has the nicest design and feel of the Pop S series, with a solid-feeling, thin body that's rounded like a river stone. It has even thinner bezels on either side of the display, (which is absolutely crucial for being able to hold a phablet in one hand.) My only issue with the design is the side keys, which are set so far toward the curved back of the phone that they're quite awkward and tricky to use.

The S9 specs step up to a 720p display resolution and a 8-megapixel main camera. The front camera steps up to 2-megapixel.

While all of the Pop S phones have that nice-looking white glass front, the bodies are all made from plain plastic; the white front glass is the only materials flourish to set these apart from an utterly generic phone. All three phones have very uneven backlights in the capacitive keys below the display. It's a visual annoyance that takes away from the visual appeal of the front.

 

Pop S Series Interface

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The software on all three is basic Android with just a few tweaks, such as a custom camera app and a few extra options in the otherwise-standard Android Quick Settings screen.

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