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printed December 13, 2017
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Hands On with the Alcatel A5

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Feb 27, 2017, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Best of MWC
Alcatel A5

Here's a neat one. Alcatel showed off the A5 LED this week, an entry-level smartphone that packs some visual pow thanks to light-up LEDs that cover the back surface. The phone by itself may not be all that impressive, but the light show is a riot. Here are our first impressions of the Alcatel A5.

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I plan to give my daughter her first phone when she enters 5th Grade next fall and it will probably be the Alcatel A5 LED. This phone is for kids more so than anyone else, but don't let that fool you. The A5 LED is just as capable as most any Android smartphone in your local discount store.

When you first look at this phone's face you might be forgiven for forgetting all about it. It's front side is rather ho-hum thanks to thick plastics, chunky bezels, and some mediocre design choices. For example, the huge holes covering the earpiece speaker look absolutely plebeian. The buttons on the right edge were easy to find and worked well. Travel and feedback was particularly good. I like the fingerprint reader that sits below the display. I do wish the plastic felt a bit stronger all around.

Alcatel A5  

The screen is decent enough for a low-cost handset. The 720p resolution works mostly thanks to the smaller size of the phone. Everything I saw on the display looked good. I was pleased with viewing angles, brightness is excellent, and colors are accurate.

All the real action with the A5 is on the back. The A5 can accept a handful of removable rear panels in a matter similar to that of the Motorola Moto Z. The A5 has a small set of pins that connect to the rear panels and provide them with power. Some of the panels are simply alternate rear covers while others include an extra battery (3000mAh), speakers, and the LED light. The LED light is the best of the bunch by a long shot and likely to be the only panel that actually ships with the phone. It's super fun.

interface  

An app on the phone controls the lights. There are about a half dozen pre-programmed light shows, including rain, fire, and stuff with names like. As you can imagine, the rain LED pattern is blue while the fire LED pattern is yellow and orange and so on. These patterns just sort of cycle through over and over. You can also program you own light shows, create specific colors or patterns for your counts, or hold your very own disco.

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Of the new phones announced by Alcatel today, this is the only one that will make it to the U.S. "in some form" according to company reps. We believe that means the A5 will be made available only with the LED panel include.

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