Review: Alcatel 1x with Android Go
The Alcatel 1x is among the first Android Go devices to reach the U.S. market. Android Go is a pared-down version of Android meant to run on entry-level hardware. The 1x is a low-cost phone that includes a 2:1 screen, 8-megapixel camera, MediaTek processor, and support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Find out of it's worth a Franklin in Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
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Is It Your Type?
The most notable thing about the Alcatel 1x is that is runs Android Go, Google's slimmed-down platform for inexpensive phones. The 1x is an entry-level device and has only the most basic services, making it ideal for children or novice users. It might even be a good phone to keep in a drawer for a rainy day.
Alcatel kept the design of the 1x simple and straightforward. It's a relatively compact phone that's mostly plastic. You'll spot some chrome accents on the rear panel, but otherwise the 1x keeps the flash and panache to a minimum. The glass of the phone's face is set into a glossy plastic frame. The back and side surfaces are made from a single piece of material and wrap around to give the 1x its gently-rounded curves and edges.
I would call the 1x average in terms of size. The 2:1 screen shape means it has a narrow profile from side to side, but it still stands fairly tall. People with small hands will find it comfortable to hold and use throughout the day. It's light and easy enough to get your hand around. The phone measures 9.1mm thick; It would be great if it were 1mm thinner. Yet the 1x fits easily into most pockets. The rough texture of the rear surface can catch on pocket liners a bit.
The materials are fine for a low-cost phone. I was worried the 1x would come across as cheap, but it doesn't. It's clearly an entry-level device, yet the glass and plastic components are solid enough and firmly joined together. This phone is not waterproof, nor is it rugged: it's a regular phone.
Alcatel was smart to give the 1x a 2:1 screen shape. It's becoming standard, but still rare on truly entry-level phones like this. It gives you more screen in a smaller body, and and ensures the 1x isn't left behind with respect to apps. I wish the bezels were thinner. The 1x has obvious side bezels, a respectable forehead, and a sizeable chin. Moreover, the black of the display doesn't match that of the surrounding bezels, which makes the screen and its framing really stand apart. This is common to low-cost phones. The user-facing camera and LED light are on either side of the earpiece.
The phone's two buttons are on the right edge; both are made of plastic. The screen lock / power key is right where your thumb expects it to be. It has a ridged texture so you know you're touching the right button. The volume toggle is closer to the top and has a smooth texture. Travel and feedback of both keys is quite good.
You'll find the SIM / memory card slot on the left side of the phone. A SIM card tool is required to eject it. A standard headphone jack is on the top edge, and a microUSB port (unfortunately still common to low-cost devices) is on the bottom edge.
As mentioned, a single piece of plastic forms the rear and sides of the 1x. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the shell pops off, but you'd be wrong. There's no access to the 1x's internal battery. The camera module protrudes just a bit, while the fingerprint reader is indented a bit. Both have a chrome rim to help them stand out visually. I was able to locate the fingerprint reader with my forefinger by feel quite easily.
The Alcatel is a plain, serviceable piece of hardware. It is about as vanilla as you can get.
Alcatel is now using screens made by TCL Display, its partner company. That's one reason why Alcatel was able to adopt the modern 2:1 (18:9) shape on such a low-cost phone.
Sadly, it's not a good screen. The display measures 5.3 inches across the diagonal and has 480 by 960 pixels, the lowest resolution I've encountered on a phone this year. Graphics and text on the screen could be much sharper. Beyond that, the LCD panel simply looks dull. Colors are flat, and it could stand to produce more light. It's nearly impossible to see/use outdoors. Viewing angles are pretty poor, with a major drop in brightness when the phone is tilted.
The 1x allows you to set a blue lighter filter for night-time reading.
Alcatel sells the 1x to U.S. consumers unlocked. It includes the core bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile, but you won't find support for AT&T's newer bands 29 and 30, nor T-Mobile's bands 66 and 71. Without these bands you might experience poor service when the network is congested. I tested the 1x on AT&T's network and found it performed just under par when compared to other unlocked phones I've reviewed recently.
The phone had no trouble finding AT&T's LTE service. It remained on 4G throughout the time I spent reviewing it. Most calls patched through on the first attempt, and the phone didn't drop any calls on the highway.
Data speeds were definitely limited. The peak download I saw with the phone was just 9 Mbps. That's pretty slow for an LTE device. Even so, YouTube was able to stream standard quality videos without much buffering. Browsing social networks on the phone felt slow.
Call quality is so-so at best. The calls I patched through were bad as often as they were good, with the majority being a mix of mediocrity thanks to distortion. The earpiece doesn't put out enough volume to hear calls over the chaotic din of city streets or the gurgle and hiss of an espresso machine doing its thing at your corner coffee shop. People I spoke to through the 1x said I sounded just "okay."
The speakerphone doesn't perform any better. Calls are scratchy and too quiet. Holding a speakerphone call in a moving car was frustrating.
The ringers do their job pretty well. The vibrate alert is good.
A 2,460mAh battery is sealed under the rear panel of the 1x. Thanks in part to the power-sipping nature of the low-res screen, the 1x delivers fairly good battery life. Alcatel says you can get up to 26 hours of talk time with the phone. I didn't gab with anyone quite that long, but I did use the phone for a full day without draining the battery entirely. Most days I tested the phone found it with 30% or more left at the end of the day. That's pretty solid if you ask me.
The phone includes the regular Android battery saver. It doesn't support rapid or wireless charging.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
The Alcatel 1x includes Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and an FM radio, but not NFC.
I was able to pair the 1x with headphones and my car. Calls sounded pretty poor via my car's hands-free system. Music delivered to Bluetooth speakers was serviceable.
The GPS radio had no trouble locating me quickly and accurately. But the included Google Maps Go is a browser-based app that runs too slowly for real-time navigation.
The WiFi radio is your best bet for downloading apps, games, and content.
The FM radio lets you tune to your favorite local stations via NextRadio as long as you have a pair of wired headphones handy. It works quite well.
Hands On with Alcatel's New 5, 3, and 1 Series Smartphones
Alcatel showed off new hardware at CES this week, though it stopped short of fully announcing any new phones. The 5 Series, 3 Series, and 1 Series devices will encompass its entire smartphone range moving forward.
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