Review: Alcatel 7 for MetroPCS
The Alcatel 7 offers MetroPCS customers a big screen, a big battery, and other modern features in a relatively slim piece of hardware. With dual cameras packing features such as portrait and slow-motion capture, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, the Alcatel 7 seemingly has it all. Is anything holding this phone back? Phone Scoop reveals all in this in-depth report.
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Is It Your Type?
The Alcatel 7 is an inexpensive Android phone that packs a big screen, a big battery, dual cameras, and plenty of security options. If you need an affordable phone that doesn't skimp on modern features, the Alcatel 7 could be the right choice.
The Alcatel 7 is an obsidian slate, narrow and tall, as modern phones have become. It's made from a mix of glass and plastic. A 2.5D piece of Dragontail glass on front is tucked into a matte plastic frame. The rear panel is deep black, glossy, and also made from plastic. Scattered chrome accents catch the light here and there.
The design doesn't particularly stand out from other phones in this category, and yet it's not unappealing.
It's big. The Alcatel 7 is in the same neighborhood as the Google Pixel 2 XL as far as size is concerned. The length stretches to nearly 6.4 inches, though thankfully the width is under 3 inches. I found the weight to be reasonable. The smooth texture of the curved plastic makes the phone more comfortable to grasp. The phone is slim enough that it will slip into pockets, but the length might be cumbersome. The phone poked me a few times as I sat down in chairs, requiring that I adjust the position of the 7 in my pocket.
Alcatel did a fine job with the 7's manufacture. The 7 feels strong thanks to the polycarbonate frame and solid rear panel. There's nothing loose or flexible about it. This is not a rugged phone, though it should survive drops far better than an all-glass device. It doesn't offer protection from water.
The 2:1-shaped screen defines the face of the Alcatel 7. The side bezels are kept in check. A sizeable forehead and chin serve to exaggerate the elongated dimensions of the phone. The face is glass from top to bottom. A slit near the top for the earpiece is the only break in the otherwise smooth surface.
Button and port placement around the edges of the phone doesn't break with convention. The screen lock key and volume toggle are both on the right edge. I like that the buttons have chrome accents so they stand out visually from the black frame. The screen lock key is ridged to help set it apart by feel. Travel and feedback is very good. The volume toggle is smooth and has similarly good action. The tray for SIM and memory cards is on the left edge. A tool is required to eject it.
A standard headphone jack populates the top edge and a USB-C port is centered on the bottom. Some holes are drilled on either side of the USB port for the speakerphone.
The rear panel is piano black and reflective thanks to the high gloss finish. It attracts fingerprints and oily grime as flypaper does flies. Most of the panel is flat, but it curves nicely close to the edges to help reduce the footprint a bit. This also makes it easier to hold. The fingerprint reader and camera module are both framed in chrome. Alcatel put the fingerprint reader in just the right spot. It's indented deeply, which helps your finger locate it by feel.
Alcatel designed and manufactured a respectable phone in the 7. It eschews high design in favor of practicality.
The Alcatel 7's LCD panel stretches 6 inches from corner to corner. It adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution (2,160 x 1,080 pixels). The pixel density comes in at 402ppi. It's a fine display for a phone at this price point.
The resolution is more than adequate. The screen puts out a fair amount of light, but I sometimes found it hard to see outdoors under the sun. Colors are accurate. Viewing angles are very good; it exhibits minimal brightness loss when tilted.
The phone does not offer advanced screen controls.
MetroPCS, owned and operated by T-Mobile, sells the Alcatel 7. The phone supports all of the LTE bands for T-Mo, including 66 and 71, which are the newest. This helps the phone perform well.
I tested the Alcatel 7 over several days and found it met my expectations for a low-cost phone. I had no trouble connecting calls on the first dial each and every time. The 7 dropped one call on the highway in a known T-Mobile weak spot, meaning the device did about the same as others sold by T-Mobile/MetroPCS.
On the data front, the phone always showed an LTE 4G connection. It consistently had strong access to the data network. A good connection is one thing, but speeds are another. The phone supports only Cat 6 LTE, which doesn't allow for the fastest speeds available. In the real world, that means browsing the web was generally quick, but media-laden social networks were sometimes a hair slow. You may see longer load times for YouTube videos or Spotify. The 7 certainly does well enough to make it usable on a day-to-day basis, as long as you don't mind average-quality video/audio streams.
Quality of voice calls could be better. The biggest issue is the lack of volume. In a noisy coffee shop or moving car, it's just not loud enough. The clarity of voices is acceptable, though prone to distortion and scratchiness from time to time.
Calls made via the speakerphone can only be heard in near-silent spaces. It's simply not loud enough, not by far. Clarity is worse than the earpiece thanks to raspy distortion.
Calls and alerts are so-so with respect to volume. I definitely missed some incoming notifications because I didn't hear them. Turning on the vibrate alert will help, as the vibration motor delivers a noticeable buzz.
Few flagship phones ship with a 4,000mAh battery and yet the low-cost Alcatel 7 manages to offer just such a power cell. With a full charge, the 7 easily cruises from dawn to dusk and beyond. The phone consistently pushed from breakfast to bedtime and never once ran out of juice before I was ready to call it a day. Most days I had a healthy cushion of 30% or more capacity leftover.
The phone includes the standard Android battery saver tool, which you can toggle on manually, or have switch on automatically at preset battery levels. I didn't find that it helped all that much.
The 7 supports what Alcatel calls "Pump Express 2.0" rapid charging. It doesn't take too, too long to charge. You can score approximately 30% in battery life if you leave it plugged in for about 30 minutes. That's enough for hours of up time.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
The Alcatel 7 includes a basic set of secondary radios and they all do a reasonably good job.
First up is Bluetooth 4.2, with myriad profiles for connecting to headphones, speakers, cars, PCs, and so on. I was able to pair the device with a range of accessories. Unfortunately, calls sent to my car's hands-free system were miserable with respect to volume and clarity; bad enough that you shouldn't even bother. Music, on the other hand, sounded quite good when streamed via headphones or speakers. I was able to share files with other devices seamlessly.
The GPS radio interacted with Google Maps as if they were born for one another. The Alcatel 7 pinpointed me on the map to within about 20 feet in just a few seconds. It kept pace with walking and mass-transit navigation no problem.
There's no NFC radio aboard, but you will find an FM radio for tuning into your local favorites.
The WiFi radio was often a good bet for downloading apps, media, and such while at home.
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