Android Go lands on hyper-cheap handset to usher in new era of smartphones

Alcatel has once again unveiled a new range of smartphones at MWC, with the new Alcatel 5 the most impressive spec-wise, but the cheapest phone technically being the most innovative.

Before we get into the new range, the highlight of these phones isn’t really the spec sheet, but the price they come at - the specifications are decent, but they’re all a fraction of the cost of a Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone X.

With the Alcatel 1X, you’ll be able to experience the new Android Go platform, a new system from Google which cuts the app size down by half and offers new takes on things like Google Assistant to help entry-level phones thrive with less power on offer.

All the phones come with an 18:9 display to increase the screen-to-body ratio, which Alcatel is claiming as a first (to have a whole range of phones at differing price points using the FullView screen).

Alcatel 5

The Alcatel 5

The Alcatel 5

The new Alcatel 5 comes with a 5.7-inch HD+ display (which doesn’t seem to be Full HD), using IPS LCD technology to deliver better contrast ratio and color reproduction than standard panels.

An octa-core Mediatek CPU is combined with 3GB of RAM, and there’s 32GB of onboard storage (with up to 128GB more through the microSD slot).

The cameras are slightly reversed here, with the front-facing snapper the more impressive. There are two sensors here, one 13MP and one 5MP, which combine automatically to create a wider selfie mode when two or more people are detected in the picture.

Face unlocking is combined with a fingerprint sensor on the back, which can also double a ‘selfie shutter’ for taking photos, and there’s a 3000mAh battery to power the Android 7 Nougat OS.

The Alcatel 5 price has been set at €289.99 / AU$299 (around £250 / $350), which is pretty impressive given the spec sheet and design on offer - and it’s available now in ‘select markets’, which we’re still trying to pin down.

Alcatel 3 series

The Alcatel 3X

The Alcatel 3X

Now, it’s probably best you settle in here, as there are a few phones to rattle through in the mid-range from the brand.

The Alcatel 3V is the most impressive of the group, offering a 6-inch 18:9 QHD display, with a quad-core Mediatek CPU, a dual sensor snapper on the back (12MP with a 2MP depth sensor for bokeh effects) and Android Oreo out of the box.

If you fancy this handset, it’s available now in black, blue and gold for €190/AU$199 (around £170 / $230).

The Alcatel 3, like the 3V, also offers facial recognition to unlock, and an 18:9 display, albeit smaller at 5.5-inches and only at HD resolution. It has rolling, curved 2.5D glass at the edges though, so will feel a little more premium in the hand compared to other phones at the €150 mark (around £130 / $180 / AU$200), and you can pick it up in the same black, blue and gold colors as above.

If you want to take things a little bigger, the Alcatel 3X offers 32GB of onboard storage (where the Alcatel 3 only has 16GB) and a larger 5.7-inch display - that model will be available from April in selected markets, and costs €180 (around £160 / $220 / AU$280).

Alcatel 1X

If you want to make things really cheap but still like the thrill of an 18:9 display, then check out the Alcatel 1X. No, really, you should - phones at this price point often have decent spec sheets but don’t always live up to the billing in real life.

As mentioned, the Alcatel 1X will come with Android Oreo (Go edition), which means the apps are significantly smaller and require less power to operate.

That makes sense given the phone has a Mediatek quad-core chipset, clocked to 1.3GHz, and only 1GB of RAM to power things along.

The battery life should be pretty decent, given then 2460mAh power pack only has to push along the 18:9 VGA display (which only has 960 x 480 pixels) and the lighter operating system. It comes with 4G and an 8MP camera, although that’s ‘interpolated’ up to 13MP, meaning an algorithm will boost the quality of the photos without you snapping the extra resolution.

The 1X will also shoot in HDR, which could be pretty decent - although it’s hard to tell how strong the picture will look on that display.

The Alcatel 1X price is what’s headline-grabbing though, with the phone costing €100 / AU$99 (around £90 / $120) when launched in April.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.