When we got our first look at the Alcatel 3V at MWC 2018, we were cautiously intrigued: it's an inexpensive handset that nonetheless packs some of the headline features of this year's flagships.
There's that 6-inch FHD+ screen at the popular 18:9 aspect ratio, dual rear cameras with bokeh and portrait modes, a fingerprint scanner and face unlock.
But of course, any budget handset is a balancing act, and where there are exciting additions there will also be disappointing cuts. On the 3V, these include just 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (albeit with microSD), a fingerprinty plastic casing, and an ugly Android overlay that combines with the case to make the whole thing a bit Fisher Price.
That said, there are plenty of reasons to consider the Alcatel 3V - not least the price - which we'll discuss in detail now we've had some quality time with it.
Alcatel 3V price and availability
- Launch price: $149 / £95 / AU$199
- Current price: $149 / £95 / AU$199
- Launch date: May 2018 (UK), June 2018 (US)
The Alcatel 3V is available now in the UK, and from early June in the US. In the UK, it's available in black or gold from Tesco Mobile for £95 on PAYG or £10 a month on contract.
In the US, the 3V will cost $149.99 from Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, and will only be available in black.
The Alcatel 3V is also slated for an Australian release towards the third quarter of the year, with a price of AU$199.
Design and display
- 6-inch 1080 x 2160 display
- Glossy plastic back attracts fingerprints
- 162 x 76 x 8.1mm, 155g
From the front, this is a pretty generic-looking handset, to the point that we've mistaken it for our Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus several times.
A glossy black rectangle with rounded corners and the tall, slim design of an 18:9 phone, it's only when you turn on the display that the Alcatel 3V's differences from the S9 and similar flagships becomes apparent: thick black bands at the top and bottom of the screen, and a black border on either side (as you'd expect from a budget handset).
There's no branding on the front, and the bottom bezel holds neither capacitive buttons nor fingerprint scanner/home key. The nav keys are software-only, though there's plenty of space for them on the generously-sized screen.
Turning to the curved plastic sides, you'll find the dual SIM tray and textured power key to the right, a lightweight volume rocker on the left edge, annoyingly off-center headphone jack on the left of the top edge, and two sets of drilled holes either side of the central charging port on the bottom. It's the old style micro USB rather than the reversible type C.
Flip over to the back and you'll see one of the worst things about the handset: the thin, shiny plastic rear panel. It feels so flimsy and insubstantial that we actually checked to see if it was removable, as with the replaceable-battery phones of old - but it's not.
On the Spectrum Black and Spectrum Blue handsets (all three colors are labeled 'spectrum' for… reasons), it doesn't look too awful, but the Spectrum Gold colorway looks so cheap that it could pass for a toy.
Hold the phone to the light and you can even see where the plastic warps around the circular fingerprint sensor - check out the tree reflections apparently being sucked into the abyss:
The darker colors also have the downside of picking up a tremendous amount of finger grease. Almost instantly on picking up the phone, the back gets covered in marks and smudges. In certain lights you can even see a rainbow effect on the oil. Grim.
While that's all pretty disheartening, it's also relatively easy to fix: clip on the dotted plastic cover in the box, or even better, get a good-quality case, and you won't even remember the back panel.
Of course, with this being a relatively niche handset, you're going to have considerably fewer cases to choose from than if you were sporting a popular choice like the iPhone 8.
On the plus side of the Alcatel 3V's rear, it's good to see a fingerprint scanner on a handset this affordable, as well as the tell-tale oval enclosure of a dual-camera phone.
The metal-ringed, matt-textured fingerprint pad is easy to find without looking, and you don't end up smudging the camera lens as you do with some phones. It unlocks quickly with a little haptic feedback - generally the fingerprint unlock on this phone is faster than the face unlock, which feels laggy by comparison.
Another appreciated design feature on this budget handset is the large, sharp LCD screen. At six inches with a resolution of 1080 x 2160, the 18:9 IPS display offers just over 400 pixels per inch.
It's bright and well-saturated, although it suffers from the same fingerprint-magnetism as the back panel.
Thankfully that's more noticeable when it's off than on, but it's worth bearing in mind if you use a pattern to lock your phone: you might leave a map in finger grease. It's also not the easiest to see in bright sunlight.
And there's no Gorilla Glass protection over the top, so it might be worth investing in a screen protector alongside that case.