Hands on: Alcatel 1C (2019) review

A 3G-only phone for emerging markets

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

The Alcatel 1C has a very specific brief, to offer a basic Android smartphone experience at an entry level price point. From what we've seen so far, it achieves this, but don't expect anything more.

For

  • Low price
  • Solid, durable build
  • Easy to use one-handed

Against

  • 3G only
  • Camera is poor

The Alcatel 1C has been created for a specific reason, emerging markets, so it may not even appear in the likes of the US, UK and Australia.

There's no 4G, but that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of features. It just keeps things simple.

Alcatel 1C price and release date

The Alcatel 1C price is €70 (around $70, £60, AU$110), and you'll be able to pick it up in selected markets within Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America from Q1 2019. 

Design and display

Unsurprisingly for a budget device, the Alcatel 1C design offers up functionality over style, with a solid and durable plastic build.

It has a textured, patterned rear which provides a pleasing feel in the hand and a decent amount of grip, and this design wraps around the sides of the phone (on the bottom half) to provided even more security in-hand.

On the front you'll find a 5.3-inch 18:9 display with a FWVGA+ (960 x 480) resolution. It's noticeably non-HD, and colors do look muted, but considering the price of the 1C it's still perfectly usable.

There is a chunky bezel running all the way round the screen - another hint of the 1C's budget price point - but its compact 136.6 x 65.3 x 9.95mm frame means it easily nestles in the palm and can be comfortably used one-handed.

The power and volume keys are within easy reach on the right side of the handset, and the Alcatel 1C also offers a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Performance and interface

The Alcatel 1C (2019) packs in a low-end Speedtrum SC7731E chipset and just 1GB of RAM, meaning when its comes to power there's not a huge amount on offer.

To combat this the 1C runs Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition, a lightweight version of Google's mobile operating system that is tuned to run on budget devices with less power under the hood.

You get access to specially adapted Google apps including Maps, YouTube, Gmail and Assistant, ensuring the 1C still delivers a competent smartphone experience - albeit at a slower pace.

Apps take longer to load, and their functionality isn't as complete as the full Android versions, but it means you get a smoother, and hopefully crash-free, offering.

There's just 8GB of internal storage inside the 1C, but there is a microSD slot which supports cards up to 32GB in size, allowing you to store more on the handset. 

On the back you get a 5MP rear camera which takes pretty poor pictures, and we got blurry, pixelated snaps of the show floor during our time with the handset - the camera is passable for the odd social snap and that's about it. You also get a 2MP selfie cam, but like the rear lens this too is poor. 

Early verdict

The Alcatel 1C has a very specific brief, to offer a basic Android smartphone experience at an entry level price point. From what we've seen so far, it achieves this - but it doesn't go beyond the brief at any point.

Everything works, although patience is required due to the lack of power under the hood, but for those with limited funds it looks to be a suitable choice.

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What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.