Most of the time, in fact almost all the time, we tend to discuss about the most expensive phones on the market. If it isn’t $600, then it is $800, or $1099, or even $1980, as with the latest announcements. However most of the volume sales of smartphones occurs at the lower end of the scale, either in the mid-range or in the budget line. Alcatel launched its sub-$100 1-series devices last year, and at Mobile Congress today it is blowing that price bracket wide open, with a large 5.5-inch IPS display.

For users who often deal in high-end smartphones, imagine what you think a $109 smartphone should have. A quad core A53 SoC, almost zero graphics, maybe 2GB of memory, a single camera, and some fork of Android that comes with built-in ads? Perhaps then it is time to realign those expectations, starting with the Alcatel 1S.

This new smartphone feels nice to hold and comes with a brushed aluminium rear. Alcatel’s parent company, TCL, is a well-known TV and panel manufacturer that has perfected the art of reasonable low-cost displays, and they’ve fitted a massive 5.5-inch IPS display to the Alcatel 1S. Inside is the Spreadtrum / UNISOC SC9863A SoC, which even though it says Spreadtrum on it is actually an octa-core A55 chip running at 1.6-1.2 GHz, built on a 28nm process.

The EMEA versions will support dual Nano SIM, and the 3080 mAh battery is rated for 24 hours of talk time. The 1S will come with Android 9.0 out of the box, and very rare for this price point is a dual rear camera (13MP f/2.0 + 2MP f/2.8) which supports 90fps slow motion and AI scene recognition (nine scenes). This enables hardware based bokeh with the dual cameras, and the AI can also be used for face beautification on the front facing 5MP selfie camera. Perhaps a downside to the device is that Wi-Fi is only 802.11n, and the connection is a micro-USB. We spoke with TCL, and they stated that at this price point they would rather spend money on memory/storage or the display, rather than on a Type-C connection.

The 1s will be offered in a 3 GB DRAM and 32 GB storage configuration, but will also support a microSD card up to 128 GB in FAT32 mode. It also comes with a fingerprint sensor on the rear, and can support Face Key unlocking.

The Alcatel 1S will be available in Q2, starting at 109 Euro. It will be available in a Black, Blue, Rose, and Gold brushed metallic finish.

Personally, the feel of the unit is really nice, and goes far beyond what I would expect from a price at this cost. The size of the display is very impressive at this price, and having A55 cores over A53 should make it feel snappier than other devices in this price category.

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  • sheh - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    Their unlocking procedure is cryptic and unreliable. If it fails (internet connection breaks or it doesn't like something about your phone settings) it's back to waiting another 2 weeks.
  • sonny73n - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    Do you necessarily need updates? Go spend $1000 on your fruit phone, fanboi.
  • PeachNCream - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    Nearly two year old Alcatel phone here running Marshmallow I snagged for $30. Not a single update from them ever, but I'm not sure I expected that for the price. Then again, my previous phone was an LG that I got new in Wally World for $10 back in early 2014 and it did get a single vendor update. Anyhow, the Alcatel UI is stock Marshmallow and it was lean on additional, useless apps aside from the two-of-everything-becasue-Google default programs that were easy enough to disable and ignore for the last 20 months.
  • patel21 - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Xiaomi's Redmi series is the best in budget for updates. If they are available in your region. Also in India we have Asus Zenfone Lite L1 which is a great phone for its price (~ USD 85) . It gives stock android and one major OS update garaunteed.
  • jvl - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    If you're in that market, why not go for an Android One phone like the Xiaomi Mi A2 lite?
    Bigger battery, way better design, updates? Anyone gotta love that..?
  • pugster - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Oh gawd, people spend $100 on their phones and expecting updates. Though I am surprised about the phone with the spreadtrum soc. Personally I would like to see more soc phone makers than the usual suspects.
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Interesting SoC - - octo-A55, LTE, etc.
    Has fairly recent PowerVR graphics as well, a lot of the cheap SoCs still use Mali 450 or similar.

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