Alcatel OneTouch wants everyone to know that they’re back – though really, they never left. The company is embarking on a new chapter in its history, and is ready to start engaging with the media (that’s sites like us) to get news and information about their new products out.
The company took to Play Bar in Sydney last week to demonstrate their latest products. Usually when a company says “products” in the plural form, they’ve brought a couple of slight variations on the main product they’re launching, but Alcatel showed up with three ranges of phones and tablets, a smart watch and a number of accessories. When they go big, they mean it. Their phones go to the pre-paid market, with all but the highest spec’d Idol 3 coming in at under $300.
Alcatel is a formerly-French company, but they’re now owned by China’s TCL. This affords them a fairly large manufacturing scale, and the ability to manufacture components for their phones themselves instead of having to outsource. Even so, they’re not above sourcing from other component manufacturers to improve the end product, like the screens (Technicolor) and front-facing stereo speakers (JBL) in their new high-end Idol phones.
Starting at the low end, the Pixi 3 is an “OS-agnostic” series of phones available in a multitude of screen sizes (3.5, 4, 4.5, 5 and 5.5 inches). The “OS-agnostic” tag is a bit of a misnomer for consumers, as it’s carriers who’ll get the choice of OS they want to load onto the device. This means (for example) Vodafone might sell a 4.5-inch Pixi 3 with Android, while Telstea might sell the same phone with Windows Phone.
Each device has dual SIM capability and all of the models over 3.5 inches have 4G connectivity. The largest of the Pixi 3 series – the 5.5-inch model – also features Wi-Fi display and a number of pre-loaded games.
You’ll be able to swap the back cover for a number of colours: Volcano Black, White, Amber Orange, Tango Red, Neon Pink, Laser Yellow, Vivid Green, Sharp Blue and Metallic Silver.
That’s not all though — there’s also an tablet in the Pixi 3 range, with a MediaTek chipset, 8-inch 1280 x 800 TFT display, 2MP rear and VGA front camera, 4GB storage and a Micro SD slot. It’ll take a SIM card too, but only has 3G connectivity.
The 4-inch Pixi 3 will be available from May, with a price under $100. Other devices may be available from carriers on pre-paid plans.
Pop phones and tablet
Taking aim firmly at the mid-range market, Alcatel’s Pop range contains both phones and tablets with slightly higher spec’d phones and a 10-inch tablet. Items in the Pop range come with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box.
The Pop 2 phone range comes in 4, 4.5 and 5 inch screen sizes, with quad-core CPUs, 8MP rear and 1.3MP front cameras. The 4-inch model has 4GB storage and can’t be expanded, while the other models come with 8GB storage and Micro SD slots that can expand storage by up to 32GB.
The Pop 10 tablet has a quad core CPU, 1GB RAM and up to 8GB storage, with 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras. It’s also got a neat keyboard cover that’s light, well-spaced and easy to use.
The company was eager to draw attention to its high-end Idol 3 phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop, available in 4.7 and 5.5 inch varieties, and indeed that’s the phone I was most interested in checking out. The 4.7-inch model comes in at under $300 and the 5.5 at under $350, with the release due in Q2 of 2015.
The phones bear a resemblance to the Nexus 4’s curves and materials, although they’re much lighter in the hand given the plastic construction. Still, it’s not bad company to be in. Inside you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 CPU, but the exact storage capacities weren’t specified. Both phones feature 4G LTE connectivity.
You’ll find a 720p display on the 4.7 and a 1080p display on the 5.5, both using Technicolor’s “Color Enhance” technology to provide better visibility from all angles and better sunlight readability. The screens on these phones really could be seen from almost any angle without losing colour or light although they don’t pop colours like an AMOLED display.
Alcatel’s packed some impressive tech into the phones for their price point, too. There’s front-facing stereo speakers powered by JBL, and a custom-made OneTouch Mix application that’ll let budding DJ’s everywhere mix their own tracks (or you can just let the app do it itself). Camerawise, there’s a 13MP rear camera with a large aperture for low-light shots. There was mention at the event that the camera was a Sony unit, but that detail is absent from the spec sheet.
Finally, Alcatel’s watch is a round smart watch running on a custom Alcatel platform affording it both Android and iOS compatibility. It’s a little smaller than the current generation of Android Wear devices.
There seems to be no Android Wear notification sharing (a la Pebble’s recent release) to speak of, but Alcatel’s loaded a number of apps onto the watch that might make up for that. For instance, it’ll hook into your social networking streams to provide updates, notify you of calls and texts and it’ll also vibrate if you stray too far from your phone. There’s also a heart rate monitor and the usual bevy of sensors to afford fitness tracking capabilities, but no word on whether this will integrate with Google Fit or Apple’s HealthKit services.
Band-wise, Alcatel says there’ll be multiple bands available (and indeed we can see them in the press images), but the USB charger is integrated into the band, so we’re not sure whether or not the bands are interchangeable or if your band preference is a decision you’ll have to make at time of purchase.
Despite going their own way and eschewing Google’s Android Wear platform, Alcatel’s watch is an attractive piece, and its size relative to other smartwatches will stand it in good stead for some sections of the market.
Alcatel will be bringing the Watch to Australia in Q3, so we’ve a while to wait yet. When it hits, expect it to come in at under $200.
We’re expecting to get a few of these products in for review when they’re released. Tell us what you think of the announcements, and let us know which products you’d like to see us review in the comments below.