The mobile market is full of such a wide range of phones these days. You can spend $3,000 plus on a device if you choose to or hunt around to spend under $300. But what if you really just want a basic phone, with some basic smart features with a price to match?
I don’t expect a huge number of Ausdroid readers to be particularly interested in purchasing this phone and I want to be clear, I’m not comparing it to top end or even mid-range phones… more doing my best to be fair to the device and its purchase cost with some of the comments ahead in this review.
The low to mid-tier market is where a lot of manufacturers are focusing their efforts of late. Alcatel has recently released a number of phones in this realm, with the 3L being their specific focus. I had the unusual experience of moving from a really high end (Samsung Galaxy Z Flip) to the Alcatel and it really surprised me how decent it is for the price.
The look and feel
I’m not quite sure what it is about the Alcatel 3L, but it reminds me of — obviously there’s a size difference — my old Nexus S. Generically speaking, it looks like a smartphone but when you take a closer look there are some nice, modern details in there and while it’s unremarkable, it’s very impressive.
One thing that stands out with the Alcatel 3L is the feel of the device because it’s quite lightweight, it feels a bit like a toy. It’s made from cheaper materials and dominantly plastic in covering. That lightweight meant that I actually went looking for it a couple of times when it was in my pocket because I just couldn’t feel it in there. It also meant that single handed operation was no issue at all, even in my non-dominant hand.
Doing a quick look over the device you’ll find everything you’d expect plus a touch more. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side of the device where your thumb will naturally fall if you’re using the phone in your right hand.
On the left side at a similar height, you’ll find the SIM tray and Google Assistant button. Now, this is a really nice little inclusion although the need to have the phone screen on to trigger it feels a little redundant.
The top and bottom edges of the device house a highlight and lowlight respectively. Let’s start with the bottom end of the phone and a disappointing inclusion of MicroUSB exclusion of USB-C… the charging port is MicroUSB which makes charging slow. Now I’m not in their engineering or marketing team, but honestly – I can’t see that the cost difference can be more than a couple of dollars… The other disappointment for me was the quality of the phone speaker. I briefly — as it wasn’t pleasant — had a podcast running and found the sound tinny, lacking any depth or quality and so shrill.
On the top edge of the phone, we’re looking at a headphone jack. While the need for this is rapidly dwindling, it’s still there for a surprisingly large market segment so, it’s another really nice to have inclusion.
As we transition from the edges to the face of the device, you’ll be looking at a teardrop notch which isn’t particularly big or intrusive. It almost guides your eyes down the screen so you can appreciate that. It’s a 6.22-inch HD+ Display that runs 720 x 1520 resolution which is pretty easy on the eyes. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s a good delivery of a display. Even in areas that are very brightly lit (outdoors or work area’s) the screen is bright enough to be easily seen, the only issue is that the brightness can be very slow to respond – so much so that I was manually adjusting it.
OK, it’s $200… How about performance?
For some context on performance, the 3L sports an A53 Cortex CPU and a Mediatek Chipset. It’s got acceptable — but unimpressive — 64GB of storage and 4GB of memory.
To meet a price point this low, there are compromises but the Alcatel 3L hasn’t just met a price point it’s punching well above its weight. If you choose to use the face unlock as your primary unlocking option, then you may be a little disappointed. It works very reliably but I did find that it was quicker to unlock the phone by fingerprint while removing it from my pocket. This is true of a number of functions that while they aren’t as snappy as they could be, or perform as well as on “better” devices they work reliably.
The battery life is really solid as well, it’s a 4,000mAh battery that offers a good day of use for me on an average day. I did manage to run it flat a couple of times in a single day, but in fairness – those were particularly heavy days of calls. That entailed some excessively long phone calls, plus a lot of screen on time – far more than an average user would have on a normal day. Even on an average day, I was able to watch some YouTube or a bit of Kayo without running the battery dry.
Honestly, it’s a solid delivery of battery life that impressed me… particularly when you keep in mind the low cost of the device.
It’s very easy when you delve a little deeper into the specs of the 2020 3L from Alcatel, to not expect much from the phone. It really is a surprisingly good package though that performs reliably, although some features of Android are a touch slow due to the low CPU and memory.
It’s got Android 10 which is great and really functional, but the low-end specs of the device do result in some lag in performance. Provided you don’t ask too much of it — ie. one thing at a time — email, social media, web surfing and as already mentioned – Media playback is no real issue. This isn’t a powerhouse device, but it will do the job that you can fairly expect it to do. I do wonder if an OS change to Android GO would have improved the performance a little, making the surprisingly good user experience better.
This was a bit of a surprise for me, to have a better than pass mark camera in a sub $200 phone. I’m not going to compare it to the P40 Pro or the S20 range, but the results speak for themselves. What you’ll get is pretty true to life image, no overzealous post-processing like some phones deliver, no high colour saturation but there’s also no real party tricks to offer.
The Alcatel 3L (2020) is a device that fits right in the budget range, $199 outright but when you consider the $40 Vodafone SIM you can buy with it the value increases. It sports a 6.2-inch screen that is — like most other specs on the phone — pretty decent, it’s got 4GB RAM and an acceptable, but not great chipset. The 4,000mAh battery will get just about every user who shops in this price range through a full day without hassle.
This isn’t a top-end phone, but it’s one of the best bang for buck options I’ve personally used in a while
As with many things electronic, you can get great bang for your buck through the range (within reason) and this is no exception. But you can also get a lot more phone for a bit more money, the Realme C3 at $269 and Motorola G8 both spring to mind. That’s not to say that the 3L is a bad buy, quite the opposite – if you’re shopping on a really tight budget or just need something low end for someone who doesn’t want or need the bells and whistles then this is a great option.
Alcatel have allowed Ausdroid to retain the 3L 2020 to monitor future software updates.