Alcatel TCL A1 is one of the cheapest smartphones currently. At $24.99 retail price, see the complete Alcatel TCL A1 review to see whether this phone is worth your money.
In the past few years, it looks like Alcatel focuses mainly on entry-level phones. One of the products released is Alcatel TCL A1 (A501DL). Introduced in 2018, Alcatel TCL A1 offers decent features worth considering at an affordable price.
TracFone offers Alcatel TCL A1 at $24.99, that’s very cheap for a smartphone and amonth the cheapest in the market today. On the latest Amazon deal, we checked that the price is even cheaper, discounted to $19.99.
Alcatel TCL A1 boasts 5 inch touchscreen display with what they call, a premium-looking design. It supports 4G LTE, and has dual camera in the front and back. The front camera has a screen flash feature for low light.
The phone runs on a Quad Core processor with 2GB of RAM. Considering the price and the spec, let’s see the complete Alcatel TCL A1 review to see whether this phone is worth to spend your 20 bucks.
Alcatel TCL A1 (A501DL) specifications:
- Weight: 145g
- Dimensions: 136.7 x 65 x 9.9mm
- OS: Android 8.1
- Screen size: 5-inch
- Resolution: 854 x 480
- CPU: 1.1GHz Quad-core, Mediatek MT6739
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 16GB
- Battery: 2,200mAh, Non-removable
- Rear camera: 5MP
- Front camera: 2MP
I think it’s too far fetched if Alcatel claims this phone as “Premium looking”. The body mostly comprises of plastic. It comes in black color and despite it’s nice looking, I wouldn’t call it “premium”.
The phone is thin and feels really lightweight on hands, which means two things: It’s comfortable to hold, but it does feel cheap. The 5-inch screen makes this phone fits on hand nicely. For some people, the phone can feel too small, though.
At this price, I wouldn’t expect thin bezel we often see on many mid-range phones these days. Alcatel overall design still looks like a phone from circa 4-5 years ago.
There are pretty thick bezels on every side. At the top, we have the speaker and the front camera. Thankfully this phone already applies soft buttons design for its home, back, and app-switch buttons.
The back cover has a rugged design that makes the phone doesn’t easily slip. Rugged cover also means resistance to fingerprints marks, which is an added bonus.
On the center top lies the camera and the flash slightly below the camera. Aside from the logo and loudspeaker, there’s nothing else on the back cover.
This back cover is also removable, housing the battery, the SIM card, as well as the SD Card. On the top, there’s a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. USB port and speaker is located at the bottom.
I would give three out of five stars for the overall design. It’s decent, doesn’t have any flaws that make the phone hard to use, yet it’s not that remarkable too. With design as the bottom priority, Alcatel TCL A1 is for those who believe a phone is a utility device rather than an accessory.
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The 5-inch display on Alcatel TCL A1 is an IPS LCD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. It is true that you can do more with a big screen. The big screen means you can browse websites with more space on the browser. Pictures appear bigger, watching videos and browsing apps also feels more fun.
Reading texts is also more comfortable on a big screen, no need to move your face too close to the display. Fonts come with several options, so depending on preference, users can set it from small to normal or large.
You’ll get better picture when using the camera, as you can see what’s you’re going to capture beforehand.
But, know that TCL’s IPS display is not the most pristine on the market. Although colors comes out bright, icons and texts look pixelated because the lack of pixel density.
This is because TCL’s display is only a 480p display. For trained eyes, this can be bothersome. As someone who gets used to HD or Full HD screen, it’s hard to not notice the very basic quality of Alcatel’s display. Viewing angles are also very limited.
The price makes the display quality justifiable. Keep in mind that this is basically a 20-dollars phone. A casual user would hardly notice something amiss when it comes to pixel density. If this is your first smartphone, you probably find TCL’s display more than satisfactory.
As some of you probably have guessed, the camera on Alcatel TCL A1 is truly entry level. The back camera is a 5-megapixel one. It’s certainly below average by today’s standard. To help with lowlight conditions, a flash accompanies the back camera. Meanwhile, the front camera is even lower at 2MP.
The camera app itself was quick to launch. Taking picture indoor was a hard work. Even on normal light, camera struggles to capture any picture without noise or a blur.
On optimal outdoor lighting, the camera performs slightly better. However, when zoomed you will notice pixelated bits here and there. Details and clarity are also something TLC’s camera lacks.
You can take advantage of the flash when taking a picture in a low light condition. Apart from making the picture brighter, the flash doesn’t quite help when it comes to minimizing noise. Pictures are still grainy.
It still does its job if I want to take a picture just to capture and object or a scene, but the result is not something I would proudly upload on social media.
Other than flash, the camera also provides added features to enhance your pictures such as panorama, time-lapse, grid, and light trace. There is also Social feature which directly shares your picture on popular social media platform such as Facebook.
Video recording is a hidden surprise of Alcatel TCL A1. Surprisingly, there is an option to record video in 1080p or in 720p. The camcorder also has video stabilization, which will help to get a stable video output.
Meanwhile, the front camera reminds me to phones of olden days. At 2MP, you can’t expect much of your selfie. Pictures are average, but I can get a smoother result by utilizing the beauty mode.
On low light, there’s a flash featured called screen flash. It’s not an actual flash but can help a little with brightness when taking a selfie.
Although comes with 16GB of internal storage, Alcatel TLC A1 left around 9GB for users. Around 7GB is reserved by System. This number will pretty sure run out fast. These days, I’d say 32GB is the minimum ideal capacity for a smartphone’s internal storage.
With only 9GB of internal storage, it means users have to pay attention to their storage use. In theory, a 9GB storage can store up to 2000 photos. But you have to take other types of files into consideration too, such as app files and cache, not to mention video files.
Fortunately, an option for external storage is available. TCL provides expandable storage to up to 128GB. That’s a lot of space for a phone, however a SIM Card is not included with purchase. Customers will need to buy an SD card separately.
Alcatel TCL A1 runs on Mediatek MT6739, a Quad-core processor with 1.1GHz clock speed. It’s not surprising that the processor has such a minimal setup, considering the price.
Mediatek is known to power entry-level phones and apparently Alcatel decided to use it for TLC A1 too. The system also runs on a small RAM capacity at 2GB.
At first impression, performance is actually not bad. Browsing the app screen feels smooth with no noticeable lag, as long as I stick to basic apps and one or two social media apps.
Streaming videos on YouTube so far encounters no problem. This, however, can change as more apps are added. Heavier tasks can result in more burden for the processor, therefore more lags. Only 1.1GHz processor also means no 3D gaming and heavy image/video processing apps.
At least the RAM is 2GB instead of 1GB (or even lower number). This amount ensures smooth multitasking between apps, as long as you don’t use many apps at once.
Moving to the software, TCL runs on Android 8.1 Oreo. Android Oreo is not the latest in the market, but it’s still quite a recent release (The most recent android is android 9.0 Pie).
I think this is one of TCL’s big pros. It’s nice to see Alcatel decided to use Oreo instead of an older version of android. It means the software could help the phone performing better, compensating for the minimal hardware setup.
Android on TLC also comes in its vanilla version. It means no tweaking from Alcatel, therefore less bloatware. Menus are simple and intuitive.
Configuring small tasks (eg. turning on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) doesn’t take a lot of steps. If this is the first time you use android, you won’t find the user interface to be overwhelming. TLC’s interface is pretty easy to learn.
Another benefit of using Android, Alcatel TLC comes with useful pre-installed apps. These apps include Gmail, YouTube, and Google Chrome browser. There’s even the Facebook app for social media needs. I can practically use the phone for my day-to-day tasks as soon as it comes out of the box.
TLC comes with several other features worth noting. One of those is Smart Manager, allowing users to check out the phone’s battery, storage, and memory status on one screen.
Other features available include Flashlight, Do Not Disturb, and Battery Saver. Hearing aid compatibility is also available for people who need it. The type of hearing aid available here is M4/T3.
This feature is what differs TCL A1 with other Alcatel’s entry-level variants such as Alcatel TCL LX, which doesn’t come with a hearing aid feature.
Alcatel TCL A1 supports from 2G, 3G to 4G LTE. Voice calls are something you won’t have a problem with on TLC A1. Sounds come out as clear and crisp.
Since all kinds of networks are supported, the phone is quite versatile on signal receptions. Just make sure to turn on the automatic setting on preferred network types.
the 4G LTE makes it possible for a speedy internet connection. It ensures fast browsing and social media experience. Websites load pictures pretty quickly.
The same goes for videos and music streaming. If there’s any lag, most of the time it’s partly caused by the limited software/hardware performance. For example, a crash when loading heavy pages. The network itself works fine most of the time.
Alcatel TCL A1 is equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth just like any other smartphone nowadays. Apart from Wi-Fi, TLC also supports Wi-Fi hotspot, therefore users can use their phone as a modem.
GPS is another benefit of Android phone. Google Maps is able to determine current location accurately. But here is the limit of TLC in terms of connectivity. There’s no NFC, for example, which is something only mid to high-end phones have.
Equipped with 2,200mAh battery, Alcatel TLC A1 promises up to 540 minutes of talk time on 4G LTE. The battery life can stretch into 960 minutes of talk time when using 2G. On stand by, TLC is capable to reach 300 hours on 4G and 400 hours when on 3G.
Those are impressive numbers. Considering people don’t talk or put the phone on standby all the time, on day-to-day use, we can stretch at most one or two days without charging.
At 2,200mAh of capacity, that number is actually low average (smartphones today commonly have around 3,000 mAh battery). But considering TCL’s minimum performance and its only 480p display, I’d say 2,200mAh is enough.
TLC doesn’t offer fast charging, but it doesn’t take long to get the battery from zero to full. Lower capacity also means quicker charging time, consider this a perk.
Is the Alcatel TCL A1 a good phone?
If you originally opted for a feature phone for basic tasks, but the screen is too small yet you are reluctant to spend more money on a smartphone, Alcatel TCL A1 could be your choice.
As a comparison, Alcatel’s own feature phone, Alcatel MyFlip, is priced at $19.99. With only $5 more, you can get yourself an android phone with a 5-inch screen. I personally think this phone is a steal after looking at the price.
Take note that with the low price, it means you have to compromise on several things. TCL’s performance is capable of handling everyday tasks, but don’t expect using the phone for hardcore gaming.
The same also applies to the camera and display quality. To conclude, everything about this phone is considered basic. Thus I recommend this to basic users as well, those who like the convenience of Android without overwhelming and unnecessary features.
- Large display at 5-inch
- Very cheap price
- Expandable storage
- Android 8.1 Oreo
- Removable battery
- Below average camera
- Minimal performance