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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  • ceisserer - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    buyers beware!
    had once a TCL phone - did not receive a *single* software update, not even security updates.
  • jabber - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    If it just works reasonably well for just $100 who cares? For most here it would just be a backup phone or the one you use in the workshop/building site. To be honest updates/patches is an over-hyped issue IMO. Outside of tech forums like this I have never heard an Average Joe moan or even mention it.
  • sonny73n - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    dumbass beware!
    had once a Apple phone - received a “single” software update, even with security updates, the phone was trashed.
    iOS 9 to 11 accidentally on 6s did not address meltdown and spectre issues, only slowing the phone down.

    App and software devs know people like you love “security” updates. I would give you one every week.
  • sonny73n - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    People always cry about updates.

    Security updates - why do you still need anti- virus?

    Feature updates - isn’t the freaking phone already clogged up with useless features?
  • PeachNCream - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    The only security update that would be meaningful on an Android platform would be the one that stops the device from backhauling everything you do up to Alphabet's servers for data analysis and resale.
  • plopke - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    Which of the cheaper brands actually have the best stock/update experience?

    So far for me
    HMD-Nokia good (but their phones have some flaws).
    Archos - bad (been a while)
    Alcatel - bad (been a while)
    Samsung -poor

    Anyone have experience with other budget brands/phones? And by budget i mean 90-130euro without contract on sale or at launch like nokia 5 and nokia 2.1 for example.
  • kaidenshi - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    Stay away from BLU. Besides the fact they are bad clones of Chinese grey-market low end devices, they promise updates and never deliver.
  • PEJUman - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    Blu phones are $50-80 at microcenter, I really don't think we should expect software updates for that price. I, for one, would be happy to have it not drop calls and not blow up during use.
  • sheh - Sunday, February 24, 2019 - link

    Xiaomi are common.

    I'm not a fan of their UI and stock apps, nor their troublesome bootloader unlocking procedure, but they're okay in price/hardware ratio, and they have a large following so there's a good chance to find software mods.
  • GreenReaper - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    It's annoying that they delay unlocking. But you get it in the end, and then there's plenty to throw on - e.g. LineageOS not out yet? Try Pixel Experience. (And it did come out eventually.)

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